Apple chutney for non-Thanksgiving Roast Turkey

imageThings are getting fancy boys and girls!  But just for now.  Let’s say you found a source for a natural, delicious turkey, and you want to roast one after Thanksgiving say, for New Years.  No cranberry for us, but rather we’re going fancy with an apple chutney.  Chutney?? Doesn’t that only come from jars?  Why no! It comes from your stove top.  It’s not difficult or complex, and I have it on good authority it does not really even require a precise recipe.  But you probably want one, at least to start.

Here’s the idea of a chutney, as I understand it so far:  A chutney is like a jam in that it is based on fruit and gets thick from heating fruit with sugar and the pectin from the fruit.  But a chutney is not just sweet — it takes the sweet and dons a debonair flair with sour and pungent.  As in:  brown sugar and apples (sweet) meet apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, mustard seeds and onions.  The sweet from the sugar balances the sour of the vinegar, and the pungent of the hot peppers and mustard adds a third dimension.  Do this relatively right and the flavors sing harmoniously.  This chutney — if all goes according to plan — will enliven a nice roast turkey.  Or at least that is the plan. [Update:  my guests loved it!  I thought I was going to have to hard sell it:  “Eat the chutney, eat the chutney.  Chutney with turkey.”  But nope.  Folks loved it and were asking me what that was, it was so good. Yup.  All gone.]

Ingredients:

4 firm apples (about 1-1/2 to 2 #) — include at least a couple Granny Smith or Mutsu (tart), and exclude McIntosh or other mushy/mushes when cooked apples) — peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2″ or less chunks

1-1/2 c. apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s is recommended)

1-1/2 c. sugar (300 g), approx 2/3 light brown sugar and 1/3 regular granulated (white) sugar

1 lemon (for juice to squeeze onto cut-up apple)

ginger — 2 oz or 2″ piece, peeled and rough chopped

couple garlic cloves

1 shallot, chopped (0ptional)

hot red pepper flakes — about 1 t

salt — about 1 to 1-1/2 t

2 T yellow mustard seeds

1 c. raisins (135 g) (or more if you like raisins, which I don’t especially, but they’re good here)

1 onion, peeled, cut in half and sliced (hold until later)

Directions:

Measure out vinegar and sugar into pot, and heat on medium heat until odoriferous and sugar has melted.  Turn off heat to wait for remaining ingredients to join the pot.

Peel and rough chop a 2″ or 2-oz piece of ginger.  Toss into mini processor with garlic, shallot, salt and red pepper flakes.  Give it a whirl.

When you chop apples, put them into a bowl, and squeeze a couple Tablespoons of lemon juice, and mix in (to keep apples fresh/ not brown).

Put chopped apple, ginger mixture, raisins, and mustard seeds into vinegar mixture.  Heat over medium heat, reduce to simmer, and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes until apples are soft (but don’t disappear into mush) and it thickens somewhat.

20 minutes before it is done, stir in onion.

Put in a bowl and leave out to cool, or pop into refrigerator uncovered.  It will thicken up as it cools.  Cover and store for up to one week.  Makes a good amount, almost 1 quart.

 

Guide/Initial reference:  Bon Appetit Apple Chutney (epicurious.com Nov. 1996)

 

 

Caesar Salad

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So my mom had one cookbook that was always a thrill when she took it out of the bookcase, because it was Dione Lucas‘ French cookbook The Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook (a predecessor to Julia Child), and it had a recipe for caesar salad that my mom used.  She made it in a super large Stangl bowl (that I will never see again along with that cookbook, but that’s a whole other kinda story) with blueberries — the bowl, not the salad.  She mixed and served the salad in a super large bowl because there were six of us and there were never any leftovers.  Other than that, we were a typical suburban 60’s kinda family chowing on iceberg and russian dressing.

As an adult oh about 20 years ago, I developed a recipe for caesar salad dressing that omits the need for a raw egg, using mayo instead.  I LOVE this dressing.  My gift to you.  Let me know what you think!

Ingredients for salad dressing:

anchovies — 4 fillets, preferably from a jar, minced (I like to rinse ’em)

garlic — 4 cloves, minced

lemon juice — 2-3 T

worcestshire sauce  — 1 T

mayonnaise — 2 T

S&P — 1/4 t each

olive oil — 1/3 c.

dijon mustard — 2 t

Directions:

Mash anchovies with garlic into paste.  Add all other ingredients except oil.  Whisk in oil.

Other ingredients for salad:

romaine lettuce — wash and dry inner leaves (don’t use uncrisp outer leaves)

parmesan cheese — 1/3 c. grated

Croutons:

Preheat oven to 350 or whatever it’s on otherwise

Cut up bread into 1/2″ cubes, to make 3 c.

