Wow! It Suddenly got Quite Fragrant Here

I’ve been upstairs in the office working on various projects.

Catching up on emails, monitoring the weather, drafting a blog post (not this one) and working on a woodblock design, when what to my wondering nose should appear the smell of onions closely followed by curry and other smells I couldn’t identify.

My husband is downstairs experimenting in the kitchen.

I immediately had to investigate the source of all this olfactory stimulus. It was Vadouvan, a spice blend recipe. So what I was smelling was a combination of onions, shallots, garlic, fenugreek, curry, cumin, cardamom, brown mustard seed, turmeric, nutmeg, cloves, red pepper flakes and vegetable oil. By the time I arrived it had all been ground and combined and placed on parchment paper and was now in the oven browning.

Curt had seen one of the home cooks on the Masterchef television show use it and Mr. Curiosity had to know more. Basically it is, or will be, a ready-to-use blend of spices that is a French derivative of a masala. A masala is a South Asian spice mix. If it is a success we will be enjoying it on our chicken thighs tonight with a side of cilantro/vinegar/oil dressed potatoes.

For now, with the house closed up because of the heat and the impending storms, I feel like I am living in a spice market somewhere between France and South Vietnam.

Revuelto, a spring Migas of sorts

This week David Tannis, food writer for the New York Times reprised a recipe for Spanish Asparagus Revuelto from an article originally published in 2014 titled Asparagus, Spanish style.  The inter-web tells me that revuelto is Spanish for scrambled eggs.  So, Spanish asparagus and scrambled eggs.  Sounded good to me.

In reading through the recipe, it struck me that this revuelto sounds a lot like a variation on Migas, which we wrote about several years ago.  A comparison of that Migas to this Revuelto reveals a similar approach in preparation but with more vegetables, without the chickpeas and with eggs scrambled in rather than cooked separately and presented on top of the other ingredients.

I followed Mr. Tannis’ recipe but roughly cut it in half except I used 4 times the amount of pimentón that he called for and double the amount of chorizo.

The end result was very tasty but the eggs didn’t exactly scramble, rather they formed more of a sauce that coated the other ingredients.  I think the asparagus brought a lot more moisture to the dish than I had anticipated, making for the sauciness.  Yummy none the less.

Asparagus Migas

1-1/2 Tbs. olive oil
2 peeled garlic cloves, whole, plus 1 small clove, minced
1 cup day old bread (baguette or ciabatta), torn into 1/2″ pieces
Salt and pepper
2 oz. Spanish chorizo, cut into matchstick pieces
3/4 pound thin asparagus, cut into 1″ – 2″ pieces
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
2 Tbs. Italian parsley, roughly chopped

Saute the whole garlic in olive oil until lightly browned, remove and discard.

Saute the bread in the oil until lightly browned and crispy.  Remove from the heat and add a pinch of salt, some pepper and 1/2 tsp of pimentón.  Remove from the saute pan and allow to cool.

Saute the chorizo a minute or two to release some of its oil, add the asparagus and saute for several minutes until the asparagus is tender but still firm.  Add the green onions and saute an additional minute.

Beat the eggs with 1/2 tsp of pimentón and a pinch of salt and some pepper to taste.  Add the eggs to the asparagus mix and cook, stirring until the eggs are just soften and creamy.

Divide the revuelto onto two plates, top with parsley and croutons.  Serve immediately.

Cookie Book Cookies: Savory

img_0014For Christmas my son gave me Dorie’s Cookies by Doris Greenspan. It is a cookie recipe book. It was an especially nice gift because he had heard about it while listening to a podcast on Public Radio. Yes! I knew I had raised him right. The book itself is quite beautiful, great cover, lots of pictures ( my kind of recipe book!) and it weighs a ton.

bookThat poundage is because there are 160 cookie recipes in this book. While my son was home he mentioned that he was interested in the savory cookies and sure enough Dorie has a section called Cocktail Cookies that looked pretty interesting. So since the weather outside for the last week or so has certainly been nasty I decided it was time to try two of the savory selections. Half for us and half to be mailed to Nathan.

 

My first choice was Cranberry Five Spice Cookies. Chinese five-spice powder is a blend that includes star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves and fennel. Dorie loves this spice and says it is equally good in sweet or savory dishes. She likes it best when paired with something tart or tangy so that’s why she has put cranberries into the mix. Here’s the recipe:

Makes about 50 cookies

5 Tbls sugar
1/2 C fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 3/4 C flour
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut in chunks, room temperature
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 large egg
1/2 C salted peanuts ,coarsely chopped

Coarsely chopped cranberries and nuts

Coarsely chopped cranberries and nuts

Mix 1 Tbls sugar and cranberries in a bowl, set aside.

