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Monday, September 29, 2014

Better in Color


I like carrots.  I don't particularly love carrots,  That is, until I received these beautiful multicolored carrots in last week's CSA basket.  I mean, what's not to love?  They're stunning -- and so, so sweet.  Obviously I've been eating the wrong carrots all these years.

Coincidentally, I came across this delicious recipe for pomegranate (molasses) roasted carrots.  They're absolutely perfect for this time of the year, earthy and rustic.  I served them with my brisket and it was truly a beautiful sight.
The finished product
And a very tasty dish.

Recipe:  Pomegranate Roasted Carrots
Melissa Clark, In The Kitchen With A Good Appetite

Note:  Pomegranate molasses is often available in the middle eastern section of the grocery store.  If not, it's a staple in middle eastern cooking, so hit up your local middle eastern market,

Ingredients:

1 pound carrots, peeled, trimmed, and halved or quartered lengthwise (halve the thin carrots, quarter the fat ones)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
pinches Turkish or Syrian red pepper (such as Aleppo pepper) or cayenne
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses or 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots with the oil, salt, and red pepper or cayenne. Spread them out in a single layer.

Roast for 15 minutes, stir well, and roast for 10 more minutes. Then remove from the oven and drizzle with the pomegranate molasses; toss gently to coat the carrots with molasses. Roast until the carrots are golden and soft, about 5 more minutes. Serve garnished with parsley.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Tisket, A Brisket


After a long summer of grilling, the sun is setting a little earlier and brisket is back on the menu.  Usually my inaugural brisket happens in September, as we Jews ring in the "New Year".  What better reason than a holiday to pull out the dutch oven?

The great thing about brisket is that you really can't overcook it.  In fact, the longer you cook it, the more mouthwateringly delicious it becomes.  All you need is time and even a neophyte in the kitchen can produce a brisket worth celebrating with.

This is a new brisket recipe for me.  There's really nothing special about the ingredients or the method, but I have to tell you, this was one absolutely delicious brisket.  I think it's all in the cooking.  This brisket cooks for a hella long time -- about 3 1/2 hours to be exact.  But it's worth it.  The end result is tender, but not stringy or falling apart, and the onion jus is to die for.


Because I'm disorganized, I didn't get this recipe posted in time for Rosh Hashanah, but not to worry. This brisket will make any dinner feel festive.

Recipe:  Nach Waxman's Brisket of Beef
Genius Recipes, Food 52

Serves 10 to 12

Ingredients:
1 6-pound first-cut (a.k.a. flat-cut) beef brisket, trimmed so that a thin layer of fat remains
1 to 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour (or matzoh meal)
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons corn oil (or other neutral oil)
8 medium onions, peeled and thickly sliced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Kosher salt
2 to 4 cloves garlic
1 carrot, peeled

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Lightly dust the brisket with flour, then sprinkle with pepper to taste. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large ovenproof enameled cast-iron pot or other heavy pot with a lid just large enough to hold the brisket snugly. Add the brisket to the pot and brown on both sides until crusty brown areas appear on the surface here and there, 5 to 7 minutes per side.

Transfer the brisket to a platter, turn up the heat a bit, then add the onions to the pot and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the onions have softened and developed a rich brown color but aren't yet caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes.

Turn off the heat and place the brisket and any accumulated juices on top of the onions.
Spread the tomato paste over the brisket as if you were icing a cake. Sprinkle with salt and more pepper to taste, then add the garlic and carrot to the pot. Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, and cook the brisket for 1 1/2 hours.

Transfer the brisket to a cutting board and, using a very sharp knife, slice the meat across the grain into approximately 1/8-inch-thick slices. Return the slices to the pot, overlapping them at an angle so that you can see a bit of the top edge of each slice. The end result should resemble the original unsliced brisket leaning slightly backward. Check the seasonings and, if the sauce appears dry, add 2 to 3 teaspoons of water to the pot.

