Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve supper

A late supper for six, followed by champagne toasts into the New Year.  Welcome 2011!

Porchetta -- boned pork shoulder, rubbed with herbs, garlic, and olive oil, and roasted in a low oven, with a crackling crisp skin
Sauteed cabbage -- with onions, garlic, thyme, apple, white wine, and stock
Cannellini beans Tuscan-style -- with sage, onion, and olive oil
Noodles Alfredo -- not quite fettuccine, but with butter, a touch of cream, grated pecorino cheese, and a sprinkle of parsley

Dessert is sweet potato pie, cookies, coffee.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas morning -- zeppole

I was up early this morning -- and standing at my stove frying zeppole, small twists of dough, drizzled with honey and sugar.  These were my grandmother Catherine's specialty at Christmas.  Very Neapolitan. 

This recipe makes a lot of zeppole.  Feel free to halve these proportions.

5 c             flour
1 t              baking powder
2 c             boiling water
2/3 c          oil
1 t              vanilla

Mound the flour in a deep mixing bowl.  Add baking powder.  Pour in the boiling water, the oil, and the vanilla.  Mix well.  The dough will be sticky at first, but as it is mixed it will become less so.  Turn out onto a board and knead gently for a couple of minutes.  Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes. 

Cut the ball of dough into 8 parts.  Roll each part into a long rope and cut the rope into 1-inch lengths.  Roll each bit further into a slim log, the size of your little finger and about 2 to 3 inches long.  Cross the ends into a little bow.  Set aside.
A portion of the rested dough.

Rolled into a rope. 

 Cut into small dumpling-sized sections. 

 Rolled out and twisted into a bow.  

Lined up on a baking sheet, ready to fry.

Fry the bows in deep hot oil, until lightly brown.  Do not overcook.  Drain well on paper towels.  Transfer to a serving bowl.  Warm some honey to thin it out (a microwave does this best) and pour the honey generously over the zeppole.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar.  A unique and delicious Christmas treat.

Frying the zeppole in hot oil.  

Draining on paper towels.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve!

I'm just done in the kitchen....made the stuffed calamari, the calzoniti, the marinara sauce and the tuna sauce for pasta.  Bringing it all over Aunt El's for our traditional family Christmas Eve dinner.  Should be great fun!

Recipes to follow....

Tuna sauce -- a once-a-year treat -- tuna, olives, capers, anchovies

 Stuffed calamari in tomato sauce.  

  Calzoniti (or "cauciun" in Abruzzese dialect) -- 
chocolate, fruit, and nuts in a fried ravioli treat

All the best for a Merry Christmas
and a Joyous New Year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Union Square Greenmarket at Christmas

The gang ventured up to NYC for its annual Christmas stroll through Union Square.  We go in particular for the Christmas Market, but one of the delights is also the Greenmarket, which is there every Wednesday and Saturday. 

The Greenmarket features only locally produced foods, so veggies this time of year are apples, pears, cabbages and Brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes, and all sorts of root vegetables like celeriac, beets, radishes, and Jerusalem artichokes.  Beyond the produce are baked goods, honey, jams and pickles, pasta, cheese and eggs.  This time of year there are also lots of Christmas greens. 

It's a beautiful place to visit.  I only wish I could shop and bring the stuff home to cook. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Apple pandowdy

Simple as pie.  Piece of cake.

Peel, core, and cut up 8-10 nice apples.  Add 1/2 cup raisins, the zest of half an orange, a couple tablespoons orange juice, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp allspice, pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons Minute® tapioca, mix well, and arrange in a baking dish.  I used a shallow, terra cotta cazuela from Spain, about 12" across and 2" deep.  Dot with a couple tablespoons butter. 

Cut up 1 sheet of Pillsbury pie crust into strips using a ravioli cutter.  (Sure, go ahead, make your own, but on a drizzly, drab Sunday, that was not in the plans.)

Artfully arrange the strips on top of the apples.  Or just fling them on top, whatever you like.  Brush the pastry with some cream and sprinkle with coarse brown sugar. 

Bake in a 350°F oven for about an hour until the apples are bubbly and the crust is nicely browned. 

I mean, really, how beautiful is that?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm never making fruitcake again

Made a big batch of fruitcake -- three loaves -- and they all stuck to the pans, despite the pans being well greased.

I give up.  $20 of raisins, nuts, dried fruits.  I'll have the best fed squirrels in the neighborhood.


A big pile of fruits and nuts.

Fruits and nuts tossed in a few tablespoons of flour.
Held together with batter.

 Three loaf pans.  I was able to rescue the center one (a foil pan), by peeling the foil off.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A cauliflower as big as my head.

'Nuff said.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Last of the parsley

Last of the parsley.  It flourished in the last few weeks of cool evenings and warm, sunny days.  Beautiful!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Autumn pork stew

Fall has arrived, and for me, it's time for slow-cooked food -- stews, chili, and so on.

I had the gang over for dinner last Saturday night, and made a big pot of pork stew, served with buttered egg noodles.  It's perfect for a crowd, because I can make it well ahead and reheat it at serving time, and the stew is rich and satisfying and everyone loves it.

Here's the recipe, which I've posted before:  Dave's pork stew

I used boneless country-style spare ribs and thick slices of pork shoulder.  (I got them at the supermarket -- look around the meat case where they stock the "warehouse store" sized packages.)  You'll notice that the pork I used is nicely marbled. You wouldn't want to use pork loin for a recipe like this. 

Again, my shortcut is this:  you want to brown the meat, but to brown cubes of meat is frankly tedious.  I brown the whole cuts, let them cool, and then cube them. 