Whisk flour and five-spice powder together.

In another large bowl with a mixer or by hand, beat the butter, remaining sugar and salt together till smooth and creamy. Add the egg and beat for one minute. (The mixture will look curdled, that’s ok.) Add flour mixture all at once and mix till it becomes a dough. Spoon the cranberries (drain off any liquid first) and the nuts into the dough and mix just to incorporate. You can do this with a spatula or with your hand. I found my hand worked great. Turn dough out onto counter and knead gently. Divide in half and pat each into a disk.

Put disks between parchment paper and roll to about 1/4 inch thickness. She says then freeze for about an hour. I found this too long. You need the dough firm to cut out cookies but if it is frozen you have to wait till it softens enough to get your cutter through it. Use your judgement.

Preheat oven, 350°, line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using approx. 1 1/2″ cookie cutter, cut and place cookies on sheet. Bake 12 -14 minutes, rotating sheet half way. Cookies should be lightly brown on edges and just firm to touch. Mine needed about 18 minutes.

Cutting out Cranberry Five-spice dough

Cutting out Cranberry Five-spice dough

Repeat with remaining dough and don’t forget to use the scraps as well.

Recipe #2 was Smoky, Cheesy Cookies.

Makes about 45 cookies.

1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
4 ounces cold smoked Gouda, cut into tiny cubes
2 ounces shredded sharp cheddar
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly grd black pepper
pinch of cayenne
1 1/4 C all purpose flour

Put the cold butter, Gouda, Cheddar, salt, black pepper and cayenne in a food processor and pulse until butter is in bits and mixture forms small curds. Add the flour and with long pulses mix until dough is moist and forms large popcorn-like curds. (Should be noted, mine took forever to get large popcorn-like curds. They never really were large but the dough finally started to combine and it felt moist so I just turned it out and scrunched it together and then kneaded it.)

Shape into ball, divide in half and do the same rolling, freezing and cutting as above with the Cranberry Five-spice cookies. Put on parchment paper or silicone sheet.

Almost ready for oven

Almost ready for oven

Bake 350 degrees. Bake 16 -18 minutes, rotating half way through. Mine went a little longer here too.

The verdict?

In the Cranberry Five-Spice, I couldn’t detect the five-spice flavoring that Dorie gets all excited about but the nuts and cranberries come through nicely, especially the nuts. She suggested sprinkling salt on the tops before baking and I did this for half. Both are good but my husband prefers the ones with salt. I also think they were better on the second day.

Left: Smokey-Cheesy Right: Cranberry 5-Spice

Left: Smokey-Cheesy
Right: Cranberry 5-Spice

On his initial taste of the Smoky, Cheesy ones my husband said, Cheez-its. Oh no! I went to all this trouble and they taste like Cheez-its. But not really. Yes, they may give you that at first bite but then the smokiness of the gouda comes through. These are quite nice with a little sausage and a glass of red wine or with eggs and bacon for breakfast.

I will definitely be trying more of Dorie’s recipes.

My son’s share went into the mail today. Hope I packed well.

Getting Ready for Dog Days

August is almost upon us and the forecast for next week is hot, humid, hot and more humid. Last year we bought an ice cream maker, not the old-fashioned crank type but a spiffy electric Cuisinart machine. We made some ice cream when we first got it but then we put it away and you know, out of sight, out of mind. A friend of ours also has one and served us ice cream one evening. Well, that reminded me of our machine. Now the danger of having rich wonderful ice cream around is fat and calories and how good they taste and how I don’t want to stop eating. That’s when I started searching out frozen yogurt recipes. Here’s one I’ve adapted from a site called, Once Upon a Chef. This original recipe called for strawberries which I tried first. And Curt has used guava, which was just okay. But the other day I tried raspberries. I also had two really ripe plums which I added to the mix.

This recipe is super easy. The only tricky part is you have to remember to put the freezer bowl and the paddle in the freezer about 24 hours before you plan on making the ice cream. Or just leave the bowl in the freezer all the time, then you can be a little more spontaneous.

Fruit of your Choice Frozen Yogurt (4 servings)

1 pound strawberries or raspberries or blueberries or peaches or anything or mix and match
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups whole milk Greek Yogurt
(For the strawberry I used whole milk regular yogurt and it came out fine. For the raspberry one I used part regular/part Greek.)