Cover the pot and return to the oven. Lower the heat to 325°F and cook the brisket until it is fork-tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Check once or twice during cooking to make sure that the liquid is not bubbling away. If it is, add a few more teaspoons of water—but not more. Also, each time you check, spoon some of the liquid on top of the roast so that it drips down between the slices.
It is ready to serve with its juices, but, in fact, it's even better the second day. It also freezes well.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Nothing But Corn


I have really enjoyed my CSA this summer.  Unlike last summer, where I was overrun with cauliflower, this summer's CSA has been a little more, shall we say, balanced.  I've gotten my fair share of cucumbers and zucchini, but I've also gotten delicious peaches, blueberries, and kale.  All in all, I've been pleased.

I guess this must have been a good summer for corn, because I literally have corn coming out of my (pardon the pun) ears.  I've gotten so much corn that I've started cutting it off the cob and freezing it to use later.  The problem is that later may have arrived, since I now have 3 large bags of frozen corn winking at me every time I open my freezer.

Well, Smitten Kitchen to the rescue with this absolutely delicious Corn and Cheddar Strata.

First of all, this is one easy to put together recipe.  There aren't a ton of ingredients, and it can be assembled (in fact, it's best if it is) the night before you plan to serve it.  Then all you have to do it take it out of the frig and pop it in the oven and you'll look like a gourmet hero.  It slices beautifully and can be reheated for lunch if you are lucky enough to have leftovers.

But the best part is, this strata really showcases the delicious late summer corn.  The corn gives it a sweetness that you just can't fake.  Use bread that's a little past its prime (we all have some of that hanging around the bread box) and together with the sharp cheddar and the scallions, you'll be sorry that you don't have more late summer corn hanging around.

Recipe:  Corn, Cheddar and Scallion Strata
Smitten Kitchen

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter
3 cups fresh corn (cut from 3 small-to-average cobs)
1 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions (both white and green parts from a 4-ounce bundle)
8 cups whole wheat, country or French bread in 1-inch cubes (weight will vary from 10 to 14 ounces, depending on bread type)
2 cups (6 ounces) coarsely grated sharp cheddar
1 cup (2 ounces) finely grated parmesan
9 large eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise (optional, see Note up top)
2 3/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon table salt or 2 teaspoons of a coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Generously butter a 3-quart baking dish (a lasagna or 9×13-inch pan works well here too). Toss corn and scallions together in a medium bowl. Combine cheeses in another bowl. In a large bowl, gently beat eggs and mayo together, then whisk in milk, salt and lots (or, if measuring, 1/2 teaspoon) of freshly ground black pepper. Spread one-third of bread cubes in prepared baking dish — it will not fully cover bottom of dish; this is fine. Add one-third of corn, then cheese mixture. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, corn and cheese. Pour egg mixture evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or up to 1 day.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake strata, uncovered, until puffed, golden brown and cooked through, about 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Same But Different

Food52.com
I like recipes I can play around with.  Usually you can't really play around with cakes, because well, they're cakes, and cakes rely on chemistry to work.  But this nice little apple cake, perfect for the Jewish holidays, is one of those cakes that's flexible.

While I am not a huge fan of said Jewish holidays, I do really love the food, apple cake in particular.  Maybe it's my memories of my Grandma Fannie's (yes, her name really was Fannie) apple strudel, or maybe it was that apple cake from the Beverlywood Bakery.  Who knows.

My mother, as we have established in past posts, was no Martha Stewart, but she could bake an apple cake.  It wasn't a great apple cake, but it was good enough to trot out on the high holidays.  Regretfully, her recipe is long gone.  It would have been nice to be able to play around with hers, but this recipe for Teddie's Apple Cake approximates hers in style, but is way, way better.

But I digress.  I played around with this recipe, just a little bit.  I used olive oil in place of vegetable oil, and one cup of brown sugar in place of one of the cups of granulated sugar.  I also soaked the raisins in a little Calvados.  The resulting cake was moist and sweet, and the olive oil added an interesting fruitiness.  I'm always a fan of booze, so the Calvados soaked raisins added a little something extra.

What could be bad?

