Monday, July 28, 2008

Making the most of the market

I promise myself every Summer that I will try and do as much freezing and preserving as possible, but either I don't have the money to buy in bulk or I'm too busy working to find the time.

The problem with being under employed is I have time, but nominal money. So You can imagine my excitement when I saw Kirby's on sale today at the market for $3 for two pounds No better entertainment than an afternoon making pickles.

Truth be told I've made several different kinds so far this summer: pickled beets, rhubarb pickle, bread and butter pickles and dill pickles.

My favorites so far are the Bread and Butter pickles - so simple and so good! And a great way to have summer crunch in the middle of February.

With blueberries being such a good price (I bought day old blueberries at Phillips Farm stand on Saturday and got 5 boxes for 10 bucks - what a deal!) I'm going to make some jam and freeze some as well. I'm looking for a low sugar jam, so if anyone has suggestions please let me know.

After much research into pickles and looking at special books dedicated to the art of pickling this is my interpretation of a recipe for Bread and Butter pickles from my favorite old standby The Fanny Farmer Cook Book by Marion Cunningham.

If you don't own this book you should and if you can get a hardcover it's better because the paperback is too small and the pages never want to stay open.

Bread and Butter Pickles

Slice 6 cups of un-waxed Kirby pickles into thin slices and place

Peel and roughly chop 1 pound of onions. A note on the onions. at this point in the Summer their are still small bulb onions being sold that have not developed the brown paper like skin we are all so familiar with in our traditional larder. This early summer onions are bursting with flavor, so if you can get them, use them. And if you can get them small enough just use a pound of small whole ones. They look nicer and if you are a Gibson drinker these little suckers will make you the celebratory of the cocktail circuit.

Kirby's are still being sold well into September and I find there is nothing more frustrating than an recipe calling for baby onions, an item nearly impossible to find in NYC even in season, when all you can find are plain old cooking onions.

All of this digression to say just use the onions you can find, it all works!

Mix the sliced Kirby's and onions (or whole small ones) together in a big bowl with 1/4 cup Kosher salt and let sit covered for 3 hours.

In a medium size pot add: 2 cups raw organic cane sugar, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 T mustard seeds, 1 teaspoon celery seed, 2 cups cider vinegar and bring slowly to a boil.

Boil for 5 minutes.

Drain the sliced Kirby and onion mixture and rinse very well with water - you need to repeat this process three or four times otherwise the pickles may end up being too salty. This happened to me when I made them one night while drinking wine and smoking pot, which I don't recommended, being pickled while pickling can be a slippery slope to salty pickles.

Add them to the hot syrup and heat until almost boiling but not quite. Spoon the pickles into hot sterilized jars, fill with liquid leaving 1/4 inch headspace, and seal.

If you want you can process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. I find the heat from the mixture creates a fine seal and I keep all my homemade pickles in the fridge just to be safe.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Baked Fruit Tart

For years now I have been making this kick ass lemon curd tart from the City Cuisine cookbook by Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken. It is a wonderful resource filled with great recipes, tips and techniques, I've seen it recently at the Strand for half off.

Anyway, last night I had some left over dough from a gooseberry tart I had made and so I did it with fresh sour cherries. Wow it was so good and I am exploring making fruit tarts without a top crust or crumble. The fruit roasts instead of steaming and the sugar crystallizes on top.

Pit and rinse 4 cups of sour cherries and put aside.

In a food processor finely chop 3/4 c Pecans (Walnut or Hazelnuts would work just as well).

In a large bowl incorporate the chopped nuts, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cup butter, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, 1 t salt, and mix with a wooden spoon.

Add 2 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour. Knead until it forms a smooth ball, cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours.

When the dough is chilled use either individual tart pans (about 4) or one 11" tart pan and using your hands spread the dough thickly into the pan. You can roll it but it's fragile and fussy and using your hands is so much easier, quicker and more fun. Put back in the fridge and cool for another 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Toss the cherries with 1 1/2 cups of sugar (depending on how sour you like it use less sugar 1 cup gives you a tart, tart), 1 T of kirsch, and 2 T of instant tapioca ( has an organic version).

Remove the tart crust and fill with the cherry mixture. Bake at 400 for 5 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 and continue to cook another 12-15 minutes or until the crust is brown and the filling is bubbling and sugar has started to caramelize.

Let cool before removing the rim.
Dust with icing sugar and serve with generous amounts of unsweetened whipped cream.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Highlights of Al Gore's Challenge

He's great.

It's just so nice to hear someone tell the truth.

Jersey Tomatoes

From today's Times.

Funny how so many of the fruits and vegetables we eat were changed to make them more "shippable" - makes me wonder what we have lost...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Oh you trendy locavore you

The New York Times did this piece today on how urbanites are getting into the swing of eating local. It's one of those arrogant puff pieces for rich people. My favorite part is the bitchy comment by Barbara Kingslover at the end.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Good Food in Brooklyn

A while back, in the Spring I think, I was waiting in line at the Whole Foods on the Bowery and I noticed in their magazine wrack something called The Diner Journal. On a whim I bought it. I’m so glad I did.

