Sunday, September 21, 2014

Two Color String Beans with Toasted Pine Nuts


I found some nice wax beans at the store, but I certainly didn't want a three bean salad with those big nasty kidney beans and sour dressing.  These wax beans needed something absolutely delicious to do them justice.  So after wandering the back alleys of the internet, I put some ideas together and came up with this yummy dish of roasted beans with some non-traditional spices.  I'm not sure that anything can beat roasted veggies.  Well, probably chocolate.  But until dessert rolls around, these will work.

Two Color String Beans with Toasted Pine Nuts

¾ pound green beans
¾ pound wax beans
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon za'atar
¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1½ tablespoons chives, minced
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut stems from green and wax beans.  Toss with garlic and olive oil, and lay out on a baking sheet in an even layer.  Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, toast pine nuts until light brown, shaking the pan often to keep the nuts from burning.  Set aside.

When beans are done, transfer them to a serving platter.  Sprinkle with the za'atar, Aleppo pepper, chives, and salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4-6 servings

Friday, September 19, 2014

P.F. Chang's China Bistro: Key Lime Pie Martini


What time is it kidoes?  It's happy hour Friday time!  And this fabulous Friday afternoon we have for your delectation a beautiful, girly drink.  A dessert in a glass.  A true piece of art.  Nah, it's just key lime pie in liquid form, but darn is it good.

Key Lime Pie Martini
Adapted from P.F. Chang's China Bistro

1½ ounces Licor 43
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice (about 5 Key limes or 1 really juicy Persian lime), plus extra for rim of glass
1 ounce half and half
½ ounce Simple Syrup
½ cup prepared whipped cream (such as Extra-Creamy Reddi-Whip)
Crushed graham crackers
Lime wedge or zest, for garnish

Rim the martini glass with lime juice, then dip the rim in fine graham cracker crumbs. Put the glass into the freezer for 30 minutes or more before the drink is made.

Load a martini shaker half full of ice. Add the Licor 43, Key lime juice, half and half, and Simple Syrup. Add the whipped cream. Shake well. Strain and pour into the chilled martini glass and garnish, if desired, with additional whipped cream and lime.

Simple Syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water

Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and stir the mixture until all of the sugar is dissolved. Cool to room temperature.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Nigel Slater: Cape Gooseberry Fool


Apparently the new fruit of the moment is the pichuberry.  But it's not really new.  It's been around for a while under the aliases cape gooseberry and Peruvian groundcherry.  The marketers think pichuberry sounds more exotic.  You can probably see me rolling my eyes through your computer.  Well, this delicious little berry/cherry/whatever-you-want-to-call-it has a sharp, sour orangey flavor that mellows into something more herby or tomatilloey as you eat it.  Yeah, I'm not the only person who can't describe how the darn thing tastes.  Just make this fool of a dessert and chow down.

Cape Gooseberry Fool
Adapted from Nigel Slater

1 pound cape gooseberries
3-4 heaped tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons brandy
1¼ cups whipping cream
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
Crushed gingersnaps (optional)

Remove dry paper leaves from cape gooseberries. Tip them in a pan with sugar and brandy and one or two tablespoons of water, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until the fruit has burst and the liquid becomes syrupy. Cool then chill. Crush with a fork.

Whip cream and powdered sugar till thick, but stop before it will stand in peaks. It should sit in soft folds. Fold in the fruit only when it is cool. It will curdle if still warm. Ripple a spoonful of lightly crushed, cooked berries through the finished fool to give a ripple effect, adding texture and interest.  Layer the cream in a dessert glass with crushed gingersnaps, if desired.

Makes 6 servings

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lidia Bastianich: Pappardelle in Salsa di Porcini Freschi (Pappardelle with Fresh Porcini Sauce)


I love these recipes that have instructions like..."buy six lobsters" or "with fresh foie gras" or "grate two truffles".  Who do these people think we are?  Half the time I'm shocked I can even find the ingredients.  Let's not talk about affording them.  That being said, I did see some fresh porcini mushrooms for sale.  This is the first time I have EVER seen them.  So I bought some.  But only a quarter pound.  Why?  They were FIFTY DOLLARS a pound.  Yes, you read that correctly.  So if you were to make this entire recipe, it would cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $60.  For four bowls of pasta.  Now granted, it's amazingly delicious pasta.  I certainly licked my plate.  But I would definitely not argue if you knocked it down to one serving and hid in the closet from your family while savoring it.