Combine the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about an hour until it is nice and syrupy.berryTake the raspberry mixture and puree until smooth. Since I am not fond of raspberry seeds I then strained this puree through a sieve. For fruit without seeds you can skip this step.

Push the mixture through a sieve using circular motions

Push the mixture through a sieve using circular motions

Combine the fruit puree and the yogurt in a blender and blend until smooth. Put this mixture in a covered container and chill in the refrigerator until very cold.yogurtOnce everything is cold, put the bowl on the maker, add the paddle and the cover and turn it on. Immediately pour the yogurt/fruit mixture into the bowl. Then just let it work. It takes less than 20 minutes. You’ll be able to tell when it is getting thicker. I stick a spoon in and try it along the way. For this one I also threw some blueberries in at this point.

Turn it on, pour in the mixture.

Turn it on, pour in the mixture.

Getting thicker, almost ready to take out.

Getting thicker, almost ready to take out.

Once it has reached the desired consistency, take it out and put it in a container and pop it in the freezer for a couple more hours. When you are ready to beat the heat, take out and eat. Yum! Boy, those raspberries have a rich color.bowlSo if you have been thinking about an ice cream maker, I say, go for it!!

Ever Eat a Daylily, Bud?

Once again my husband tries something new from the garden. This time it is from the flower garden. We have some beautiful daylilies blooming right now. The perfect ingredient for a tasty appetizer?lily3

But for the ingredient in this recipe you have to look past the lily.lily2

You’re getting close but you have to go a little further past the flower.

budsAh there they are, right next to the flowers. The buds.budThe new buds are what you want to pick to make

Pickled Daylily Buds

2 1/2 cups water
4 Tbls salt
35 daylily buds ( the tastiest are those just about to open)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, halved

1. Place 2 cups of water and the salt in a bowl, stirring until the salt dissolves. Add the daylily buds and let stand overnight, covered.

2. In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar and garlic.

3. Put the drained daylily buds in a clean pint jar. Add the hot cider to almost the top, cover, and allow to cool on the counter. When cool, place in the refrigerator and leave for 2 weeks to pickle. We ate them in 24 hours and they were fine.

They taste like pickled beans and are a nice accompaniment to a sandwich or as an appetizer with a piece of cheese and a glass of wine. Fun Summer food!jar

Sometimes…3: It’s more than a cookbook

As I’ve noted before, we volunteer at our local library sorting books for the semi-annual Friends of the Library book sale. These are books that have been withdrawn from the library collection for various reasons or donated books that citizens have given to our Friends group for our book sale. As we sort the books into one of 46 different categories we occasionally come across something of note; something amusing, maybe shocking or possibly just puzzling.

This is the third in a series of occasional posts about those finds.

recipe.coverSometimes things are more than what they seem.

On its face, this is a composition book popularly used in schools around the country during the first half of the twentieth century.  We found this one interesting because it’s not a school child’s work book but a housewife’s recipe book that also served as a scrapbook and address book.

recipe.INcover

Inside front cover

It first caught my eye because one of the addresses inside bears a surname that we know from my wife’s side of the the family (but no apparent connection to her actual family).  It also held things that spoke to the times.  Meat and potatoes must have ruled the dinner table but sweets ruled the recipe book.  Of 87 hand-written recipes, 67 are for some sort of sweet thing.  Times must have been tough – one recipe is for milk-less, egg-less, butter-less cake.

milklesscake

Milk-less, egg-less and butter-less. Mmmmm-good.

Other recipes of note are one for a poultice made of onions and rye flour to be used for a chest cold, and one for Bug killer which starts with carbolic acid (crude) (black).

BugKiller

Cold remedy, bug killer and birthday notes.

Occasionally there are recipes or newspaper clippings pinned onto the pages with straight pins.

GrayHair

Other items include a remedy for high blood pressure, garden advice and a note of Minie’s birthday.

You might also like Sometimes… Demonic Control or Sometimes …2: South Beach Diet

Tater Salad Season

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the US and the unofficial beginning of the Potato Salad Season. I love potato salad and I have eaten a lot of different kinds and summer just makes it taste better. My Aunt Kate made a great German potato salad, my mother-in-law Jane made a fabulous eggy potato salad. But I even think deli potato salad, though not always the greatest, has its place in the potato salad pantheon. I experimented with a lot of salads over the years hoping to create my own style. Sometimes I tried to copy Jane. Mine was not bad but never like hers. I eventually discovered James Beard’s Old-fashioned Oregon Potato Salad and made that for a while but now I think my salad has evolved into combination of Jane and Jim.