2 T butter

2 T oil

2 cloves garlic, smashed & cut in half

Heat oil and butter in small pot (or saute pan?) with garlic until butter melts.  Remove from heat and let sit for 10 mins, then remove garlic.

Mix butter/oil with bread cubes.  Bake 10-12 minutes until golden.  These should keep fine if made in advance.  You don’t want them hot anyway on the cool salad.

To assemble salad:

Toss lettuce with dressing.  Add croutons and grated cheese and pepper.  Serves 6 (assuming you prepared enough leaves)

Musings on books of essays with recipes

I think the first experience I had reading musings on food with recipes was Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking.  She wrote about her experiences living in a small NYC apartment up to feeding her young child.  And then after each essay, a recipe.  Like creamed spinach with jalapeno peppers, a classic in my book (literally).  Elizabeth David did that before her in a way, though I recall she wrote about food as part of the recipe/directions.

Then there was Nora Ephron who wrote her satisfyingly ascerbic memoir of her four-year marriage to Carl Bernstein.  Heartburn.  Ephron wrote about finding out about Bernstein’s affair that everyone in DC except her knew about, while she was pregnant with their first child.  And then there would be a recipe.  Her key lime pie is classic.  In every sense. As the Washington Post informed us, this is what she pitched at her wayward husband, though your guests may prefer it on a plate.

Most recently Ruth Reichl explored the form to good effect in her book My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that saved my life.  Good recipes and nice story telling.

Quick black beans and call it dinner

Dear reader(s), I have not been able to cook something new the past couple days because, ahem, a little critter decided to DIE in the kitchen after being mauled by my otherwise darling cat.  Now if the cat had actually done in that damn rodent — or the dog had gotten there sooner to do the deed — I would not have a problem.  My cat had the damn thing in his mouth and then decided to play cat-and-mouse and dropped the mouse.  Grrr. That’s where my problem started.  It scurried into the tiniest of holes under the kitchen counter and disappeared.  If rodents are vengeful critters — which I don’t presume — this one got his/her? revenge.  Died and is stinking up my kitchen.  I immediately bought an electric air purifier with a charcoal filter and am running it constantly, researched getting rid of the smell and how long it lasts, tried to order a product from the UK which did not reinforce the idea that we are a small world since it would take ONE MONTH to get to me.  Instead I ordered Fresh Wave — about 60 bucks worth in gels, spray and candle form.  All this to say, in the past couple days, I have reheated my split pea soup, and re-made the Asian shrimp, and gotten out of the kitchen pronto.  I am thinking of ripping up my cabinets and flooring to get to the corpse.  It’s a reminder when you think you’re having a bad day, remember it could be worse — there could be a mouse corpse in your kitchen.

What I’m trying to do with this blog is create and post whole dinners.  My theory is that while people like to try something new for dinner, the idea of finding three things to cook is daunting.  I know it is for me even with the best of intentions.  So for example I like the idea of trying David Lebovitz’ chicken with mustard, I’d have to think up sides.  Moving on . . . .

Here is a quick and easy black bean dish.  If you have some rice, you have a complete meal.  If not, it’s better than popcorn, probably.  I’m not a nutritionist, but just sayin’

Quick black beans, Cuban style

Ingredients:

garlic — couple cloves, minced

onion — 1 medium, diced

2 serrano chiles, or dried red pepper flakes

1 medium green or red pepper (green is more authentic, I don’t like green)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

oregano — fresh or dried

wine vinegar

Directions:

  1. Saute garlic for one minute, and then onions in olive oil.
  2. Add beans, cook a while and stir occasionally.
  3. Add oregano and red or green pepper
  4. Heat through.
  5. A couple minutes before serving, stir in 1 T wine vinegar and heat through.

 

 

 

Split pea soup

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If you go to holiday parties in December, odds are you are going to see baked hams.  They show up at all parties — high-end to low-brow, culinarily speaking. (Contra Dorothy Parker:  “Eternity is a ham and two people.”)

At a party this weekend — that was pretty dreadful food-wise as it was pot-luck for non-foodcentric people — I asked the ham-bringer if I might have the bone at the end of evening.  See, the thought came into my head that with a ham bone I was on my way to split pea soup.  I bought a bag of split peas for a whopping 99 cents and was ready to roll.  Folks, I’m here to say there is not much more to making yourself some split pea soup than a ham bone and a bag o’ beans. Assuming of course you following Louise’s dictum of always having stock.  I was out of chicken, so I had some going in the stock pot yesterday, and then decided to make split pea soup from the fresh stock.