Recipe:  Teddie's Apple Cake
Food52.com

Ingredients:

Butter for greasing pan
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups peeled, cored, and thickly sliced tart apples like Honeycrisp or Granny Smith
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins

Directions:

Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan. Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment) while assembling the remaining ingredients. After about 5 minutes, add the eggs and beat until the mixture is creamy.
Sift together 3 cups of flour, the salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir into the batter. Add the vanilla, apples, walnuts and raisins and stir until combined.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before lifting out. Serve at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nuts and Cherries


I have tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to master the art of the granola bar.  Either they are too soft and they fall apart, or they are so hard that the dental health of all who sample said bars is compromised.  Needless to say, a lesser food professional would give up and opt for the store bought variety.

But I am no such person.  I'm not sure how much a food professional I am, but I refuse to be daunted by something so seemingly simple as a granola bar.  I hope.

The other day I was perusing through my email and came upon a missive from Food 52.  Now, I love Food 52, although I'm never really sure exactly what Food 52 is.  Yes, there are recipes, but I don't know who actually contributes them.  And yes, there are nice food-ish things to buy, but I'm never sure what the connection to Food 52 is.  Well, it doesn't matter anyway.

Back to the email.  There was a nice little recipe for Bulk Bin Snack Bars.  I liked the sound of that, although I don't usually partake of the bulk food section of my grocery store.  Nonetheless, I knew that lurking in my pantry, I must have had pretty much everything called for in the recipe.  And if I didn't well, so be it.   I could always substitute.

The resulting snack bars, while not exactly granola bars, were perhaps my best ever foray into the snack bar realm.  I mean, these were absolutely delicious.

Of course, I substituted.  I didn't have any flaxseed (because I recently dropped an entire opened bag of said flaxseed on the floor.  I am still hearing the crunch crunch of flaxseed beneath my feet, despite sweeping 10,000 times).  I used toasted wheatgerm instead.  The recipe also called for 1/4 cup of applesauce, which I also left out simply because I forgot to add it.  (This happens when you (1) don't get everything out in advance, and (2) think you know everything and add ingredients out of order.)  Not to worry, the bars were plenty sweet without the applesauce.  And the best thing about these bars is that they are chilled, not cooked!  Yay!

These bars were so good that I've eaten one every day since I made them.  You may not think this remarkable, but usually I try a little nibble of whatever I've made and then dutifully pack the rest up and send it off to the office with Ted.  Not these.  I don't want to share.  And you won't either.  (That is, unless you are inherently a much more giving person than I am, which is entirely possible.)

Recipe:  Bulk Bin Snack Bars
Adapted from Food52.com

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup oats
3/4 cups sliced almonds
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup pepitas
1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
1/3 cup toasted wheat germ
1/3 cup honey
1 cup almond butter

Directions:

Line a baking tin or dish (9x13 or 8x8 -- whichever you prefer for thinner or thicker bars) with wax paper so that it extends over the edge.

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add honey, almond butter, and combine.  (This will seem very gloppy, but just keep mixing. It'll all come together.)

Pour the mixture into the baking dish, and flatten and spread with an offset spatula.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer overnight.

Remove from freezer and cut into bars.  These are best stored in the fridge in a tupperware, with layers separated by wax paper.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Cool Dinner for a Hot Night


I know I'm like a broken record, but it's been hot and when it's hot, I try to avoid turning on the oven.

Here's the thing.  My house is over 100 years old, and while it is fully air-conditioned (obviously added years after it was built),  not all of the rooms benefit equally from said central air-conditioning.  And heating for that matter.  Kate's room, for example, is coldest in the winter and warmest in the summer.  Charlie's room, which is right next to Kate's, is the complete opposite.  Go figure.

The kitchen seems to be in an ecosystem all its own, because the rest of the first floor bears no similarity in temperature.  Like Kate's room on the second floor, the kitchen is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.  This problem is obviously exacerbated in the warm months by using the appliances, most specifically the oven.  Turning on the oven is pretty much a direct ticket to hell, so obviously I try to limit my oven use to early mornings and after the sun goes down.

