Monday, April 30, 2007

Polenta With Carmelised Onions

This was actually my first attempt at polenta. You’d think having spent ten years living in East Boston, at some point I would have tried making the stuff-but I never did. My husband made a batch of it once, and as I recall it was sort of slimy.

I had the polenta grits on hand as they are a major ingredient in struan bread, but only today did it occur to me that they might make a nice accompaniment to our main dish salads of green beans, red peppers and beets.

Sure, I’d heard more than a few complaints that polenta is such a labour intensive ordeal to cook. I will tell you it is a lie. Yes, you need to stand near the stove for half an hour and give the mixture an occasional stir-but it most certainly is not difficult to prepare.

I paired the polenta with carmelised onions, though if I had mushrooms on hand I’d have used them.

*About the photograph-yes, it is cloudy because I had olive oil on my hands and I must have touched the lens. Oops.

You Will Need:

For The Polenta:

3 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup polenta grits

Bring water to a boil in a deep pan. Slowly stir in the polenta and salt. Reduce to simmer and cook, stirring frequently for about 30 minutes until mixture is thickened. Oil a pan or medium bowl. Pour polenta into it and let sit for 10 minutes. Unmold on a plate. Chill if not using right away.

Heat olive oil in a pan (about 3 tablespoons) and fry polenta slices over medium heat taking care that oil does not begin to smoke. Brown on both sides. Top with carmelised onions.

For The Carmelised Onions:

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
5 large sweet onions (about 7 cups)
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, salt and sugar. Cover and cook 30-40 minutes until a caramel brown colour. Stir in thyme. Chill until ready to use. Check the onions after about ten minutes to make certain they are not burning. You may need to turn the heat down depending on your range.

Coconut Pineapple Ice Cream

Because living in rural Nebraska is just like living in the tropics...except that we're landlocked. And there's a drought. And of course, no palm trees. But it IS really hot here today-so that's good enough reason to make a tropical ice cream.

1/2 cup coconut cream
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup crushed, drained pineapple

Mix everything together except the pineapple which is stirred-in after the ice cream is churned. Process according to the directions of your machine.

Sunflower Seed/Honey Loaves

These breads follow the same recipe as the herbed loaves, except they replace the oilve oil with 1/4 cup honey and half a tablespoon of salt is omitted and replaced with 1/2 cup salted sunflower seeds. Otherwise, it follows the same basic recipe and method.

Olives Take II

I tried the olives again soaking them in water overnight-huge improvement. I also gave them a second coating in egg and breading which helped them cover better. Chalk it up to the learning curve.

Stuffed Olives

I have been obsessing about making these stuffed olives since Haalo first posted them. I had to purchase a different variety of olive as we have limited availability of exotic foods around here, but they worked very well. My olives were already pitted, so I sliced them lengthwise in half, stuffed them and then gently pieced them back together. They worked very well, though mine are not nearly as beautifully breaded and fried.

I think Danny would have ate the whole batch if I’d have let him. I had a bit of filling left over, so I’ll make more this evening.

One point worth noting-the olives I used were very salty, and combined with the cheeses and seasoned bread crumbs, was a bit much for my liking. Taste your olives first and if they seem overly salty, it might make sense to soak them in water for a bit before stuffing and frying them.

Herbed Loaves

I baked the rosemary, thyme, basil loaves again yesterday.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart

I purchased a flat of strawberries yesterday as my own plants do not begin bearing fruit until June and I could no longer bear the wait. As they were inexpensive, I bought a large flat and today I put every last berry to use. Between the strawberry/banana sorbet and the strawberry tart, I managed to use them all. I selected luckily, as there was not a single bad berry in the entire flat.

This is an elaborate tart to make and it took all day. Granted, with a two year old running about, I had a fair amount of interruption, but it was a time-consuming process. You could, if pressed for time, make a glaze from red currant jam and save yourself the hassle of mashing berries, extracting juice and cooking it to filling.

I realise it is sort of typical to adorn this tart with whipped cream piped out from a pastry tube. Personally, that just seems gauche to me. I have some double cream in the icebox that can be served alongside it, but really, I think the tart is rich enough as is (with the cream cheese base and all).

Now I need to get back to the grocer and buy another flat of berries for the freezer.

For The Sugar Crust Shell:
(Note-this is a very soft crust and while it can be done as a tart shell, I’m not brave enough to try it. Basically, it is a sugar cookie).

2 cups sifted all purpose flour
7 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine dry ingredients and cut in the butter and shortening until a fine meal is achieved. You will need to use your fingertips after the initial cutting in. Blend in egg and vanilla. Knead into a ball quickly. Work the dough in small pieced by smearing it with the heel of your hand to incorporate the butter throughout. Form into a ball, wrap in waxed paper and refrigerate two hours until firm.

Roll out carefully, and place in pie plate (or if you’re daring a flan ring).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and grease a piece of foil. Fit it over the crust and weight it with a handful of dried beans. Bake for 5-6 minutes. Remove the foil and prick the inside of the crust with a fork numerous times. Return to oven and bake until it begins to pull away from the sides and turns golden. Cool completely before using.

For the Cream Cheese Base

8 oz. Cream Cheese (softened)
½ cup caster sugar
1/8 tsp vanilla

Combine and spread in the bottom of the tart.
Top with a layer of attractive strawberries.

For The Glaze:

1 qt (approximately) strawberries mashed and extracted of juice. You want a total of 1 ½ cups juice and you may need more or less berries to get there. If you come-up a bit short, top it off with water.
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Bring juice to boiling slowly and add the sugar and cornstarch. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until it returns to a boil. Boil 1 minute (keep the mixture moving). Remove from heat and cool before using to glaze berries.

Fried Celeriac

Did you know that a child will happily eat celeriac if he believes it to be chips? I’m so devious. As they are fried in olive oil, they are marginally better for you as well. I’ll warn you, these tid-bits are addictive.

You Will Need:

1 medium celeriac (celery root) 1-2 lbs.
olive oil for frying
2 tablespoons salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Flour for coating

Peel and slice the celeriac until all the dark parts are removed. Slice into sticks. Place in a bowl with the juice of 1 lemon tossed over them for 30 minutes. Stir once or twice.

Boil 6 cups of water. Add the celeriac and as soon as it returns to a boil, add two tablespoons of salt. Boil for 10 minutes. Drain, and rinse under cold water.

Dry on towels.

Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a pan over medium heat taking care it does not begin to smoke. Roll the celeriac in the flour and fry until browned. Drain and blot dry.

Beet Souffle

Sigh. When will husbands learn to warn their wives they are running late? The souffle looked much better five minutes before I remembered to snap the photograph. It was however, still amazingly delicious, colapsed or not.
I like that the recipe uses the beet greens as well (I hate to waste). This dish went over quite well with my son who adores eggs in just about any form.
The recipe may be found at Food Down Under.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Les croque-madame

Hot open cheese sandwiches with cognac, kirsch, or rum

As I had a loaf of bread going pleasantly stale, I thought I’d give this a try as an appetiser course this evening. You probably don’t need me to point out that this isn’t health food. With ½ lb of Swiss cheese, four eggs and 6 tablespoons of melted butter divided between six pieces, it is not the sort thing you’d want along with a heavy meal. As I served main course light salads this evening, the accompaniment worked well. The recipe comes from Simca’s Cuisine, One Hundred Classic French Recipes for Every Occasion by, Simone Beck. I did not fuss over cutting them neatly (as you can see), and I used a bit more topping than directed. They were still delicious, if unattractive.

