Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tools of the trade

 All-Clad stainless cookware

 All-Clad stainless cookware and others
 Spices, dried herbs, seasonings

  Tools -- organized by wooden (left), plastic (rear), metal (right), spatulas (foreground).
Knife block to the right. 

 Tools --wooden spoons.  And a rubber mallet, one of my favorite tools,
and only $5 at the hardware store.

 Oils, vinegars, food processor

Oils -- corn, olive, peanut.  In re-purposed beverage bottles with bar spouts.

 Kosher salt, ground black pepper and red pepper flakes,
"house seasoning" (salt/black pepper/garlic powder).

Garlic and onions. 
And the big Kitchen Aid mixer to the left. 
Cutting boards to the rear.

 Large oak cutting board, being put to good use.
Dad made this for me before I left for graduate school.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Corn fritters -- sweet and savory

It's summer and the corn is everywhere.  On the cob, off the cob, in a chowder, in a quesadilla, in a pudding, on a pizza with pesto.

And in corn fritters. Especially in corn fritters.

My generic (or sweet) fritter batter is a simple flour-baking powder-egg-milk mixture, with a LOT of corn thrown in.

As my grandmother used to say, "The more you put, the more you find."

This recipe should have at a minimum, one cup of corn kernels.  But it will easily accommodate up to 3 cups or more.  The texture and nature of the fritters will be different, of course, but that's part of the pleasure.  The mixtures in which the corn is just barely held together by the batter make the best fritters.  
1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 to 3 cups corn kernels (can be raw right off the cob, or cut from leftover steamed or boiled ears, or in a pinch or out of season, frozen or canned)

The batter. 

Combine ingredients.  Mix well.  Spoon or scoop about 1/3 cup for each fritter into shallow oil.  (I use an ice cream scoop.)

Fry in ½ inch of oil over medium heat, turning when brown on one side.  Be careful not to fry in oil that is too hot as the interior will remain uncooked while the exterior is overcooked.  

 Gently frying over moderate heat in shallow oil.

The finished fritters, ready for butter and warm maple syrup. 

For the savory fritters, I use the same base, but add lots of other stuff to enhance the savoriness -- onions, garlic, cheese, cumin, pepper, salt, cilantro. 

1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup milk (or buttermilk, if you have it)
1 egg
5-6 scallions, chopped (or equivalent finely chopped onion)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
8-10 shots Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot sauce
1 Tbp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or 2 tsp ground coriander seeds)
1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese
3 cups corn (about 6 ears)

The final batter will require a bit of your own judgment, so the amount of milk you add can vary according to your own tastes and experience.  A more viscous batter will produce thicker fritters, but ones that will have to fry over more moderate heat so the interiors cook fully.  A less viscous batter will spread in the pan more, producing thinner, crisper fritters.  

If you're so inclined, add 1/2 cup corn meal to the mix, and increase the baking powder by 1 tsp, and milk by about a half cup.  The corn meal will give the fritters a bit more crunch to them and a very pleasing texture.  At this point, you're very close to a hushpuppy, though hushpuppies don't typically contain corn, and are fried in small balls in deep fat.  

If you're the sort who shies away from frying like this, even shallow frying, an option is to add 2 Tbp oil to the batter, then fry the fritters in a pan that has been barely filmed with oil.  The fritters will be less greasy, and more pancake-y, but less crisp.  Still quite good, but different in texture. 

The savory fritters make an excellent side dish, and can be served as-is, or with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.  Mix some finely chopped herbs (basil, parsley, chives, cilantro), a glug of olive oil, salt, and pepper into the yogurt or sour cream.  Or a dollop of pesto.  Or a spoonful of za'atar.  Or, yes, maple syrup.  Very nice.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Crabby goodness

Maryland blue crabs, steamed with olive oil, garlic, hot pepper, parsley, white wine.   A much longed-for summertime treat. 

The crabs' watery graveyard.

A dozen-and-a-half feisty crabs were dispatched in a sinkful of hot water. They're gone after about a minute.  Doesn't take long. 

Cleaning the crabs.  

Top shells were pulled off, and the undesirable bits of gut pulled out, and the carcasses brushed under cold running water. I'm not one to start picking guts out of the crabs at the table, though I'm sure some would argue that they bring added flavor.  Let them argue. 

 A cleaned crab, ready for the pot.
The rubber gloves help -- lots of pinchy points on these critters. 

Crabs in their garlicky, winy steambath

A very large pot (this one is the bottom of a big clam steamer) was filmed with olive oil,
half the crabs added, which were then strewn liberally with garlic, chopped parsley,
hot pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, and a few more glugs of olive oil.  Repeat with the other half of the crabs.

Half a bottle of white wine (in this case, a pinot grigio from the Veneto), was added, the lid put on, and the crabs steamed over high heat. 

After about 5 minutes, the lot was stirred up, the lid put back on, and the crabs steamed for another 5 minutes.

 Finished crabs, ready for picking.

A pound of linguine were cooked, and the pot liquor, an elixir of olive oil, garlic, parsley, hot pepper, white wine, and crab juices, was poured over them.  

Grated pecorino was passed at the table.  (Shhh!  Don't tell the Italians.  They would not approve!)

Chewy Italian bread was served alongside.  An occasional slice may have accidentally fallen into the juices in the pasta bowl.  

We drank the remainder of the bottle of pinot grigio with our dinner.   

One of my Italian colleagues once told me, "Il pesce nuota tre volte -- primo, nell'acqua; secondo, nell'olio; terzo, nel vino."  Anche i granchi!

Well-picked and well-eaten. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer jewel tones

Quick raspberry refrigerator jam.

Sweet white corn from the cob, slowly simmered in butter.

A weekend's harvest of basil for pesto. 

 Blueberry pandowdy, fresh out of the oven, for the 4th of July BBQ.

Ripe freestone peaches, peeled, pitted, sliced, for jam.