Saturday, September 27, 2014

Better Homes and Gardens: Peach Cobbler


So, I'm at the farmer's market today.  And there's a pile of these beautiful peaches.  The most beautiful peaches I may have ever seen.  And instantly I know I must have them.  So I ask the guy how much they are.  What does he say?  They're free because they aren't as good as I hoped they'd be.  Uh.  Sure, why not.  I'll just bake them up into something magnificent, dude, so if you want to give them away, go for it.  And now I have this beautiful cobbler to stuff my mouth with.  And yes, I refuse to admit that summer's almost over.

Peach Cobbler
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

For topping
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
¼ cup whole milk
1 large egg, slightly beaten
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling (optional)

For filling
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon ground mace
½ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup water
4 cups sliced peaches
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Combine the milk and egg; add all at once to the dry ingredients, stirring just to moisten. Set aside.

Combine the cornstarch, mace, brown sugar, and water in a medium saucepan. Cook and stir until thickened. Add the peaches, lemon juice, butter, and vanilla bean paste, if using. Cook until the peaches are hot, about 5 minutes.

Pour the filling into an 8-inch round baking dish. Immediately spoon on the biscuit topping in 6 mounds. Sprinkle biscuits with demerara sugar, if desired.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

Makes 6 servings

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Ren Behan: Kousa Mahshi (Lebanese Stuffed Globe Zucchini)


I really need to stop buying random produce at the grocery store.  But this time of year is so incredibly perfect for trying all sorts of fun little treats.  This is the last fruitful gasp of the summer.  And since I don't have zucchini taking over my patio (like most people's vegetable patches), I figured I could do the community a solid and actually EAT some of the overwhelming crop.

Kousa Mahshi (Lebanese Stuffed Globe Zucchini)
Adapted from Ren Behan

8 globe zucchini
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ pound ground lamb
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon group allspice
⅔ cup long grain Basmati rice
1½ cups hot lamb stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons mint, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
Extra chopped mint and parsley, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the tops off the zucchini and set aside. Using a small knife, spoon, or melon baller, carefully hollow out the insides of the zucchini. Chop the flesh, and also put aside. Place the hollowed zucchini in a roasting tin, sprinkle with two tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes (until tender).

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for a few minutes to soften. Add the ground lamb and fry, breaking up the large clumps with a wooden spoon, until brown, about five minutes. Add the chopped zucchini, cinnamon, and allspice, and cook for another two minutes. Stir in the rice and pour in the hot stock. Stir in the mint and parsley.  Bring back to the boil and then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until rice is tender.

Take the zucchini out of the oven and carefully spoon in the cooked rice mixture. Replace zucchini caps.  Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately with chopped fresh mint or parsley sprinkled over the top.

Makes 4 servings

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

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Baked Explorations: Mississippi Mud Pie


I think I'm the designated birthday cake/pie/dessert baker.  But I always feel like I should offer.  Because shouldn't you have the most fabulous dessert possible on your birthday?  That's what I thought.  So this time around for my dad and brother-in-law, it's a big dish of chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate.  With whipped cream on top.  Incredibly rich.  Oh, and if you want pretty slices, you'll probably want to slap that bad boy in the freezer for about 10 minutes ahead of time.

Mississippi Mud Pie
From Baked Explorations

Chocolate cookie crust:
Nonstick cooking spray
16 ounces chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos (35 to 40 cookies), crushed
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Flourless chocolate cake:
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
6 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent), chopped
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
¼ cup strong coffee, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, divided use

Chocolate pudding:
¾ cup sugar
½ cup dark unsweetened good-quality cocoa powder
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
4 large egg yolks
2½ cups whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 ounces good-quality dark chocolate (60 to 70 percent)

Whipped cream topping:
1¼ cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Make the Chocolate Cookie Crust: Preheat oven to 300°F. Lightly spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line pan with parchment paper and lightly spray parchment and sides of pan.

Place cookies in the bowl of a food processor; process to very fine crumbs. You should have about 3½ cups. Transfer to a small bowl. Add melted butter and, using a spatula, stir until well combined. Pour crumb mixture into prepared pan and press evenly with the back of a spoon into bottom and up sides, leaving about ½-inch between the top of the crust and top of the pan. Transfer to freezer until crust is set, about 10 minutes.

Transfer crust to oven and bake until dry to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool.

Make the Flourless Chocolate Cake: Increase oven temperature to 350°F.

Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water to melt; stir to combine. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk together espresso powder, coffee, salt, and vanilla; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks with ½ cup sugar until light and almost doubled in volume, about 5 minutes. Add melted chocolate mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on low speed for 5 seconds. Add coffee mixture and beat until just combined. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on low for 5 seconds.

In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually increase speed to high and slowly add remaining ½ cup sugar, beating until soft peaks form.

Transfer 1 cup egg white mixture to chocolate mixture and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine, about 30 seconds. Add remaining egg whites and continue gently folding until they are almost completely combined; do not overmix. Pour into cooled cookie crust and transfer to oven. Bake until cake is set but still jiggles slightly, 38 to 42 minutes. It may not appear completely cooked. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Cake will deflate in the center as it cools. Tightly wrap cooled cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

Make the Chocolate Pudding: In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, and salt. Add egg yolks and whisk until combined. The mixture will look like a thick paste. Slowly pour in milk, whisking constantly.

Place saucepan over medium heat and bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly to prevent it from burning on the bottom of the pan. Boil for 30 seconds and immediately transfer to a medium bowl. Add butter, vanilla, and chocolate; whisk until combined. Continue whisking until mixture is cooled slightly. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Transfer to refrigerator until chilled, at least 3 hours.

Stir pudding to loosen and pour on top of cake, making sure to stay within the cookie crust border. Using an offset spatula, spread pudding to form an even layer on top of the cake. Transfer to refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Prepare the Whipped Cream Topping: In the chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a chilled whisk attachment, beat cream until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. Sprinkle sugar over cream and continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Spread whipped cream over chilled pudding layer, working all the way out to the sides. Unmold cake and serve immediately. The cake can also be kept, covered, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.

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 by Nadia Hassani

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

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

In Sock Monkey Slippers: Blistered Shishito Peppers with an Herbed Goat Cheese Dip


Whenever I see these babies at the store, I snatch them up.  They're like the elusive currant.  You might see them once, and if you don't grab a bag, they're gone for the year.  Pretty much the best way to cook them is to blister them in a hot pan.  And then I served them with a cool, creamy goat cheese dip.  And watch out, apparently one in every ten is spicy.  But hey, that's part of being adventurous with your food!

Blistered Shishito Peppers with Herbed Goat Cheese Dip
Adapted from In Sock Monkey Slippers blog

1 (4-ounce) log plain goat cheese
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1-2 tablespoons half-and-half
Juice and grated zest from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons mixed herbs, such as chives, parsley, thyme, basil, and chervil
Salt and white pepper
½ pound Shishito peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fleur de Sel, for sprinkling

In a food processor, combine goat cheese, buttermilk, half-and-half, lemon juice and zest, and herbs. Puree until whipped and smooth, about 1 minute, adding additional milk or cream until the mixture is a dip-like consistency. Season with salt and white pepper. Pour into a bowl for serving and chill.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil until hot, but not smoking, over medium-high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and add the peppers. Toss the peppers, allowing them to blister, and ensuring the cook on all sides. They will puff up as they cook and then deflate when removed from the pan. Remove the peppers one by one as they are evenly cooked, and let drain on a paper towel. Sprinkle with fleur de Sel immediately, while still hot. Serve hot with goat cheese dip.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Monday, September 01, 2014

Spoonfuls of Germany: Bratwurst in Biersoße (Bratwurst in Beer Sauce)


It's getting to be that time!  What time is that you ask?  Oktoberfest time!  Okay, maybe I'm a little early, but they had such nice bock bratwurst sitting in the case at Central Market.  I couldn't really say no.  And when they're nestled in a bed of mashed potatoes with a beer gravy...  I think it pretty much speaks for itself.

Bratwurst in Biersoße (Bratwurst in Beer Sauce)

4 bratwurst
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ (12-ounce) bottle dark beer, plus more to taste
6 gingersnaps, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar

Put the bratwurst in a large skillet and barely cover with water.  Gently simmer for 10 minutes to prevent them from bursting while cooking.  Remove them from the water and drain.

Heat the oil in the same skillet and sauté the bratwurst over medium heat until lightly browned on all sides.  Take them out of the skillet and keep warm.

Deglaze the pan with the beer.  Add the gingersnaps and simmer over low heat until the gingersnaps are completely dissolved, stirring the sauce occasionally.  If the sauce is lumpy, use a blender to smooth it out, and then return it to the pan.  If you like the sauce a little thinner, add more beer.  Season with salt, pepper, and sugar.  Pour the sauce over the bratwurst and serve over mashed potatoes.

Makes 4 servings