You Will Need:

6 large slices of stale white bread, crusts removed-Beck suggests slicing the day before and leaving them to dry. I placed mine in a low-temperature oven until sufficiently dried.
¼ cup cold milk
2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs
½ pound imported Swiss cheese, grated
2 tablespoons cognac, kirsch, or rum
½ teaspoon paprika
cayenne pepper or Tabasco
butter for baking sheet
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix flour into the cold milk and the baking powder, mixing thoroughly. Add the eggs, cheese, and alcohol and season with paprika, salt and cayenne. Mix thoroughly. Up to this point can be prepared about two hours ahead (I did four without any problem) and set in the icebox or as Beck suggests, the coldest part of the kitchen.

Preheat the broiler. Butter a baking sheet and arrange the slices of stale bread on the sheet. Spread each evenly with a 1/3 inch layer of the mixture and pour over each an additional tablespoon of melted butter. Place under the broiler for about 3- minutes or until evenly golden brown. I turned the sheet half way through to ensure even browning. When the pieces have cooled slightly, cut them into two rectangles. Serve warm.

Cinnamon Crisps

The recipe for the “Cinnamon Crisps” (we used to call these “Elephant Ears” where I grew up) comes from a Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Bread Cookbook from 1973. Somewhat amusingly, the book tells readers:

“You won’t have to buy Cinnamon Crisps at the bakery once you’ve discovered that you can prepare them in your own kitchen.”

Which is funny, because I can honestly say that in all my years, I’ve never actually felt compelled in the “have to” sense, to purchase cinnamon crisps at the bakery. But that’s me-your compulsions may differ.

The recipe calls for pecans, which I omitted due to allergy.

Honestly, I thought they were just a bit too sweet, though my son demolished his. These are really sort of a child’s pastry anyhow, and they were really no effort at all to make, so disappointing as I found them, for what they are, I suppose the crisps were ok. The sort of thing it might be fun to bring to work if someone were having a going-away party or a pot-luck. They look fragile, but will travel well.

You Will Need:
(Makes 24)

3 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 ¼ cups milk
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
¼ cup butter, melted
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup butter melted (plus additional for final brushing)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large mixer bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour with the yeast. In a saucepan, heat the milk until lukewarm and butter has melted, Add sugar and salt. Add to dry ingredients. Add egg. Beat at low speed for 30 seconds, then at high speed for three minutes, scraping sides constantly. Add enough of remaining flour by hand to form a soft dough. Gather together in a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled, 1 ½ hours-2.

Punch down, divide in two and let rest 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll out one portion into a 12 inch square. Spread half of a mixture of butter/sugar/cinnamon mixture over dough. Roll-up like a jelly roll and slice into 12 pieces. Place 3 inches apart on greased pan. Repeat with other half. Let rise 30 minutes.

Cover each sheet with waxed paper and with a rolling pin, gently flatten to 1/8 thickness. Carefully remove waxed paper. Brush tops with melted butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mixture. Replace waxed paper and press flat again. Remove paper and bake for 10-13 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on rack.

Garbanzo/Black Bean Salad

What to do with leftover corn and chick peas? This simple (and quick) salad uses up the odds and ends in the icebox (like that wilting bunch of cilantro I grabbed accidentally thinking it was flat parsley). The addition of red pepper might be nice, and you could always substitute red wine vinegar for the balsamic. My measurements are approximate as the idea is to use-up what you have on hand.

You Will Need:

1 tin black beans, rinsed
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans (chick peas)
½ chopped onion (sweet or red)
¼ cup chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely minced

Toss well and let marinate a few hours before serving.

Herbed Tomatoes

This simple side dish would work well with cherry tomatoes as well. I used the Italian plum tomatoes leftover from last week.

Essentially, blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain. Run under cold water, peel, drain again. Add chopped fresh herbs (I used thyme and oregano) salt and pepper. A bit of olive oil to toss, and it is done.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Corn and Grits Timbales/Stuffed Mushrooms/Chick Pea Salad

I always insisted I’d get around to trying the recipes in my old issues of Gourmet. The recipe for the corn and grits timbales has been sitting around since 1986, so I guess it was time. My husband wasn’t expecting Corn and Grits Timbales when he walked in the door (but he ate 2 ½ of them-happily, I might add). The plates I served dinner on were purchased many years ago in Providence, Rhode Island. They are quite heavy, and as such, I don’t use them often, though I think they make for lovely presentation.

The recipe for the chick peas salad is in my archives HERE.

The stuffed mushrooms come from Mastering The Art Of French Cooking.

For the Corn And Grits Timbales:

1 ¾ cups heavy cream
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
¼ cup polenta grits (not instant)
2 large eggs lightly beaten
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup parmesan cheese grated
½ cup corn kernels

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F. Fill a pan with enough water to accommodate the ramekins (measure beforehand) and place it in the oven to warm.

In a small saucepan combine 1 cup of the cream with the garlic, ½ teaspoon of the salt, ¼ teaspoon of the pepper and the polenta grits. Bring the liquid to a boil over moderate heat and simmer, stirring for twenty minutes. In a bowl, combine the rest of the cream, eggs, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Combine well. Divide the grits mixture between 4 well buttered ramekins and sprinkle it with the parmesan and corn. Top with the custard mixture and carefully stir to incorporate.

Bake in the hot water for 20-25 minutes (mine took closer to 30) or until a tester comes out clean. Remove the moulds from the water and let sit five minutes. Run a knife around the edges and unmold on warmed plates.

For the Mushrooms

12 fresh mushroom caps (I used crimini)
2-3 tablespoons melted butter
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons finely minced onions
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons minced shallots
Stems from the mushrooms, finely minced and squeezed dry in a dish towel
¼ cup Madeira
3 tablespoons fine, white dry breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Swiss cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons minced parsley
½ teaspoon tarragon
salt and pepper
2-3 tablespoons whipping cream
3 tablespoons grated Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush the mushroom caps with melted butter. Place them, hollow-side up in a roasting pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté the onions in butter and oil for 3-4 minutes without browning. Add the shallots and mushroom stems. Cook over moderately high heat for about 8 minutes or until the mushroom pieces begin to separate. Add the Madeira and cook off quickly. Remove from heat and add to bread crumbs, cheese, tarragon and seasonings. A teaspoon at a time, add the cream until mixture is moistened but stiff enough to hold its shape on the spoon.

Fill the caps and top each with a pinch of Swiss cheese and a few drops of melted butter.

Bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven (upper third) for 15 or 20 minutes or until caps are tender and stuffing has browned lightly on top.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Rosemary, Basil, And Thyme Bread With Olive Oil

I’m not going to lie-this is a very difficult bread to make unless you are an experienced baker. It is so sticky and wet, that without months or years of handling super-hydrated dough, it would become difficult for a novice bread baker to understand what to do with it. I’m making a point of saying so at the outset so that no one will be standing in their kitchen, hands covered in globs of wet dough, cursing me. If you’re patient, it will eventually firm up after a couple folds on a floured board, but it also helps to have had the experience of knowing how wet dough handles.

The bread is very airy inside, with an open crumb and a crisp outer crust. It is not chewy in the way a focaccia is. I suspect that omitting the olive oil would help with that, though for what I had in mind with tonight’s dinner, the bread was perfect. A bit too perfect, I think, as I ate ¼ loaf myself.

You Will Need:

For the preferment:

¼ teaspoon instant yeast dissolved in 1 ¼ cups water
½ tablespoon salt
3 ½ cups white bread flour (I use Dakota Maid, from North Dakota Mills)

Mix together in a large bowl until hydrated. Cover with plastic and leave 4 hours.

For the dough:

4 cups bread flour
1 ¼ cups water
¼ cup olive oil
½ tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon instant yeast
herbs (I used 3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, and 1 tablespoon dried basil) I’ll leave the amounts and combinations to your tastes.

Combine everything except the preferment in a bowl. Slowly, a bit at a time, add the preferment. When dough comes together, dump out onto a work surface dusted well with flour and work the dough until gluten strands begin to form. This will take some doing, but try to keep the dough as wet as possible and resist the temptation to add more flour. You may literally need to pour the dough back into the bowl, which is ok.

Let rise 1 hour. Remove from bowl and place on a floured surface. Gently de-gas and fold in three’s (like an envelope) and then turn and do so from the short end. Dust offr the flour after each fold. Return to bowl for another hour. Repeat folding. Let rise 30 minutes more.

Divide dough into two and let rest 5-10 minutes.

Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal and shape the breads (I did mine in football shaped loaves)

Cover and let rise 1 ¼-1 ½ hours or until just about (but not quite) doubled. Halfway through last rise, begin pre-heating the oven to 450 degrees F.

On the bottom shelf, place an old roasting pan to pre-heat with the oven. I create steam by tossing in 2 cups of water before loading the bread, but check your oven manual before doing this as I’m not gonna be responsible for anyone’s exploding oven but my own. If you have an exposed light bulb in the oven, you might want to remove it. Some people have good luck with a spray bottle as well. At any rate, create steam, load the bread and let bake 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, rotate the baking sheet and set for another ten minutes. At this point start checking the internal temperature of the bread-it is done when it reads 200 degrees F.

Cool on racks.

Pineapple Ginger Lime Sorbet

Feeling pressed to put the remaining two cups of pineapple juice from Friday’s cake to use, I made a sorbet.

You Will Need:

1 cup water
1 cup caster sugar
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
Peel of 1 lime, as much pith as possible removed

In the sugar and water, simmer the ginger and lime peel for about ½ hour. Strain into a glass and chill until completely cool. Bring back to room temp and dissolve into pineapple juice. Process in ice-cream maker according to directions for your machine. Can also be made in a freezer tray, simply take care to keep moving it about and scraping. It will also need to stand a few minutes at room temperature before serving as it freezes quite hard.

Blueberry Muffins

My little guy loves blueberry muffins. Since they are so simple to make, I really don’t have a good excuse to refuse. This recipe uses quite a bit less sugar than commercial mixes and you get the bonus of fresh berries. Five minutes preparation-twenty minutes baking. If you use paper liners in the cups, clean-up is simple as well. I can take all the time I save and give the poor kid a haircut (insert joke about Mummy's mixing-bowl haircuts).

You Will Need:

2 cups sifted all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar (plus a few pinches for topping)
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup soft butter
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 cup blueberries (I use frozen and don’t thaw them first)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Sift dry ingredients together. Cut-in butter with a pastry cutter until a fine meal. Add egg, milk and extract. At last minute, fold in the blueberries with a spatula taking care not to darken the mix. Pour into cups and top each with a generous pinch of sugar. Bake 20-25 minutes. Yields a dozen or 8 large muffins.

Coconut Macaroons

It’s almost misleading to call these coconut cookies macaroons as they are so light. A better description might be coconut meringues-but that’s not quite it either, as they have a considerable chew to them. The recipe I’m posting here is very basic-you could of course add vanilla, chocolate, lemon zest, etc. Some people dip their macaroons in chocolate but somehow that seems like overkill to me. It might work better with macaroons that rely on condensed milk and are more candy-like. At Christmastime, I will place a half glaced cherry in the centre of each before baking, which is always a hit at my husband’s office. I also think candied pineapple would work well.

I baked mine on silicone sheets, but you may wish to use parchment. I’d avoid buttering a pan as I suspect it would brown the bottoms too early before the macaroons fully dry out.

I tend to make mine large, but this recipe can yields about 20 small sized cookies.

You Will Need:

2 large egg whites
¾ cup caster (superfine) sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350degrees F/180 C
Beat egg whites until stiff adding sugar slowly.
Add lemon juice.
Add coconut slowly folding.
Place by spoonful on baking sheet lined with parchment.
Bake in preheated oven 15-20 minutes (or more) until lightly browned and have mostly dried out (they shouldn’t be bone dry).

Cool on racks.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Meatless Pasta Dish With Mushrooms, and Tomatoes

I had the oddest/saddest experience at the grocer today. I was checking out and the young cashier (couldn’t have been more than sixteen) was brand new to the job and needed to ask me what my various items of produce were. I’ve had that happen with single items such as beets, celery root or shallots. I recognise that not everyone is adventuresome in their fruit and vegetable consumption. I was not however, prepared to be asked what red potatoes were. Furthermore, I was truly shocked when she began ringing turnips as onions. By the time she was holding up the bunch of bananas for identification, I had lost control and blurted out:

“You need to eat more fruits and vegetables.”

Which is exactly what my family did this evening. Yesterday, my husband came home with a bag filled with lovely plum tomatoes. In Boston, these were always plentiful, but in Omaha they are a bit of a specialty item. They’re wonderful for pasta as they remain firm and have few seeds. Wanting to make the most of the lovely fruit, I planned a pasta dish around them.

One problem (if if it is in fact an actual problem) was that the crimini mushrooms darkened the dish considerably. The meal would have been much more attractive had I selected a lighter coloured variety of mushroom. It was however, a nice tasting combination.

You Will Need:

Angle hair pasta (I used tri-colour)
½ package feta cheese (or the whole pack if you’re addicted like me)
Romano cheese, shredded
½ dozen (or so) olives(green/black)
# stalks celery chopped fine
1 mild onion chopped fine
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tablespoons (or more) parsley (flat Italian variety)
fresh oregano, rosemary, basil to taste
1 small package mushrooms
4 small red potatoes parboiled and diced
4 red plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2-3 slices roasted red pepper from a jar.
Olive oil for sautéing.