Pappardelle in Salsa di Porcini Freschi (Pappardelle with Fresh Porcini Sauce)
From Lidia Bastianich

½ cup olive oil
1 pound fresh porcini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
3 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped
¾ cup chicken stock
1 pound pappardelle
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

While bringing 6 quarts salted water to boil for the pasta, begin the sauce. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add half the mushrooms and garlic, season to taste, and sauté until the mushrooms are lightly browned on both sides. Do not stir the porcini, or they will break; rather, turn them gently with a spatula. Transfer the porcini to a plate, and proceed as before with the remaining oil, garlic, and porcini. Discard the excess oil from, and return all the porcini to, the pan and add the butter, if desired, and the parsley. Adjust the seasoning, add the stock, and simmer over medium heat about 1 minute, meanwhile adding the pappardelle to the boiling water. As soon as the pappardelle is done (1 to 1½ minutes), drain it well, add to the sauce over low heat, and toss gently, adding 4 tablespoons of the cheese. Serve immediately, with the remaining cheese at the table, to be added according to individual taste.

Makes 4 servings

Monday, September 15, 2014

Rick Bayless: Mole Negro Oaxaqueño con Pollo (Oaxacan Black Mole with Braised Chicken)


Yes, I think I've lost my ever-loving mind.  What did I decide to do?  Make the MOST DIFFICULT mole recipe I could get my hands on.  And that's not including the time I spent hunting down chihuacle chiles and avocado leaves.  But this kind of recipe is like a siren song...tempting me to spend an entire day trying to overcome it.  So I made it over the weekend and let it have a nice rest in the fridge (since that makes it yummier).  This mole is....complex.  It's smoky, spicy, sweet, and salty all at the same time.  Pretty darn impressive.

Mole Negro Oaxaqueño con Pollo (Oaxacan Black Mole with Braised Chicken)
From Rick Bayless

11 medium (about 5½ ounces) dried mulato chiles
6 medium (about 2 ounces) dried chihuacle chiles (see note in Variations and Improvisations below)
6 medium (about 2 ounces) dried pasilla chiles
1 dried chipotle chile (preferably the tan-brown chipotle meco)
1 corn tortilla, torn into small pieces
2 slices of white onion, each ¼-inch thick
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
About 2 cups rich-tasting lard or vegetable oil (for frying the chiles)
½ cup sesame seeds, plus a few extra for garnish
¼ cup pecan halves
¼ cup unskinned or Spanish peanuts
¼ cup unskinned almonds
About 10 cups chicken broth (canned or homemade)
1 pound (2 medium-large or 6 to 8 plum) green tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 ounces (2 to 3 medium) tomatillos, husked, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 slices stale bread, toasted until very dark
¼ teaspoon cloves, preferably freshly ground
½ teaspoon black pepper, preferably freshly ground
½ teaspoon cinnamon, preferably freshly ground Mexican canela
A scant teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ ripe banana
½ cup (about 3 ounces) finely chopped Mexican chocolate
2 or 3 avocado leaves (if you have them)
Salt, about 1 tablespoon depending on the saltiness of the broth
Sugar, about ¼ cup (or a little more)
2 large (3½- to 4-pound) chickens, cut into quarters

Pull out the stems (and attached seed pods) from the chiles, tear them open and shake or scrape out the seeds, collecting them as you go.

Now, do something that will seem very odd: scoop the seeds into an ungreased medium-size (8- to 9-inch) skillet along with the torn-up tortilla, set over medium heat, turn on an exhaust fan, open a window and toast your seeds and tortilla, shaking the pan regularly, until thoroughly burned to charcoal black, about 15 minutes. (This is very important to the flavor and color of the mole.) Now, scrape them into a fine-mesh strainer and rinse for 30 seconds or so, then transfer to a blender.