Instead of beer that I have in the posted recipe, I used half a bottle of white wine, and a quart of rich chicken stock for the cooking liquid.  (And by rich chicken stock, I mean homemade stock that I've boiled down and concentrated.) 

Some photos from this go-round:

Boneless ribs, sauteing in the pot.
Nicely browned meat.
Inch-thick slices of pork shoulder, just starting to brown in the pot. 
Pork shoulder is the same cut that is used for southern barbecue and pulled pork.

The large, enameled cast-iron pot I used for this recipe.  

After all the meat is browned, the 'fond' at the bottom of the pot remains.  

 Cubed parsnip.  Try parsnips. Really.  Like carrots on steroids. 

Onion, garlic, carrot, celery, parsnip.  In the pot.  

Bay leaf, rosemary, thyme.

Meat, cubed. 

The finished stew, after three hours of slow cooking in a 300°F oven.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Herb harvesting

It's getting to the end of the season, and time to harvest herbs. 

My vast crop of basil will be processed into pesto (with grated Romano cheese and toasted walnuts and olive oil; I typically don't include garlic), chilled, then scooped up and frozen in 2-oz balls for use through the basil-drought of winter.

It was a great season for basil -- very hot and sunny through much of the summer.  I kept the basil quite wet with a soaker hose that I used a couple times a week.  Basil always thrives best on heat, sun, and lots of water.  It does not like to be dry.  

Sage will be hung up in the basement and dried, and when fully desiccated, rubbed and stored in a jar.  My sage didn't so well this year -- perhaps it needs to be treated differently than basil.  I typically ignored it, and it would grow and grow, producing more sage than one could use in a lifetime.  It never bloomed this spring, and that surprised me.  The harsh winter, maybe?  It has a very pretty purple flower that the bees love.  The leaves themselves tended towards the wan and yellow this year, too.  I'm wondering if the mint next to it is starting to strangle the 15-year old sage plant's roots. 

The sage plant, in better days.

The overgrown mint patch has already started to die back.  As robust an herb that mint is, it seems to begin to shrink back on the first hints of cool air, which we've already had.  It will be largely gone by Halloween, though the roots will continue to spread vigorously until the spring.  Mint will be hung up and dried, too, and will make an excellent cup of mint tea on a cold winter day.

 That's about half the crop.  Plenty more still unharvested.
You can see the soaker hose snaking along the dirt.

A sinkful of basil.  I always manage to catch 
a spider or two on the basil. 

 Basil to the left.  Mint on the upper right.  Sage in the lower right.
All washed and ready.  

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Another fruit crisp

Bought a pile of nectarines, local peaches, and plums.  Dang, had to make another stone-fruit crisp.  The gang's coming over tonite for dessert after we do Korean BBQ for dinner. 

I peeled the peaches.  I didn't peel the nectarines or plums.  

Plums, nectarines, and peaches.  Sugared, and mixed with some Minute® tapioca.  

With the crisp topping, just before popping it into a hot oven.
I always bake these on a foil-lined baking sheet -- they invariably bubble over. 

For the recipe, look at my previous post: Fruit crisp  Just substitute the stone fruits for the apricots and bloobs. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pork fried rice

Pork fried rice is a dish you can make from leftovers (like that too-big container of rice from the Chinese takeout), or you can make from scratch.  Either way, it's delicious and versatile.  I make a batch every other week or so and enjoy it for lunch, breakfast, whenever.

First, about the pork.  There are a few options you have: you can use bacon, pork belly (which is uncured bacon, and readily available in Asian supermarkets), pork shoulder (I buy thick slices of pork shoulder from the nearby Korean supermarket, and roast it with Korean bulgogi BBQ sauce), leftover pork chops or pork tenderloin, or country-style spare ribs that you've seasoned and roasted.  Or you can buy some BBQ pork at the Chinese restaurant next time you're there.  Wegman's always has it on their takeout bar, and I've used that a couple times.  It's very good. 

Second, about the rice.  For a reason I don't fully understand, you cannot use rice that has just been cooked and get a good result in the fried rice.  If you do, the fried rice ends up gummy.  Leftover rice is perfect.  I'll often cook rice the night before, and just let it sit in the covered pot overnight, then use it in the morning.

Use a large non-stick skillet for this, or, a wok. 

6-8 cups cooked long-grain rice, cooled to room temperature (2-2 1/2 cups uncooked rice)
2 cups cubed pork or 8 strips thick-cut bacon
3 eggs
5-6 scallions, chopped
1-2 Tbp soy sauce
1 Tbp toasted sesame oil
Peanut or corn oil, as necessary

If you're using bacon, cut it up into small pieces and fry until the pieces are well browned but not fully crisp.  Remove from the fat and set aside.  Leave the bacon fat in the pan.  If you're using leftover or takeout pork, drizzle a couple tablespoons of oil into a hot pan.

Scramble the eggs and cook quickly.  Remove and set aside.  Break up the curds with a fork.

Add more oil as necessary, and add the white parts of the chopped scallion.  Sauté for a minute.  Add the cooked rice, and stir well, coating it with the oil. 

Drizzle in the soy sauce and the sesame oil.  Note well: you will probably use less soy than you would imagine.  Careful not to add too much – the fried rice becomes a muddy mess in flavor and appearance if you do. 

Add in the pork or cooked bacon.  Continue to stir-fry the rice.  Some browning will occur, which is good. 

Add back the eggs and the green part of the scallion.  Give the mixture a couple good stirs, and it's done. 

Serve immediately, or let cool, and refrigerate for later.