Sauté the onions, garlic celery and spices (except parsley) in a large pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add mushrooms and cook slowly until they give up
their water and it is evaporated. Add potatoes. Add olives. Make pasta at this half-way point. In the last few minutes, add the parsley, tomatoes and red pepper. Cook a few more minutes and serve over pasta with feta and Romano cheese tossed on with extra olive oil.
Start to finish, under 45 minutes. The meal was a hit with my resident food critic Danny M. who declared it “tasty.”

Friday, April 20, 2007

My Stove Blew-Up

This is the first electric oven I’ve ever used, and five minutes after I began making dinner, the heating element exploded. I saw a flash of light and smoke. Apparently, these things happen (well no one told me about it) and it is easily remedied with a trip to the hardware store. Needless to say, I had to switch gears for this evening’s dinner plans. The range top was still in good working order so I went ahead and turned the fish into fish and chips-always a favourite at our house. I’m just pleased that it happened after my two lovely loaves of whole wheat rustic bread came out of the oven.

This seems like a good opportunity to share the recipe for my cornmeal fish coating and to disclose how I make the chips. It is all really quite simple.

You’ll need three shallow bowls and a plate for the fish. Fill one bowl with flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Fill the next with milk. Fill the last with cornmeal that has also been mixed with salt and pepper but in that one add a small shake of cayenne pepper. Wash and shake water from the fish. Press it into the flour until coated. Dip quickly in milk. Hold at one end and let extra milk run back into bowl. Dip and coat thoroughly in corn meal. Place on plate and let sit in refrigerator about an hour before frying.

For the chips:

Peel and slice potatoes and place in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Drain, dry carefully in dish towels and fry in hot fat until barely browned. Remove to a rack placed over a baking sheet (this keeps them from getting too soggy). At this point, fry the fish. When that is completed, take the chips back for another pass in the oil until nicely browned. Then blot in a bowl lined with brown paper bags. Don’t use paper towels-they just make food soggy. The rack and pan technique has always served me well and isn’t that big of a hassle to clean-up (you’re already frying for heaven’s sake-what’s a bit more grease to clean?).

I suppose this illustrates why it is helpful to have more than one possibility in mind for the meal you are preparing. Fish is pretty versatile and had things gone worse and the stove was ruined as well, it could still be poached in the microwave. The carrots and potatoes I intended to cook in a casserole came out for the frying pan and the stock pot. Carrots cooked in butter and broth (a bit of sugar, salt and pepper) are pretty popular here, and if I put a turnip in it, no one will be too terribly disappointed at missing out on the potato/paprika casserole.

I can’t believe my stove exploded. Who knew?

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple upside-down cake is as foreign to me as eating chocolate covered ants. I know I’ve never baked one, and as far as I can recall, I’ve never eaten one either. Still, the cake is such a piece of Americana that I already knew it needed maraschino cherries inside the pineapple rings even though the recipe didn’t call for them. These things seep into our consciousness whether we like it or not.

My husband adores this stuff. He attributes it to a combination of Southern heritage on his father’s side and having eaten too many meals in cafeterias as a kid. Frankly, I’m surprised my mother-in-law would permit the cafeteria grazing as she’s a very skilled and schooled cook. In my mind upside-down cakes and crunch cakes are the parallel cousins of the cake world, neither of which I have any experience with other than having seen them in books.

This recipe called for using a cast iron pan, which worked fine, though I wish it had been just slightly smaller so the cake would have been higher-again, I don’t know how flat Upside down cake ought to be, so the visual details may be just fine depending upon your familiarity with the cake.

I found the recipe HERE though I did use tinned pineapple rings, omitted the rum and added the cherries. Otherwise, I pretty much stuck to the recipe. They categorise it as “medium” difficulty which I should think is an exaggeration. It was very, very simple to put together and un-mould. If you can stir, you can make this cake.

I am now stuck with most of a large can of pineapple juice open without a planned use (a good stock item to keep on hand) so I think it might make sense to mix it with some crushed pineapple and ginger syrup for ices. Anyone have other ideas?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Why Yes, My Goose IS Cooked-Photos Follow

The confit is now completed, and sitting in the icebox. The more I think about it, the project wasn’t really all that challenging, however managing my time was. With a bit of planning, a confit of goose (or duck, or other game) can be prepared easily along with all the bonuses such as concentrated jellied glaze, broth, rendered fat, cracklings (or should I say “quacklings?”) and of course, the actual goose. I held a few pieces out for tonight’s dinner which I served over pasta with a mushroom/sundried tomato and white wine sauce. It is quite different from a roasted game bird-no question, but really quite flavourful and enjoyable. Dinner also featured roasted tomatoes stuffed with a mixture of fresh breadcrumbs, thyme, parsley, shallots, garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper and olive oil. 10 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees F. I could live on those. For dessert. I made a sorbet of blueberries, strawberries and cherry juice with a hint of vanilla. I simply mashed the fruit with 1 cup caster sugar until liquid, added enough cherry juice to make 2 cups liquid and a few drops of vanilla. Into the ice-cream maker for about 20 minutes. It was a delightful meal.

I’m not going to post all the directions as they are wonderfully published in Julia Child And More Company, as well as the directions for cooking down broth to glaze which may be found in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I haven’t looked, but I’d guess there’s probably an entry in Oliver’s La Cuisine as well.

I likely will go ahead and make a cassoulet, sans the pork sausages.

A few bits of advice:

To create a rack for the inside of the glass bowl I stored the confit in, I broke bamboo skewers in half and trimmed off the rough edges. This worked well.

You will need more cheesecloth for straining at various points in this project than you ever anticipated using. Stock-up.

Get everyone out of the room, or better yet, the house. A pot filled with simmering fat on the stove is no time for distraction. This is particularly true when making the glaze, as it tends to go slowly and then begin reducing quickly of a sudden. It can go from perfect to burnt in the time it takes to walk from one room to another-so stay put during the process.

Heat resistant spatulas!

Disposable cutting boards.

Glass jars, of many sizes, with good lids. I’m always saving them and still never have enough.

The goose I used was larger than what must have readily been available when these books were written in the 1960’s. I ended-up not using the wings as it would have meant another four inches of fat just to cover them in the pot. Were I to do this again, I’d begin planning earlier and save-up quite a few cups of rendered goose/duck fat, as I did not wish to use lard. Solid vegetable shortening was the direction I went, and while I did not notice a significant change in the flavour or texture, it was still a drag not to have quite enough rendered goose fat on hand. I really ought to talk to our butcher in the fall when he is handling and cleaning fresh ones-he may be able to save some fat in the freezer for us.

So happy anniversary to us, and hopefully next year, my spouse will request something even more challenging. He did, by the way bring home some lovely deep-pink roses.

Now what on Earth am I going to bake tomorrow for Friday Cakeblogging?

Goose Cooking In Fat

Concentrated Goose Stock Glaze And Cracklings Covered In Rendered Goose Fat

To use the cracklings, scoop them out and warm them in a frying pan, then spread on toast.