Set an ungreased skillet or griddle over medium heat, lay on a piece of aluminum foil, and lay the onion slices and garlic cloves on that. Roast until soft and very dark (about 5 minutes on each side of the onion slices – peel it off the foil to turn it; about 15 minutes for the garlic – turn it frequently as it roasts). Cool the garlic a bit, peel it and combine with the onion in a large bowl.

While the onion and garlic are roasting, turn on the oven to 350°F (for toasting nuts), return the skillet to medium heat, measure in a scant 2 cups of the lard or oil (you'll need about ½-inch depth), and, when hot, begin frying the chiles a couple at a time: They'll unfurl quickly, then release their aroma and piquancy (keep that exhaust on and window open) and, after about 30 seconds, have lightened in color and be well toasted (they should be crisp when cool, but not burnt smelling). Drain them well, gather them into a large bowl, cover with hot tap water, and let rehydrate for 30 minutes, stirring regularly to ensure even soaking. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid.

While the chiles are soaking, toast the seeds and nuts. Spread the sesame seeds onto a baking sheet or ovenproof skillet, spread the pecans, peanuts and almonds onto another baking sheet or skillet, then set both into the oven. In about 12 minutes the sesame seeds will have toasted to a dark brown; the nuts will take slightly longer. Add all of them to the blender (reserving a few sesame seeds for garnish), along with 1½ cups of the chicken broth and blend to as smooth a puree as you can. Transfer to a small bowl.

Without rinsing the blender, combine the green tomatoes and tomatillos with another ½ cup of the broth and puree. Pour into another bowl. Again, without rinsing the blender, combine the roasted onion and garlic with the toasted bread, cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, banana and ¾ cup broth. Blend to a smooth puree and pour into a small bowl.

Finally, without rinsing the blender, scoop in half of the chiles, measure in ½ cup of the soaking liquid, blend to a smooth puree, then pour into another bowl. Repeat with the remaining chiles and another ½ cup of the soaking liquid.

In a very large (8- to 9-quart) pot (preferably a Dutch oven or Mexican cazuela), heat 3 tablespoons of the lard or oil (some of what you used for the chiles is fine) and set over medium-high heat. When very hot, add the tomato puree and stir and scrape (a flat-sided wooden spatula works well here) for 15 to 20 minutes until reduced, thick as tomato paste, and very dark (it'll be the color of cinnamon stick and may be sticking to the pot in places). Add the nut puree and continue the stirring and scraping until reduced, thick and dark again (this time it'll be the color of black olive paste), about 8 minutes. Then, as you guessed it, add the banana-spice puree and stir and scrape for another 7 or 8 minutes as the whole thing simmers back down to a thick mass about the same color it was before you added this one.

Add the chile puree, stir well and let reduce over medium-low heat until very thick and almost black, about 30 minutes, stirring regularly (but, thankfully, not constantly). Stir in the remaining 7 cups of broth, the chocolate and avocado leaves (if you have them), partially cover and simmer gently for about an hour, for all the flavors to come together. Season with salt and sugar (remembering that this is quite a sweet mole and that sugar helps balance the dark, toasty flavors). Remove the avocado leaves.

In batches in a loosely covered blender, puree the sauce until as smooth as possible, then pass through a medium-mesh strainer into a large bowl.

Return the mole to the same pot and heat it to a simmer. Nestle the leg-and-thigh quarters of the chicken into the bubbling black liquid, partially cover and time 15 minutes, then nestle in the breast quarters, partially cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, until all the chicken is done.

With a slotted spoon, fish out the chicken pieces and transfer them to a large warm platter. Spoon a generous amount of the mole over and around them, sprinkle with the reserved sesame seeds and set triumphantly before your lucky guests.

Serves 8 (with about 10 cups of sauce, which will mean leftovers to make enchiladas or more chicken with)

Advance Preparation: The mole can be completed through straining several days ahead (it gets better, in fact); cover and refrigerate. Complete shortly before serving.