Needless to say, being of a certain age, I have absolutely no need to add to my already somewhat fickle body temperature issues.  In an effort to keep things a little cooler, I have taken to making dinners that rely on anything but the oven.  In fact, I would chop 1,000 vegetables into 10,000 tiny little pieces if the net result is that I can avoid turning on the oven.

The other day Ina Garten made caponata on her Barefoot Contessa show.  She served it with lovely little pita chips.  It was very appealing, but did not a dinner make.  Still, I wanted to make the caponata.  We are not really dip people, so I decided to make the caponata and serve it as a sauce for grilled swordfish.  I grilled the swordfish and let it come to room temperature and then served the whole platter the same way.

The nice thing about this recipe is that it makes quite a bit of the caponata, and the flavors develop as it sits in the frig.  So, you can serve this lovely cold dinner and still have caponata left over to serve another day with cocktails, al fresco, of course.

Recipe:  Grilled Swordfish featuring Ina Garten's Caponata

For the caponata:

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds)
Good olive oil
4 ounces jarred roasted red peppers, chopped
1/2 cup large green olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
3 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Toasted pita triangles, for serving

For the swordfish:

Swordfish steaks
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.

Place the whole eggplant on the pan, prick with a fork in several places, and rub with olive oil. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft when pierced with a knife. Set aside to cool. Halve the eggplant, peel, and discard the skin. Place the eggplant, peppers, and olives in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until coarsely chopped. Pour into a mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saute pan. Add the onion and red pepper flakes and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the onion is lightly browned. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, and add to the eggplant mixture. Add the parsley, pine nuts, lemon juice, capers, tomato paste, vinegar, salt, and pepper and mix. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Prepare a grill pan or a barbecue.

Drizzle the swordfish steaks with olive oil and then season generously with salt and pepper.  Cook to desired doneness.

Spread caponata on a serving platter.  Place the swordfish on top and sprinkle with chopped parsley.  Serve at room temperature.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Peanut Buttery


It is indeed good news that no one in my house has a peanut allergy.  We love all things peanut around here, especially peanut butter.  We're not even picky.  We love the lowbrow (Skippy and Jif), all the way up the ladder to the fancy schmancy artisanal stuff.  Kate has recently introduced me to Justin's, which is sort of in the middle of the range, and I have to say that I'm a real fan of the honey peanut butter.

As I mentioned, I really love peanut butter.  My preferred way of eating it is directly from the jar.  So, you're saying "big deal.  I do that too."  Well, I like to drizzle the honey directly into the jar and make my own perfect combination of peanut butter and honey.  I'm sure my family wonders why the peanut butter is always so sweet with honey.  It's because I'm a drizzler.

Okay, I'll admit it.  It's probably kind of gross that I drizzle the honey directly into the jar, but let's just, for a moment, consider other vices I could have.  Things could be a whole lot worse.

The point of this confession, besides my pathological need to over-share, is that as much as I like my peanut butter straight, I really love a good peanut butter cookie.

Don't kid yourself, a good peanut butter cookie is tough to find.  Some are soggy.  Some are greasy.  It's no small feat to make the perfect peanut butter cookie.

But I have and I didn't do it alone.  I had a great recipe which, as we all know, is pretty much essential for successful baking.  This recipe is from The Model Bakery Cookbook.  You really should go out and buy this cookbook, because I haven't made anything from it that hasn't been the best example of whatever it happens to be.  (As an aside, on my baking bucket list, is making Model Bakery english muffins, although maybe I should just put visiting the Model Bakery on the list. I could eat an english muffin right there at the source, and save myself a whole lot of rising time.)

Recipe:  Model Bakery Peanut Butter Cookies
Model Bakery Cookbook

Ingredients:

3 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 c. chunky peanut butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and position racks to center and top third of oven. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. 

Sift flour, baking soda and salt together. Beat the butter and both sugars with an electric mixer on high until pale yellow, about one to two minutes. Add in eggs, one at a time and beat well. Beat in peanut butter. Reduce to low speed and gradually add flour mixture, mixing just until combined. 

I use a small scoop for these cookies but you can go up to 1/4 cup for the size. Bake about 15 minutes, rotating the trays halfway through baking.