Goose Stock Reduced To Concentrated Glaze

Look, you can hold the jar sideways and it won't budge.

According to the cookbook I used, it can be kept several weeks and if it develops mold you are supposed to pull the glaze from the jar, rinse it under water and stick it back in. I'm not sure how I feel about that, so I think I'll aim to use it in a timely manner before I need to make such traumatic decisions.

Goose Confit

A side view before congealing. Note that the goose is elevated from the bottom on broken bamboo skewers so that the fat envelops the goose.

The Completed Confit-Before Solidifying

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Goose Confit, Day One

Most kitchen projects I can manage with my son lingering in the kitchen, save for things that involve frying or rendering fat. I do have a pressure mounted gate (also helpful for keeping our scrap pleading little dog away whilst I cook) however, some preparations go best when I am not required to continually poke my head around the corner asking;
“What are you doing Dannypants?” (Yes, I do realise that I need to find another nickname for him as he’s likely to be mortified should I ever call him “Danny pants” in front of “the guys.” I suppose Babycakes is out as well?).

Around three PM, he finally could take no more (though he begged “few more minutes”) and I sent him off for a nap whereupon he fell asleep within seconds, hands stuffed down his trousers (apparently a male thing that begins in the toddler years). I extracted his hand, tucked his favourite bear beneath his arm and draped blanket round his shoulders-then literally ran to the kitchen to begin work on the goose.

As I suspected, my upper-body strength is not what it used to be and the actual cutting-up of the pieces to salt and press took just under an hour. Numbness in my fingers didn’t help much either. Fortunately, I didn’t suffer any knife mishaps, though I did get quite a splash with duck fat during the rendering process that I never would have known happened had I not witnessed the splash. I have so little sensation in my fingers (some of them anyway) that scalding fat doesn’t even register. I rinsed my finger beneath cold water and I think luck will give me but a tiny blister for my troubles.

I seasoned the cut-up pieces for the confit following the recipe for preserved goose in Julia Child and More Company. She suggests a mixture of juniper berries, papper, thyme, allspice, ground bay leaves, and coarse salt. I seasoned the pieces (2 breasts W/bones, lower wings, drumsticks) sealed then in an airtight bag and then placed them in a large casserole dish which I weighted with a large tin of tomato juice and a couple of jars filled with water. I’ll let this sit a couple days as I will be unable to deal with it today due to scheduling. An extra day of salting, as I understand it is fine. For longer salting, Child suggests tripling the salt and soaking the duck for an hour before preparing it.

I chopped the skin and fat from the rest of the carcass and wings to render for fat. This took far longer than I would have anticipated based upon my experience with the chicken fat a couple weeks ago. Closer to 1 hour and 45 minutes total. I was careful with the heat though (Child keeps warning, nearly obsessively about scorching the fat) so perhaps I carried the process out a bit longer than necessary. The cracklings I chopped, mixed with leftover salt/herb mixture and placed in a jar with a tablespoon of rendered goose fat over it. It is sitting in the icebox waiting for some crusty bread to spread it on. I know, that’s not “heart-healthy.”

The carcass and organs went into a pot with celery, carrots, bay leaves, pepper, salt, thyme, onion, garlic and a generous handful of fresh, flat parsley. It made a wonderful stock which I will clarify further today before deciding whether to reduce it further into a solid or freeze it as is.

My main concern with preparing a confit was the cost of the goose-what if I ruined a $35.00 bird? While I realise that a family of three can spend more than that for dinner out at a not-very-expensive restaurant, we do not typically dine outside the home (my last meal out was breakfast last Mother’s Day, a year ago May) and to my mind, $35.oo is quite a bit of our food budget. Once I began reaping the by-products of the bird, I realised that a whole goose can be quite economical, provided you do not waste a bit of it. I’m sure when I have 2 cups of rendered goose fat with which to sauté baby turnips or potatoes, I will feel that the ordeal of preparing a goose was worth the effort. Save for the pain in my neck (due to a long time herniated disc problem) that started-up after an hour of chopping and boning a large game bird. Eh, that’s what painkillers and muscle relaxers are for.

I’m a bit concerned that even with two cups of rendered fat, I may not have enough for cooking the goose. Child suggests keeping lard handy, but pork is out of the question in our half-Jewish household. I really don’t care to compensate with Crisco, and am half considering buying a duck today just for rendering the fat. I can use the meat in an Asian dish I’ve been meaning to try (which my husband loves) and it certainly wouldn’t go to waste. I wonder though, just how much fat one duck would yield? See how these things get out of hand? One day you’re making goose confit and the next thing you know, you’re buying extra ducks to complete the recipe. And then the preserved duck, once it is sitting in the icebox-am I obligated to make a cassoulet? I’d have to make my own sausages as well since pork is out. Lamb perhaps? Hmm.

I have an appointment with a “specialist” today to try and determine just how ill I am. Sounds like fun, I know. They gave me an absurdly early appointment which will be a delight getting into the city during rush hour as we live a good fifty miles away. I’ll be toting my small child along as well. Somehow, they neglected to send-out the medical history forms, insurance, etc. so when the snotty (and yes, she truly was) receptionist called to confirm my appointment, she instructed me to arrive an additional fifteen minutes early. Might as well leave at sunrise. I have a very strong sense that I am about to be subjected to what I call “the medical mill” whereupon I will be sent for numerous, unnecessary tests to tell me pretty much that which is already known. That’s the way they do things here. The snooty receptionist duly informed me that I would be required to show evidence of medical insurance before I could be seen. It was so terribly tempting to retort;

“Yes, I know, feral dogs could rip me limb from limb but without the requisite proof of insurance, you’d be forced to leave me bleed to death in the waiting room.” I didn’t of course, though someday I’m afraid I’ll no longer be able to restrain my contempt and begin giving utterance to the resentment that’s been stewing for some time now. Oh, the things I’d love to say sometimes. For the present, I simply repeat things back to people in the same sing-song-as though speaking to a dim-witted-child tone that people who perceive themselves to be “important” take when speaking to the likes of me. Perhaps I should just look the next person that takes that tone with me in the eye and ask them outright if they are brain injured. Sheesh, I shouldn’t have to deal with this when I’m ill and have better things to be doing-like preserving duck into a confit.

I’ve had three hours of sleep, I’m sure that will help my already cross mood and curt manner.

Monday, April 16, 2007

An Indian Inspired Meal

Although today is our anniversary, we only first picked up the goose for the confit yesterday-so our celebratory dinner will have to be on the weekend as the goose still needs to be boned, salted and weighted in the fridge for a couple days before I can even begin the real work of it. I admit, the project is a bit ambitious for my energy level at the moment, but once I purchased the goose, there was not really a good way to back out of the commitment. Slow and steady, I’m sure it will go ok.