This journal is the brainchild of the people who run three restaurants in Williamsburg, Diner, Marlow and Co, and Bonita. I have eaten at all of them and have gone back many times and taken friends with me. What these creative, talented, visionary people have done is taken the “locavore” movement and put it into reality and done it in such a way that it is accessible. That is to say that all three restaurants serve locally raised animals that are not filled with antibiotics, tortured or factory raised. Even some of the more posh restaurants in Manhattan aren’t able to make that claim. And not only can these people make the claim, they do it and still offer a $9 chicken burrito that’s meat filled and delicious.

I’ve only eaten at Diner once but my initial impression is that it's an updated riff on traditional diners. At lunch they have a lot of burgers (again, all of it grass fed and local) with a very small selection of dishes that emphasize the season. The day I was there they only had one dessert offering, a non-traditional version a rhubarb trifle that tasted as if it had candied fruit in it – it seemed very old British updated, sweet and sour and creamy with an incredible intensity of flavor. And the serving was reasonable so it was just the right amount.

Marlow and Co. does the same with a bit more variety and an emphasis on local oysters and an amazing selection of local cheeses. The first dish I had there, one they have had several variations of every time I’ve been this summer is a Rhubarb crostini with ricotta or goat cheese with different versions of rhubarb from compote to jam – every one I’ve had has been amazing. The room is upstate country house, old marble and wainscoting and an old, what looks to be recycled, wood ceiling. It’s a cool escape from the world, like going back in time, to a place where fresh local organic food, simply presented, is the natural order of the day.

Bonita is their take on traditional Mexican food (I want them to open up a SE Asian restaurant!). This is the most casual of the three. It looks like they took an old traditional style Mexican restaurant and turned it on it’s sombrero, adding wonderful mosaic tile panels and ceiling fan, and a long marble bar. In the summer I highly recommend you nab one of the several tables on the sidewalk - they don’t have air conditioning – so it can be a tad uncomfortable. There is a nice selection of cold beer and sangria that will help cool you off and make you forget the heat (note just beer and wine no margaritas here).

What I most appreciate about Bonita is of the dishes I’ve had, or had a bite of, none of them have been over filled with rice and beans, a trick most other Mexican restaurants use to bulk up the burrito with the cheap stuff.

If you are in New York City you must make the journey out to Williamsburg (the J, M, or Z trains to Marcy Ave) to experience some of the best food you’ll have in a long time, food that not only tastes good, but that clearly prioritizes farmers and the environment.

How is it that this group of people who created these splendid eateries can figure out how to make a living and offer humanely raised animals and local/organic fruits and vegetables? And if they figured it out why haven’t more people jumped on board?

Let’s hope they are inspiring an entire new generation of restaurateurs. Just their very presence is an inspiration to me, because they prove it can be done and the only thing that is lacking is the will to do it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Upsidedown Cake

This has got to be one of the best desserts: it's easy and beautiful and takes full advantage of what ever fruit you have in season, just at that moment. Last night I made a version with fresh local blueberries and apricots. It was great with a little whipped cream after dinner and equally good in the morning with coffee. After years of experimenting with a dozen different recipes for this classic dessert, the winner was the recipe Alice Waters offers in several of her cookbooks (Chez Panise and The Art of Simple Food). What Alice does that none of the other recipes did is to separate the eggs and whip the whites before incorporating - makes a world of difference in the texture of the cake. (If you don't own an Alice Waters cookbook, you should. They are amazing and she is a genius.) I've made a few minor changes to the original recipe.

Fruit Upside-Down Cake

Makes one 8-inch round or square cake This cake is very versatile and can be made with apples, pears, peaches, plums, or any full-flavored, slightly acidic fruit. Arrange the sliced fruit as you would for a Tarte Tatin. In this instance I think the seasonal combo of apricots and blueberries can't be beat (well maybe sour cherries...) Preheat the oven to 350 F. Measure into an 8"cast-iron skillet or heavy-duty cake pan:

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

¾ cup demerara or brown sugar

4 tablespoons apricot juice

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the butter melts and starts to bubble. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

1 pint blueberries, rinsed and picked over

12 apricots, pitted and halved
(mine were small if bigger you can get away with less)
Arrange the apricots onto the brown sugar and butter mixture, cut sides facing up. Sprinkle the blueberries on top of the apricots.
2 eggs, at room temperature
½ cup whole milk, at room temperature
Measure and stir together:
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

In another bowl or in a stand mixer, beat to lighten:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar Cream until light and fluffy. Beat in the 2 yolks, one at a time. Stir in:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
When well mixed, add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, starting and ending with one third of the flour. Stir just until the flour is incorporated. Beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Fold one third of the egg whites into the batter and then gently fold in the rest. Pour the batter over the cranberries in the pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a serving plate.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sour Cherry Chocolate Cake

This is a recipe I've been making for over 20 years.