Variations and Improvisations: Chilhuacle chiles are very difficult to find unless you're in Oaxaca (even then they're sometimes hard to obtain). Without them you can make a very respectable black mole with 6 ounces (12 total) dried mulato chiles, 2½ ounces (8 total) dried pasilla chiles, and 1 ounce (4 total) dried guajillo chiles.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Food52: Concord Grape and Lemon Soda


Yesterday we got a blast of a cold front.  I actually had to wear a sweater when I left my apartment.  And the whole time I'm thinking, it's a bit early for it to get cold.  I'm scared of a hard, long winter.  My frozen fingers can't take it.  Luckily, it's right back to being hot and muggy today.  That didn't last long, did it?  So of course I need a refreshing drink while the heat lasts.  Concord grapes, take two.  And...it's delicious.  I'm beginning to think Concord grapes were just meant to be drinks.

Concord Grape and Lemon Soda
From Food52

2 lemons
1 pound Concord grapes, rinsed and stems removed
½ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
Pinch salt
Soda water

Zest and juice 1 lemon and put the zest in a heavy, wide saucepan. Set the juice aside. Add the grapes, sugar, cinnamon stick, salt and 2 tablespoons of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and cook gently over medium-low heat until the grapes have all broken down, about 20 minutes. Let cool. Press the grapes and juice through a fine mesh sieve until you have a smooth puree (you should have about ¾ cup). Discard the grape seeds and peels left in the sieve, as well as the cinnamon stick.

To make the soda: Cut the second lemon into thin wedges. Put several ice cubes in each of 6 tumblers. Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the grape puree to each glass. Fill with soda water and stir gently to combine. Add a lemon wedge to each glass and serve, with stirrers if you have them.

Makes 6 drinks

Friday, September 12, 2014

Spoonfuls of Germany: Woihinkelche (Chicken in Riesling with White Grapes)


It's been a really long week.  And what do you need at the end of a long, long, long week of sitting in auditing classes?  Wine.  A big 'ol glass of wine.  And it doesn't hurt if you also dump some of that wine in your dinner.  Because the more wine, the better, right?  So delicious.

Woihinkelche (Chicken in Riesling with White Grapes)
Adapted from Spoonfuls of Germany

1 (3- to 3½-pound) chicken, cleaned and most of the skin removed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup Riesling
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
12 medium white mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and thinly sliced
4 ounces seedless white grapes, halved

Cut the chicken into 8 parts and rub it with salt, pepper, and tarragon.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan and brown the chicken on all sides.  Add the onion, garlic, and wine and cook over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Take the chicken out of the pan and keep warm.  Whisk the cream into the sauce and let it thicken.

Heat the butter in a large skillet and sauté the mushrooms until they start to soften.  Add the mushrooms to the sauce with the chicken.  Stir carefully and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the grapes and heat them briefly in the sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve hot with spätzle.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Monday, September 08, 2014

Ina Garten: Plum Crunch


Okay, so there was this big pile of what were labeled sugarplums.  And they were so pretty and small and cute.  And the name was even cute.  So I bought a bag and brought them home with me.  And then I found out they're also called prune plums, because when dried they become...prunes.  Which is not cute.  Luckily they make this heavenly crisp, so I'll forgive the unfortunate name and future state.

Plum Crunch
Adapted from Ina Garten

3 pounds Italian prune plums, pitted and quartered
1½ cups light brown sugar, lightly packed
¼ cup all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons creme de cassis liqueur
For the topping
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup oatmeal
½ cup chopped pecans
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

For the fruit, in a large bowl, combine the plums, brown sugar, flour, and cassis. Pour the mixture into a 12 by 8-inch shallow baking dish.

For the topping, combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, oatmeal, pecans, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the plum mixture.

Bake the plum crunch for 40 to 45 minutes, until the plums are bubbling and the top is browned. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream.