This evening I prepared an Indian style dinner with a bread that was supposed to be Naan, but instead turned into some sort of ghee based scone. It was very, very strange, though L. really insists that he likes it and will not permit me to discard the leftover. I also made Samosas which I ended up preparing the dough with half plain yoghurt and half crème fraiche as I ran out of yoghurt. Guess what? It was fantastic. The main courses were yellow dal cooked with onions, garlic, olive oil and spices. Also on the menu were small red potatoes cooked with onions, oil, peas and spices. I’ll provide the recipes as I made them, mistakes and all, though I really wouldn’t encourage anyone to try the naan as I prepared it. Thinking about it, I probably used the melted butter a bit too warm and it curdled the yoghurt slightly changing the texture. It was very, very cake-y. Still, I suppose if you’re not expecting it to be naan, and just want an unusual bread that defies description, perhaps it is worth trying after all.


2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
½ cup plain yoghurt
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
ghee for brushing the tops.

Mix flour and salt. Add everything else (except the extra ghee for brushing) and mix well. Cover with a damp towel and let rise about 4-5 hours. The dough will be very sticky, so toss a baking sheet with cornmeal or semolina to facilitate easier removal. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the naan dough out into two long rectangles. Brush tops with extra ghee and bake about ten-fifteen minutes or until golden brown. Cool on racks.

Yellow Dal

1 lb. yellow split dal well rinsed and soaked overnight
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
½ cup finely chopped flat parsley
¼ teaspoon cumin
black pepper
1 teaspoon coriander (ground)
pinch of cinnamon
Fenugreek (optional)
Pinch of cayenne

Cook the dal by placing them in a large pot covered with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook 5-6 hours until soft and falling apart. Drain and refrigerate until ready to use.

In a large frying pan, sauté the garlic and onion over low heat until soft. Add the spices and the dal and cook over low heat, periodically adding water to thin it. You will likely need about ½ a cup total, depending upon how long you let it cook and how much evaporation/reduction takes place. It is largely a matter of taste. I served mine over jasmine rice, and therefore wanted a bit more soupy texture. Served alone with flatbread, you may prefer a thicker texture.


I followed essentially the same spices as above, though I omitted the parsley, cayenne and cinnamon. I added freshly cooked peas as well. I par-boiled small red potatoes for about five minutes and gave them a cool water rinse before slicing them and placing them into the oil and spices. Cook until quite soft over low heat (olive oil will burn if you try to fry with it). Be patient, in about half an hour, the potatoes will develop a lovely brown crust.

My recipe for Samosas may be found HERE in the archives.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Cakeblogging-Birthday Edition

This week’s edition of Friday Cakeblogging is in honour of Jenn’s (Musings From Baby Jail) 30th birthday. As my son pointed out, we don’t have any party hats, which just seems wrong, so when he gets up from naptime, we’re going to see what we can piece together with construction paper and ribbon. We’re going to toast her good health as well, though the only thing I have in the house to toast with is a bottle of Mogen David blackberry wine left over from Passover. I do have a bit of lemon cordial I made at New Year’s still in the fridge, but it has such an overwhelming odour of lemon it is a bit like drinking window cleaner. Actually, given that it is a combination of vodka, lemon peel and superfine sugar-I probably could clean windows with it.

The cake is a jumble of things as I haven’t been grocery shopping in a while. Still, as a former US Defence Secretary once said-“You go to the kitchen with the ingredients you have” (well, it was something like that-I’m paraphrasing). I scraped the last ½ cup of cocoa powder out of an ancient box in the back of the cabinet and started baking. Although the filling of the cake is orange, I used maraschino cherries to decorate with (as well as leftover Easter candy) because I thought they looked festive, and if nothing else, a Birthday cake ought to look festive.

So again, happy birthday and many happy returns and hopefully you will get the card I sent ages ago soon (#@!!&**^!@Canada post!).

(As I am baking this for a Canadian, I thought it would be polite to include a conversion chart. I foolishly thought I’d do the conversion in my head, as I used to know and use metric all the time. Unfortunately, that was long ago, and I wasn’t much of a baker then. I really ought to get a kitchen scale and offer the ingredients by weight as that is most accurate and this blog reaches readers all over the world. At any rate, my apologies if using US measures seems arrogant as that is not the intention-I’m just lazy).
1 teaspoon 5 ml
60 drops 1 ts
1 tablespoon 15 ml 3 teaspoons 1 tb
16 tablespoons 1 c
1 cup 237 ml
2 cups 1 pt
1 pint 473 ml
4 cups 1 qt
1 quart 946 ml
2 pints 1 qt
4 quarts 1 ga
8 quarts 1 peck
1 gallon 3.78 litres (or 3785 ml)
1 fluid ounce 30 cc -- 2 tb
1 cup 240 ml
1 1/2 fluid ounces 1 jigger -- 3 tb
1/8 litre 6 2/3 tablespoons
1 ounce 28.4 gm
1 pound 454 g
1 pound 16 oz
1 kilogram 2.21 lb -- 35.3 oz
1 gram 0.035 oz

For the cake:

2 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/16th teaspoon salt
½ cup Canola oil (because Jenn is Canadian. If you make it for an American, by all means, go ahead and use soybean-that was a joke. Gee whiz, I shouldn’t have to point that out).
1 cup hot coffee
1 cup milk
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix the dry ingredients. Add the rest in a well and mix thoroughly but not too the point of being over mixed. The batter should be lumpy.
Place in a greased pan (I would use parchment paper on the bottom-but that’s me)
Pour into cake pans-don’t fill past half-way. If you have left-over batter use it for a few cupcakes. A 9x13 sheet cake pan would comfortably accommodate all the batter.
Bake 35 minutes or until toothpick tests clean in centre.

Cool in pans for about 20 minutes. Then on racks. While cake cools, prepare orange filling.

Orange Filling:

1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter

Mix all in a heavy pan. Bring slowly to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil an additional minute (keep stirring). Remove from heat. Chill before spreading.


(Even spell check didn’t know that one. Until a few years ago, most of us just called this chocolate glaze).

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons corn syrup
16 ounces semi-sweet (or bittersweet) chocolate chopped into small bits (food processor makes this easy).
1 tablespoon vanilla

Heat the cream and corn syrup until they begin to boil. Pour over chocolate in a large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Using a good whisk (don’t even bother with the cheap flimsy ones) beat until smooth. Make certain cake and filling are cold (let the assembled cake sit in the refrigerator. Place cake on a rack atop a cookie sheet. Pour on a small amount of ganache to cover any crumbs. Let it set five minutes. Then pour the ganache on and spread with a good spatula. When set, remove to a plate and set in the refrigerator to harden. If you have a good amount of ganache still sitting in the bottom of the cookie sheet-place it in a bowl in the fridge and let it harden. Then roll it into balls and dust with cocoa or nuts and you have truffles. Sort of.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Prednisone Blogging

If I'm going to gain twenty pounds, it had better be with food I actually enjoy consuming.

Still waiting to find out if the Grim Reaper is at my door. I'm starting my second 20 day mega-course of steroids in a month's time. I figure, with the Methotrexate making me want to puke most of the time, maybe the whole weight gain thing will end up a draw.