Here’s what I did (and I’d do it again, even ham-less, or especially ham-less!):

  1. Take your ham bone, and with a paring knife, get in there and cut off ham close to the bone.  Throw out the disgusting fatty pieces, and cut remaining into cubes, to make about 2 c.
  2. Pick over and rinse your beans, and put in a soup pot.  For 1 # beans, add 5 cups stock.  (Alternate directions below if you are — gasp! — stock-less.)  Put your ham bone in.  If it’s very large and protrudes greatly out of the liquid, do like I did and grab it and break in half at the joint.  That felt good!
  3. Bring to a near boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes.  Less time needed if your beans are fresh.  You won’t know that probably in advance, and I don’t dried beans move quickly in the supermarket.  But it does not matter — they will cook either way.image
  4. You can puree, but if you just cook long enough, until peas are very, very soft (which is what you want — you don’t want resistance from the peas when you eat it) the peas will mostly fall apart and thicken the soup.  I didn’t puree.
  5. Add in cubed ham, S&P, stir and heat gently.  Ladle and serve.  Voila!  Croutons or oysters crackers are good, but not necessary if you have that ham.

What to do ham-less:

Saute one chopped onion, a couple carrots and one celery stalk in olive oil.  Can add a thyme sprig with the stock.  You’ll probably want to run all this through a food mill at the end (or whir in blender).

To add creaminess, you can add a potato, peeled and cut up into large pieces with the peas (or 1/2 c white rice, which I won’t do most likely (white rice says to me: “empty carbs” and I would rather my empty carbs be of the chocolate variety).

 

Broccoli in a nice winter soup

If you get on board with my stock-making program, you’re more than halfway to any night (or day’s) quick and easy soup.  All done in under 20 minutes from thinking of it to soup in the bowl. And as a bonus, get this: you’re eating chicken soup! Even if you’re eating cream of broccoli  Get it? It’s all good for your body.

Here’s the outline to make cream of broccoli soup:

Defrost 1 quart vegetable stock.  (I stick container in a bowl of water to dislodge, then dump frozen stock in pan and heat, covered.  Voila!  No planning needed.)

Cut up and trim your broccoli (i.e., cut off outsides of lower trunk-type parts), all rough cut.  Heat stock, add broccoli, cover and simmer about 15 minutes until tender, maybe less.  Add salt while broccoli cooks.

When tender, run all through food mill, or use blender (carefully).  Return to pot, add cream or half and half, heat and serve.

That’s really the recipe too.  Proportions for two servings are:

1 quart stock (vegetable or chicken)

1 # broccoli

1 russet (baking) potato, peeled and chopped, optional OR 1/4 c white rice, uncooked, also optional (I might try leftover brown rice, but it might make soup lumpy)

1/3 c half and half (or less if using heavy cream, which would be better probably)

Eat and feel virtuous for eating such a large quantity of broccoli in one seating (and not minding one bit).  Eat an orange.  It’s winter and Cara Cara are ridiculously sweet.  I like to cut an orange as follows:  Cut in half end to end.  Lay each half face down, cut off end and then make thick slices.  A more fun way to eat.  Feels like dessert.

On second thought: if you don’t have stock on hand but still want to make this soup, saute an onion to start, for about 5 mins in butter.  Add water and broccoli, and please use heavy cream since you’ll probably want to not dilute the liquid. Mangia!

Dinner salad of the cobb kind

imageYears ago in law school, I made a habit of making a particular salad:  hard-boiled eggs, boiled shrimp, chilled, boiled potatoes and lettuce.  Served with ranch dressing.  I don’t recall whether I made the dressing myself or purchased in in a bottle.  I thought it was a very fine thing to eat.

Many years later I came upon Frank Stitt’s buttermilk vinaigrette, which is a very, very fine thing.  Here is a version.

imageFrank Stitt’s Buttermilk Vinaigrette

1/2 small shallot, diced

1 T cider vinegar (I like Bragg’s)

1 T lemon juice

Mix these together with S&P in bowl.

Add: 4 T buttermilk (1/4 c)

scant 3 T mayonnaise

1 T sour cream.

mix with whisk.  Whisk in 1 T olive oil.  Taste for balance.  Maybe it needs more lemon?  S&P?

Earlier in the day, hopefully you will have either (1) poached a leftover chicken breast in stock, (2) hard boiled some eggs, and/or (3) boiled some shrimp, and chilled these items.  Then after you make the dressing, you can pull together a dinner salad, one way is as follows:

Rinse and dry leaves of lettuce and watercress

1/2 avocado, large pieces or large dice

1/4 pound poached chicken or shrimp

2 carrots, peeled and cut into pieces

soppressata ( why not)

imageOther options:  cheese, cubed; cauliflower, red pepper

Very delicious and satisfying plus you get to feel virtuous eating all those greens, and let’s just overlook that soppressata.image