It's a variation on a recipe from Judith Olney’s Joy of Chocolate cookbook. She calls it Lenzer Torte, but I prefer the more prosaic Sour Cherry Chocolate Cake. Make it with jarred sour cherries any time of the year and it’s really, really good and really simple to make to boot. Make it with fresh sour cherries in season and it is transformative!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9” spring form pan and cover with 2 T of fine breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Pit 1-pound fresh sour cherries (or use a jar of pitted sour cherries which need to be drained and dried – leave on a towel and put aside.)

Melt 1 stick butter (1/2 cup) and set it aside to cool

Beat 2 Eggs and 1 Cup granulated sugar until thick and lemon colored. Stir in the melted butter, 3 T cocoa powder and 1-teaspoon kirsch. Mix well, then add 1-teaspoon baking powder, ½ Cup all-purpose flower and ½ cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped (I use a mini food processor to chop the nuts). Stir to incorporate.

Place the sour cherries into the bottom of the breadcrumb covered spring form pan, pour the batter over them and spread out evenly so all are covered.

Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes. The top of the cake should be completely firm and slightly cracked.

Remove the cake from the oven and place on a rack let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and release the spring form then leave the cake to sit and cool to room temperature.

When cool, flip the cake onto a serving plate and take a knife or spatula and carefully remove the bottom of the pan.

Sift a little bit (1/2 c) confectioners sugar over the top of the cake to garnish.
Serve with whipped cream - you can add a little sugar if you want or a teaspoon of kirsch or both!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

More about bags...

I saw this exhaustive article on the pros and cons of plastic versus paper bags - it's long but really interesting and seemed a suitable follow up to the video below. Bottom line: they both suck, with, shockingly, plastic coming out slightly ahead - but neither are good and no surprise re-usable (non plastic non paper) bags are the best.

I promise more recipes tomorrow!

Super Size Me!

Monday, July 7, 2008

BYOB Bring Your Own Bag

It's time to start carrying that cloth bag with you every time you go out.

This is really scary stuff and the part about how the plastic gets reintroduced into the food chain - not appetizing.

PN - EP4 - Beautiful Food

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Burger Time

This is a veggie burger that I thought was more successful then most. I combined a few recipes to get a substantial burger that was satisfying and tasted great. It doesn't mimic hamburger at all like some of the frozen processed ones but if you are looking for a homemade alternative try this and let me know what you think.

My two cents on the frozen ones, even though a product is organic doesn't mean it still isn't filled with a lot of crap and in the case of the burgers (like Boca) very processed. I know it's more work but if you were to double this batch you could make up extras and freeze them individually and have them when ever you wanted.

1-1/2 cups mushrooms roughly chopped (crimini or shitaki)
1-1/2 cups cooked lentils
1-1/2 cups toasted walnuts
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
1 cup bread crumbs (whole wheat with lots of seeds and nuts in it - if you have the desire to make your own from left over bread - otherwise plain white ones are fine)
2 t cumin seeds (roasted and roughly broken up in a mortar and pestle or in a spice grinder)
1 T powdered cumin
1 T coriander powder
4 t dried pepper flakes
2 t salt (plus more to taste)
Freshly grated black pepper to taste
5 garlic cloves
4 T olive oil (more for frying)

Put everything in a food processor and combine until the mixture is incorporated and you can easily form it into patties. Fry on each side for approximately 3 minutes or until dark brown. Melt some extra sharp white cheddar cheese over them in the last minute or so of cooking.

I made 8 burgers and had enough left over for another 4 or so. Serve on toasted wheat and sesame buns with garlic olive oil. Dill pickle relish, German mustard, spicy greens, tomato slices and home made ketchup all go great with these.

Super easy, healthy and easy on the pocketbook.

Market Watch July 2nd

Yesterday at the market I saw the Honey Hollow Farm sign and was really excited to see they were selling local Porcini mushrooms!

I went over and chatted and took some more shitty pictures with my camera phone (sorry but my real camera is broken...). The farmer told me he'd been growing them for years and selling them at Union Square.

Porcini are something I've only started to cook with in the last couple of years and it would be fair to say they are my new favorite food! It most exciting to see actual fresh ones and not be a slave to re-hydrating dried ones.

He was selling Grade B (bigger) for $35 lb and $39 lb for Grade A. What a bargain.

The market was bustling for a Wednesday. Lots of green house tomatoes, and amazing blueberries, raspberries and cherries. I think the first round of strawberries is almost over.
The spring garlic and onions are lovely as the lamb's quarters and fresh herbs.

Lot's of basil, so I bought this huge bunch for $3 and came home and made pesto. And even though the tomatoes looked great I'm waiting for the non-greenhouse ones that promise to be ready in 2-3 weeks.

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