Obviously, one's ideas about meal planning change a bit when faced with debilitating illness and medication that makes one consume large quantities of food. Oh sure, I was going to be good-I even made a pot of brown rice and have plain, unsweetened yoghurt in the ice box. And it was going well, really. Until my husband reminded me that we have an anniversary next week and he'd like me to make a goose confit. Goose! I mean, duck, ok I could manage that-but a preserved goose! Oh my stars.

Certainly, I agreed. Look, if the poor man after all he's had to put up with lately wants a jar of preserved goose meat at the ready-I'm not going to deny him. It isn't a terribly difficult thing to do, but it is awfully time consuming. Then, there's the problem of salt-peter which is apparently an ingredient used in making explosives as well as preserved meats. It is no longer readily available at the pharmacy and you can figure no one (in the "everything's changed" America) is going to believe I'm making Goose Confit to celebrate our anniversary. So yes, I'm going to need to find an appropriate substitution that won't result in having me designated a goose-preserving-confit-eating terrorist.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that if I go from posting recipes for dulse and endive salad to orange curd filled chocolate gateaus-it's the prednisone fueling it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Banana Bread With Currants

Everyone thinks their banana bread is superior, don’t they? Clearly, mine is, and here’s the recipe.

½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 ripe bananas-mashed
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup zante currants (soaked and drained)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x5x3 loaf pan

Beat oil and sugar together. Add eggs and banana. Add sifted dry ingredients, milk and extract. Mix well and add the currants.
Pour into prepared pan and bake for one hour. Cool in pan. Cool completely before cutting. I serve mine with honey or jam.

Butter Bunny Biscuts

I particularly like these cookies as they are not very sweet, and are quite simple to make. They are versatile and can be cut into shapes and decorated.

You Will Need:

1 cup softened butter
½ cup sugar
1 egg
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder.

Cream together the butter, sugar and egg until light and fluffy. Add the extract. Slowly add the flour until well mixed (you may need to finish this by hand). Wrap dough tightly in waxed paper and chill until firm.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Roll out dough to 1/16th inch thickness. Cut with cookie cutter and place on ungreased sheets. Bake five to seven minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Happy Easter

Danny decorates an egg with crayons before dunking it in dye. look how closely he's paying attention.

Fun With Easter Eggs

Happy Easter

Amazing what you can do with hard boiled eggs, food dye, and construction paper.

Oooh, Brightly Coloured Eggs! For Me?

The photograph is from Danny’s first Easter in 2005. Still sleep deprived and in well over our heads, the two new parents decided to stay up even later and colour Easter eggs for our baby. He was interested for about five seconds before falling asleep.

Last year, we skipped the ordeal of dyeing eggs altogether.

This year, I’m stuck in bed ill. My husband is in the kitchen hard boiling eggs and preparing to do all the work himself. I do hope Danny spends a few minutes enjoying them before tearing into his Easter basket.

Did I mention that bright and early Monday morning workmen are coming to replace our roof? Let’s see-bedridden, dog that will bark hysterically at every noise, toddler missing naps-yeah, that’s going to be great. At least I’m getting rest this weekend.

I did however, want to wish everyone a Happy Easter.

Friday, April 06, 2007

What To Do With White Asparagus And My Sidebar Links?

(Cross-posted at F16's Don't Kill People, 500 Lb. Bombs Kill People)

No cake this week.

I have a jar of lovely white asparagus chilling in the refrigerator and I may not be able to sleep knowing it is there. I’d indulge in one or two spears, but I know my lack of restraint would see the entire jar gone rather quickly. I don’t actually know what I’m saving them for. Other than cold on a salad, I can’t think of many uses well suited to the packaged variety of asparagus. I doubt it would withstand much sautéing. Any suggestions would be welcome.

I really do need to update my sidebar links as many of the blogs have gone defunct over the past year. That’s a shame, as some of them were awfully enjoyable reads. I have this habit of checking back now and then to see if any rise like a phoenix from the ashes, but am rarely surprised with a new post.

As regular readers know, I maintain a cooking blog. I don’t make a fuss over presentation or photography. When I first began painting years ago, I had it in mind that I’d mix my own raw pigments. That’s more complicated than it sounds as one needs all manner of protective masks and gloves as the particulate matter in some of those cobalts and cadmiums are toxic. One day, at my favourite art supply store, I was picking up some raw pigment and linseed oil (I was in my gloss stage) and the sales asked me rather directly;
“Are you an artist, or a chemist?”
She was perfectly right. It wasn’t saving me any money mixing my own pigments and the tubed paints were far better than anything I could produce. It was, largely, an exercise in geekery. From there on, I bought paint in tubes like everyone else and devoted my energies to “making art.” I feel much the same about food photography. While I do own a light table, and many lovely tablecloths, I cannot imagine devoting the time required to posing the gastro-porn when I could be cooking. My favourite cookbook has no illustrations incidentally.

That said, a number of more talented cooks than I are able to do justice to their culinary skills with their photography and knowledge of light settings. If you have never visited Nordljus and marvelled at the photography, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so. It is a truly magnificent blog.

Another favourite is Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once. I’m always astounded by the recipes and photography there, as well as Haalo’s lovely writing.

For bread baking, The Fresh Loaf has been a tremendous help.

If you enjoy cookies (like, who doesn’t?) My Little Kitchen is a fun read as Cathy works her way through a cookbook one recipe per week.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to change the format at the cooking blog so that it is simpler to access old recipes. I also plan to do a bit of link-updating around here. Feel free to mention any blogs I ought to be reading, but have overlooked.
When I was expecting, I kept a food diary of everything I cooked/ate. The idea was that it would be a fun thing for Danny to have when he’s older-a sort of "This is what you’re made of" type of joke. After I developed gestational diabetes (I’m told that happens quite a bit with "older" women) it became less interesting as I had to measure and count each thing that I consumed. I’ve thought about posting some of it, maybe as an "on this date, I ate" type feature. I wonder, would that be interesting to anyone, or is that just too weird a concept?
Anyway, changes ahead at both blogs.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Veggie Matzo Lasagne

Yeah, I know what you're thinking-but it was actually pretty good.

You Will Need:

4-5 sheets of plain matzo
2 cups prepared spaghetti sauce
olives/artichoke hearts (optional, of course)
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
1 cup provolone, shredded

Layer it in a baking pan and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.

I did not think the soft matzo would withstand the added weight of ricotta, so I served cottage cheese as a side, which provided a nice balance. The meal passed the Danny Seal Of Approval Test, wherein he devoured an entire plate (unusual for him with most meals).

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Much Like Haggis, Chopped Liver Is OK...

...if you can get past the smell.
Whoo-weee, that stuff is stinky.

...And What Am I? Chopped Liver?

When the request came for chopped liver, I smiled (whilst gagging intellectually) and said “sure.”

I grew up in a home where consuming organ meat was part of the routine and lucky kid that I was, suffering from chronic anaemia-I was given seconds. I have no doubt that the childhood diet led to seventeen years of adulthood as a vegan. This was something I did not look forward to preparing. No one can say I’m not a sport.