So what to make for this weekend? Mine, Jane’s, Jim’s or something new. Curt follows the New York Times food column and he handed me a printout of Melissa Clark’s Lemon Potato Salad with Mint. Looked interesting, looked easy. I tried it and it is good enough to share. Here goes.

I halved the recipe for the two of us but I am posting the full recipe in case you are having company.

Lemon Potato Salad with Mint

2 lbs potatoes
Juice of one lemon, more for serving
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions, more for serving
1/4 C torn mint leaves, more for serving
1/4 tsp Turkish pepper ( I used Aleppo)

All this plus potatoes

All this plus potatoes

Step 1: Boil potatoes in salted water until just tender. Drain and cut potatoes into 1 1/2 inch chunks as soon as you can handle them. Important note: Dressing is going on hot potatoes.

tatersStep 2: In a bowl whisk together lemon juice, salt and olive oil.

Step 3: Transfer hot potatoes to a large bowl and toss with dressing, scallions, mint and pepper. Let cool to room temperature or refrigerate. Just before serving, top with additional lemon juice, scallions, mint and pepper.

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

It was quick and tasted great. We paired it with burgers, done on the grill, and accompanied it with a nice Petit Syrah. burgerI think we have a new favorite but for tomorrow I think I’ll try Jane’s salad with our ribs.

Picadillo Alfredo

Warning! This is an experiment.

The NY Times recently published a recipe by Sam Sifton for Picadillo which he calls the ultimate Cuban comfort food.  Picadillo is a sort of sloppy-Joe kind of stew made from ground meat (picadillo means mince), tomatoes, raisins, olives and liberally seasoned with cinnamon, cumin and other warm spices.  To my taste, it sounds like a Persian inflected dish (who often combine meat, fruit and spices) via Spain (remember, that Arabs held sway in the Iberian peninsula for nearly 700 years).  Mr. Sifton suggests serving it with rice.  OK, but I couldn’t quite get my head around picadillo as a stew.

Recently Jeanne made spinach enchiladas which were quite tasty.  Her enchiladas prompted me to think of picadillo as a stand in for the filling of an enchilada-like presentation.  Of course, I couldn’t follow the typical enchilada routine by covering the filled tortillas with a tomato and chili sauce as the picadillo has plenty of tomatoes in it already.  So, why not invert the order of things?  Enchiladas often have cheese in the filling so why not put the cheese on the outside.  But I didn’t want to just bury the tortillas in shredded cheese.  How about something creamier?  I’ve got it – Alfredo sauce!  I know, it’s not Cuban.  It’s not even Latino.  But it creamy cheesy good.  And you can buy it in a jar, ready to go.

For the picadillo I followed the NY Times recipe to a “T”, just cutting it in half to accommodate our more limited table (and so as to not have too much left over in case my experiment was a bust).

Ingredients.1

Ingredients (see NY Times recipe for complete list)

Minced garlic, diced Chorizo and chopped onion

Minced garlic, diced chorizo and chopped onion

Beef, tomatoes, onions, chorizo, garlic and seasonings saute away

Beef, tomatoes, onions, chorizo, garlic, raisins, olives and seasonings saute away

Fill tortillas with a geneous 1/4 cup of picadillo mixture

Fill tortillas with a geneous 1/4 cup of picadillo mixture

Put rolled, filled tortillas in a baking dish with a thin layer of Alfredo sauce underneath and a generous layer over the top

Put rolled, filled tortillas in a baking dish with a thin layer of Alfredo sauce underneath and a generous layer over the top

Sprinkle a light layer of grated cheese (I used a Mexican blend but cheddar would be fine).  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350˚ F. for about 30 minutes or untll the Alfredo sauce is bubbly and lightly browned.

Not pretty but pretty tasty. A little garnish would have been in order but I forgot to take this picture until I was on my second Picadillo Alfredo.

Not pretty but pretty tasty. A little garnish would have been in order but I forgot to take this picture until I was on my second Picadillo Alfredo.

Not much to look at but pretty yummy.  I think the picadillo mixture could serve other purposes – maybe an Cuban sloppy-joe?

Watermelon what?

Every once in a while some food idea crosses my mind that I file for future reference but quickly forget about. Later something will poke my memory and that idea will resurface.watermelon-1

We were in the grocery the other day and the store had a special on mini-watermelons. I know, what am I doing looking at watermelons in the middle of winter. I know they come from somewhere in Central America and their carbon footprint is heavy, but they looked pretty good and the price was good so I bought one …. so much for eating local.

