Thursday, January 28, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Several years ago I purchased two cast iron corn stick pans at a second hand store. I’d wanted to add some to my culinary arsenal for quite some time, but didn’t want to pay the price for new pans. It was a happy accident! I brought the pans home, cleaned them up, seasoned them (see my earlier post “Carefully Cared For” on cast iron seasoning how-to), and have been using them ever since!
The cast iron pans give the corn bread a lovely golden crisp crust. Perhaps it is just my imagination, but the corn bread seems to taste better when baked in cast iron! Corn sticks are a perfect accompaniment to almost everything and in particular chili, soups and stews. They are also delicious eaten on their own. It is not uncommon to hear guests and family alike exclaim, “Oh, I love these!” when the cloth-lined basket filled with corn sticks hot from the oven is placed on the table.
Of course, this recipe can be baked in muffin tins. Directions for this are at the end of the recipe as are directions to bake as a bread.
Corn Bread Sticks
1 c. cornmeal
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 c. milk
3 Tbsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 400. When the oven is hot, place two cast iron corn stick pans in the oven to preheat. In the meantime, prepare the batter.
In a medium bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and brown sugar, and stir to combine. Set aside. Pour the milk into a two-cup measure. Add the eggs and oil to the milk and beat with a fork until combined. Set aside.
Open the oven and check the pans. Sprinkle with a few drops of water. If the water sizzles they are ready to be oiled. Remove one of the pans from the oven and brush lightly with olive oil. Return to the oven and remove the second pan, brush with oil and return to the oven.
Pour the milk mixture over the cornmeal mixture and stir with the fork until just combined. Do not over mix.
Remove one of the pans from the oven and set on the counter. Use a scant ¼ c. solid measure to fill each stick. When sticks are full, set pan on stove top. Remove second pan from the oven and fill in the same way. Place both pans in the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes or until done. Sticks are done with a pick inserted in the center comes out clean, and the underside of the sticks are a crisp golden brown.
Remove pans from the oven. Let them sit for a minute or two. Insert the edge of a dinner knife under the edge of the stick and gently lift to remove it from the pan. Put the warm sticks in a towel-lined basket, and serve immediately.
Alternatively, cool on wire rack and serve later. Store any leftover sticks in air tight plastic bag and store in refrigerator.
To bake in muffin tins: Generously grease 12 standard muffin cups or line with papers. Fill as above. Bake for about 20 minutes or until pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
To bake as a bread: Grease an 8x8 inch pan. Scrape batter into the prepared pan and bake in 375 oven until done, 20 to 30 minutes or until tester comes clean.
Monday, January 25, 2010
This dish was created a number of years ago for a pot luck gathering. I needed to come up with a side dish that was quick and easy and would feed the masses. It was a huge hit, and has become a family favorite.
2 quarts tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion
½ stalk celery with leaves, chopped
½ green pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp. chopped basil
1 c. plain bread crumbs, divided
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
Select a 1-quart casserole dish and butter it with one tablespoon of the butter. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350.
Strain the liquid from the tomatoes reserving it for soup stock. Break up the tomatoes and set aside.
Sautee the garlic, onion, celery and green pepper until the onion is translucent. Stir in the basil, a good grind of white pepper and kosher salt to taste.
Place half the tomatoes in the prepared casserole dish. Carefully spoon the sautéed vegetables on top of the tomatoes and spread evenly. Sprinkle over ½ cup of the bread crumbs. Add the remaining tomatoes on top of the bread crumbs. Top with the remaining ½ cup of bread crumbs. Dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
Bake in the preheated oven until bread crumbs are golden brown and the casserole is bubbling at the sides—45 minutes to 1 hour.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
One day, the now grown-up little girl decided to read the label on the packet of Jell-O. She wished she hadn’t been so curious, the label was filled with words she could not pronounce. In her head the now grown-up little girl heard her Memere’s voice, “If I can’t pronounce it, I have no business eating it!” This was a crisis! What was she to do?
The now grown-up little girl needed to know, “What did they do before Jell-O came in a box?” There was nothing for it, this question had to be answered. The now grown-up little girl began scouring cookbooks for a solution to her problem. Then one day while she was perusing the cookbook section in a used book store, the now grown-up little girl spied a book, just a little book published by the makers of Jell-O. She pulled the book off the shelf and hesitantly opened it’s cover wondering if this small volume held the answer to her question. The pictures were atrocious, some of the recipes were very scary, but there on that one page was the answer she sought. With great excitement, the now grown-up little girl carried her treasure to the counter, paid over the $1.00 and with great excitement brought her purchase home where she embarked on the adventure of gelatin.