It should be pointed out that for chopped liver, one uses chicken livers. For some bizarre reason, coarsely chopped hard-boiled eggs are also part of this delicacy. I’m going to warn you ahead of time-the smell is assertive. Luckily, the smell of chopped onion sautéing in chicken fat should help mask the odour of bloody organs. I realise I’m not making this sound very appetising, am I?

The recipe may be found HERE.

(If 6 tablespoons of chicken fat sounds like a lot-you're right, it is. I used about 4 instead).

A final note-this should be served very well chilled. If you feel compelled to mould it into the shape of a chicken for the sole purpose of serving-up the head on a plate-go for it (and share photos!).

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Passover Brownies With Orange Juice

This evening’s dessert is a great improvement over the disaster I baked yesterday. The recipe comes from The New York Time Heritage Cookbook, edited by Jean Hewitt.

The addition of orange juice (in this case, freshly squeezed) gives these brownies a pleasant flavour.

You Will Need:

2 cups sugar
5 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup matzo cake meal
1 tablespoon potato starch
5 tablespoons powdered cocoa
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup chopped nuts (I omitted these)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Beat sugar and eggs together. Add oil. Combine the dry ingredients with orange juice and stir into batter. Beat well. Pour into a greased 13x9x2 pan. Bake 35-45 minutes (mine took 40) until it tests done. Cut squares while still warm.

Schmaltz (rendered chicken fat)

Can you smell the heart attack? Seriously, this isn't health food (and yes, I did discard the cracklings, though I'm sure I'll hear about it from my spouse who would eat those things if left to his own impulses).
The best detailed recipe I've found for the process may be found HERE (at the bottom of the page. Of course, if you wish to make chopped liver as well, don't let me stop you.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Potato Kugel (Pudding)

Passover potato kugel tends to be a bit heavy as it relies on matzo meal to bind it. It took me a number of years to get just the right balance, but I think this year’s effort was just about the best I’ve made. In years past, I’ve made it in attractive moulds, but this year I was looking for ease of preparation.

You Will Need:

6 large baking potatoes
1 large onion
¼ cup matzo meal
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 1 ½ quart baking dish. Grate potatoes and onion. Add everything else and mix well. Bake for 1 hour until browned and top is crisp. Serve with applesauce or sour cream for a milchig meal.

Matzo Balls

Funny thing about this chicken soup is that I degreased it. I know it does not appear that way in the photo, but I really did. What’s more, I pulled most of the fat and skin off before cooking so that I can render them for schmaltz to use in the chopped liver later this week (thankfully, with all my health problems of late, high cholesterol isn’t one of them).

My chicken soup was pretty standard in that I cooked an old fowl slowly with carrots, onion, celery, bay leaves, garlic peppercorns, Italian parsley, thyme, rosemary and salt. Nothing super-secret or unusual.

Pretty much the same story with the matzo balls-simple. People get obsessive over their dumplings. An Anthropology student could have a grand time writing about all the magical properties people attach to their precious soup and its preparation. Well, no dancing about the pot and singing folk songs here. I don’t try anything fancy like club soda or any of the other tricks people insist will make the dumplings lighter. I don’t know, maybe I lack imagination. Anyway, here’s the recipe.

You Will Need:

3 eggs
2 tablespoons oil
½ cup broth or water
½ teaspoon baking powder
salt and pepper to taste
Optional-1/4 teaspoon dried minced garlic

Mix eggs, oil and water together. Add matzo meal, baking powder, salt and pepper. Mix well and refrigerate for ten minutes. Boil a pot of salted water. Wet your hands and make balls (you should get about ten) and toss into the boiling water. Cover and reduce to simmer. Let cook 30 minutes. Transfer to soup when done.

Happy Passover

I’m afraid the Passover chocolate/mocha sponge cake was a bit too cloying to be enjoyable to anyone but my two year old son. It wasn’t that attractive either. It was very, very “eggy.” Not my sort of thing at all (I never liked custard pies for the same reason), but tomorrow I’m making macaroons which I already know I like. I’m going to skip posting the recipe for this as I really wouldn’t want to be responsible for anyone trying it.

I understand that cakes for this holiday are destined to be a bit heavy as the matzo cake flour and potato starch do not lend themselves to light and airy cakes-but this was outright gross.

Still no tablecloth this year as I do not quite trust Danny to leave it alone. Today was the first day that he ate all three meals sitting in a regular chair at the table. He’s tall and doesn’t have trouble reaching, and lifting him up to the highchair was killing my back anyway. Believe me, it is a very nice milestone. He can drink from a regular glass now as well, though there was no way I would let him have a glass of grape juice sitting on beige silk upholstery. Hey, I’m not stupid.

It’s strange, how the more my illness progresses, and the less able I am to eat without becoming sick-the more I enjoy and value my time spent cooking. Please, don’t write-in to offer psychiatric assessments. It isn’t a martyr thing of “oh, look how I still cook for my family” because if I didn’t feel like cooking-I wouldn’t. My spouse is perfectly capable of cooking and is in fact, pretty talented. Rather, I really do find it an enjoyable hobby and it is one of the few things I am still able to do. The beauty of preparing food is that it can be done a small bit at a time. Learning to dice an onion, go sit down, check the laundry, peel a carrot, go sit down, etc. was a big step in time management for me. I can understand why people have a difficult time preparing a meal after work-trying to do everything at once, and keep up with the dishes would be horribly exhausting.

I do have some valuable advice regarding Passover. Keep a second bottle of kosher wine in the refrigerator. It is only 11% alcohol by volume and makes a terrific “spritzer” with seltzer water. Sure, you can cook with it (1 cup concord grape wine and a bottle of prepared chilli sauce tossed over a beef brisket and cooked slowly at a low temperature is just about the best treatment you can give a tough cut of beef. It works well on beef ribs and chuck roast as well) but contrary to popular belief, it may be consumed as a drink.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Braised Lamb Chops With Mushrooms In Wine

We really enjoy lamb at our house, and this time of year it is a particular treat. Our grocer had shoulder chops for a reasonable price so I purchased two without any idea what I’d do with them.

Loin chops I simply prepare in a frying pan with a bit of oil, but shoulders need a bit more work to become tender. After gauging the amount of work I felt like putting into dinner after being out all day, I turned to the web for ideas. The recipe I prepared-lamb chops braised with mushroom and wine sauce, may be found HERE.

It was very simple to prepare (less than an hour from start to finish) and the results were excellent. I have repeatedly had good luck with the recipes I’ve found at Southern Food

So often, the recipes found on the web are untested, or incomplete. I have not found that problem at Southern Food and I encourage readers to check there for recipes that might not, to one’s mind be particularly “Southern”. It’s not all fried chicken and collard greens, you know?

About halfway through dinner, my husband asked if I was tired.

“No, not really. Why?”
“Could you go out and get some more of these?”

How’s that for a ringing endorsement?

*Also pictured, carrots and glazed turnips, mashed potatoes whipped with butter and heavy cream, and herbed toast. I served the meal with a bottle of absurdly inexpensive (four dollars) Cabernet.