Anyway, I saw those watermelons and into my head pops the idea of watermelon steak. Huh?  Somewhere I had heard of such a thing and I thought it would be worth trying. If it didn’t pan out I figured at the very least we could add some to a salad or eat it fresh for dessert.

But, when I got home that idea of watermelon steak kept floating around in my head but I didn’t really know where to start so I did an internet search and, lo and behold, there are lots of sites that feature watermelon steak. Most referenced a restaurant near Boston called 51 Lincoln that seemed to have originated or, at least, featured a pan-seared watermelon steak as an appetizer or small plate.

If you have read our blog before, you know I’m always up for something different.  This watermelon steak, as imagined by 51 Lincoln and repeated by many other blogs, certainly was a strange sounding dish and one I wanted to try.

I spent some time scanning the many variations. Some recipes called for marinating the trimmed blocks of watermelon in cream sherry overnight or at least for several hours.  Some cooked the “steaks” on a grill or directly in a saute pan.  But in many the “steaks” were roasted in the oven for 2-1/2 (yes, two and a half) hours at 350˚ F.  I settled on a shorter marinade, 2 hours in the oven and a finishing sear in the saute pan.  Here’s what it all looked like.

Watermelon "steaks" marinating in sherry

Watermelon “steaks” marinating in sherry for 3 hours

Watermelon "steaks" seasoned with salt and pepper and a pat of butter and ready for the oven

Watermelon “steaks” seasoned with salt and pepper and a pat of butter and ready for the oven

"Steaks" after 2 hours at 350˚. Note that the color is still quite bright, even redder than the raw watermelon

“Steaks” after 2 hours at 350˚. Note that the color is still quite bright, even redder than the raw watermelon but without any sear

"Steaks" searing briefly in a skillet

“Steaks” searing briefly in a skillet

Watermelon steak appetiser

Watermelon “steak” served with an avocado, blood orange, clementine and tomato salad with feta cheese

Now, most of you would probably think (I certainly did) that after that amount of time in the oven the watermelon would be cooked to a mush.  But not so.  Remarkably the melon held up quite well.  It shrinks a bit but the color remains bright and the texture is transformed.  The melon was no longer grainy the way fresh watermelon is.  Rather it takes on a decidedly firmer texture not unlike the linear grain of fresh beef or raw tuna.

A strange dish but one worth trying, if for no other reason than to say you did.

Just a Little Nutty, vol. 2

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Tomato/Almond Pesto

This is another recipe adapted from one I found in Bon Appetite (November 2015). The original recipe called for cherry tomatoes and quite a bit more than I use here. I wanted more almond, less tomato to come through in the final product. This pesto was intended to be a dressing on blistered green beans.  We tried that and it was fine but I thought it was better as a dip for crudites (I kept sampling it with the raw green beans before I cooked them) so I present it here as a dip but feel free to use it however you think will be tasty.

Ingredients; Kumato tomatoes are described as brown

Ingredients; Kumato tomatoes are described as brown

2 medium sized tomatoes (I used Kumato Brown Tomatoes because they’re the best available in Green Bay at this time of year), seeded and cored, and cut into 1/2″ pieces.
1/4 C. roasted, unsalted almonds
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. Sherry vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
1 tsp. sweet paprika
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper

Cut about 1/4″ off both ends of the tomatoes.  Remove the core and the jelly/seed part.  Cut the tomato flesh from the walls and ends into 1/2″ pieces.  chopped

Place the tomato pieces into a cold nonstick saute pan and put on medium-low heat.  Leave the tomatoes to heat; they will release much of their water and gradually turn soft.  DO NOT vigorously stir.  You want to leave the cooked tomato in recognizable pieces.  Set aside to cool completely.

Grind the almonds in a food processor or blender to a fine chop or coarse meal consistency.  Finely mince the garlic.

Add half of the cooled tomatoes, all the almonds, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, paprika and cayenne (if using) to a mixing bowl.  Stir to combine well and mash the tomatoes somewhat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Put in the remaining half of the tomatoes and stir gently, trying to keep the tomato pieces somewhat whole.

dip

Finished dip

Serve as a dip for raw or lightly cooked vegetables; as a sauce for grilled meat; or as a spread on thin slices of crusty bread.

This can be made up to several hours in advance.  It may store well in the refrigerator but I’ve never had any left over to find out.

Smoked paprika might be an interesting substitution for the sweet paprika. I’ll update you on that if I try it. In the meantime stay tuned for more “nutty” recipes.