Makes 8 servings

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Fried Green Tomatoes and Gina and Pat Neely: Buttermilk Dipping Sauce


It is that beautiful time of year.  The time when the green tomatoes start showing up everywhere, and I start thinking about how I'm going to fry them up into crunchy, tasty tidbits.  So that's exactly what I did.  And none of this panko nonsense.  These are the real deal, cornmeal and all.  And the dip?  It took everything in me not to eat it with a spoon.

Fried Green Tomatoes

4-5 green tomatoes
Sea salt, for sprinkling
1⅔ cup all-purpose flour, divided use
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
⅔ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons sea salt
4 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons bacon fat
Buttermilk Dipping Sauce

Wash and slice green tomatoes.  Set the slices on a rack and sprinkle with sea salt.  Let set for 15 minutes to allow the moisture to come to the surface.

Set up three dipping bowls:  The first bowl should have 1 cup of flour.  The second bowl should have the beaten eggs and the buttermilk, well combined.  The third bowl should have the remaining ⅔ cup flour, the cornmeal, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, celery salt, cayenne pepper, and 2 teaspoons sea salt.  Make sure the flour/cornmeal mixture is well combined.

Heat the canola oil and bacon fat in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Dip each tomato slice first into the flour, and shake off the excess.  Then dip in the egg mixture, shaking off the excess.  Finally dip the slices into the flour/cornmeal mixture and shake off the excess.  Lay each tomato slice in the hot oil and cook until brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side.  If the tomatoes start cooking too quickly, turn the heat down to medium.  Drain the tomato slices on a paper towel, but do not stack them or cover them.  Sprinkle with additional salt and serve hot with the buttermilk dipping sauce.

Makes 6 servings

Buttermilk Dipping Sauce
Adapted from Gina and Pat Neely

½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¾ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup buttermilk
Juice of ½ lime
2 tablespoons Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce
5 green onions, sliced
Salt and pepper

In a small pot, cook apple cider vinegar and brown sugar until syrupy.  Set aside to cool.

Combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add 4 tablespoons of the vinegar syrup and stir well.  Add additional lime juice, vinegar syrup, and salt and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes about 2 cups

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Saveur: Concord Grape Pie


I finally found some concord grapes at the grocery store, so of course I was super excited to get home and do something amazing with them.  I dug up this recipe, which apparently comes from the "Grape Pie Queen" of New York, or some such nonsense.  After squeezing each individual grape from its skin, and putting this pretty pie together, I slapped a bite in my mouth.  If you were one of those kids who loved grape jelly as a kid, you will LOVE this pie.  I was not one of those kids.  It's good, but not something I think I will spend another four hours of my life on in the future.  Meh, to each his own.

Concord Grape Pie
Adapted from Saveur magazine, August/September 2003

Butter pie dough, enough for one bottom and one top
2 pounds concord grapes, stemmed
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons tapioca starch
Dash ground cloves
Dash Angostura bitters
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Slip pulp of each grape out of its skin into a medium saucepan, put skins into a large bowl, and set aside. Cook pulp over medium heat, stirring often, until soft, 8-10 minutes, then strain into bowl with skins, pressing on solids with the back of a spoon.  Discard seeds. Set aside to cool completely. Stir sugar and tapioca into grapes and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Roll the larger dough ball out on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round, then fit into a 9-inch pie plate. Transfer grape filling to pastry bottom and scatter butter on top. Roll the remaining dough ball out on the lightly floured surface into a 10-inch round, cut a 1-inch hole in center of dough to let steam escape, then cover filling with pastry round. Fold edges of dough under and crimp edges. Bake pie for 20 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350°F, and continue baking until pastry is golden brown, 45–50 minutes more. Set pie aside to cool completely.

Butter Pie Dough
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
18 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon vodka
Up to 9 tablespoons ice water

Whisk flour, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter or 2 table knives, work butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle in vodka and ice water, stirring dough with a fork until it just holds together. Press dough into a rough ball, then transfer to a lightly floured surface. Give dough several quick kneads until smooth. Divide dough into 2 balls, one slightly larger than the other, wrap each in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.