What this adventure revealed to the now grown-up little girl was that delicious gelatin molds could be made using fruit juices, fruit, and little or no sugar. And, she could pronounce every single ingredient! The now grown-up little girl lived happily every after.
Raspberry Deluxe Gelatin Salad
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
4 c. frozen raspberries, thawed and drained, juice reserved
1 c. currant juice
1 c. pomegranate juice
2 c. orange juice (fresh squeezed is best)
Reserved raspberry juice
2 Tbsp. sugar, optional
8 oz. yoghurt
Select a 6 cup gelatin mold and set aside.
In a glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the currant juice and pomegranate juice. Sprinkle the gelatin over the juice and allow to stand for about 1 minute.
Measure the orange juice into a stainless steel saucepan, add the reserved raspberry juice, and heat to boiling. Pour the hot juice into the bowl with the cold juices and gelatin. If using, stir in the 2 Tbsp. of sugar. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved, which could be as long as 5 minutes. When the gelatin is completely dissolved, place the bowl in the refrigerator, and chill until slightly thickened.
Remove the slightly thickened gelatin from the refrigerator. Measure 2 cups gelatin into another bowl and set aside. Put the yoghurt into the bowl with the 2 cups gelatin. Using an electric hand mixer beat on high until combine and slight frothy. Pour into the selected mold and refrigerate until almost set, 10 to 20 minutes.
Fold the thawed raspberries into the remaining gelatin and place in the refrigerator. When the yoghurt mixture is just set, carefully spoon the raspberry mixture on top. Smooth the surface and return to the refrigerator and chill until set.
To unmold the gelatin salad, select a serving dish and set close by. Fill a basin or dish pan with several inches of warm water set the mold into the water for several minutes. Remove the mold and gently shake to loosen, place platter upside down over the mold and flip. The mold should life off easily. Garnish as desired and serve immediately or return to the refrigerator until time to serve.
The mold can be made one day ahead and unmolded not more than several hours before serving.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
In restaurants a stock is made in a very specific way depending on its intended use. Stocks can take days to make and be extremely complex. This is just fine for restaurants, but in daily life who has the time? When life became too busy, I needed to simplify meal preparation, and set out to make a good, flavorful, nutritious and uncomplicated stock that could be used for soups and cooking. As you’ve probably concluded, I no longer make stocks according to recipes. The only nod to my culinary training is the addition of a whole onion stuck with some whole cloves, a few whole black peppercorns, and a couple whole bay leaves.
Beginning around mid-October and through April, there is a perpetual stockpot on the stove. Vegetable scraps from meal preparation are the basis for my stocks. These stocks generally have only one type of animal protein, if any at all. Many of the stocks are vegetable based. But, a chicken carcass is not wasted! It goes into the pot along with whatever vegetable scraps are available. Trimmings from a roast or steak are used or get frozen for use in the next stock. Cooking liquid from other vegetables is drained into the stockpot, too. The pot usually simmers for a day or two with all the vegetable scraps from meal prep dropped right in. Of course, at night or when no one is at home, the stock is put in the refrigerator, but otherwise, it simmers away filling the house with its fragrance.
1 small onion stuck with 3 or 4 whole cloves
2 whole bay leaves
4 to 6 whole black peppercorns
Vegetable scraps (potato peels, onion peels, cores from any type of peppers, trimmings from celery, squash seeds and skins, carrot scrapings and ends, juice drained from tomatoes and other vegetables, etc.)
Cooking water from other vegetables: potatoes, carrots, peas, etc.
Meat scraps (a carcass or trimmings from whatever you happen to be preparing.)
Put everything into a large pot with a lid and cover with water. Bring just to a boil, reduce heat immediately, and simmer several hours, at least. Place a colander over a bowl or pot large enough to hold the stock. Carefully pour the stock through the colander to drain into the pot. When all the liquid has drained into the pot, remove the colander and discard the scraps. Place the stock in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Remove the stock from the refrigerator and skim off any fat that has congealed on the surface. At this stage, it can also be strained through cheese cloth. The stock is now ready to be used. The stock can also be frozen.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
There are a number of ways to make gravy. In recent years, I’ve been experimenting with making a rich flavorful gravy without all the fat. Gravy made with butter or drippings that have not been defatted tastes great, but it’s a heart attack on a plate.
This gravy has all the flavor with a fraction of the fat. It is made with stock and thickened the old fashioned New England way with milk and flour. This recipe uses giblet stock, but can be adapted for beef, pork, or vegetable just by using beef, pork or vegetable stock. Regular chicken stock can also be used.
Giblet stock is demonstrated here as this gravy was made using the giblets from our Thanksgiving turkey. Drippings can also be used and will improve the flavor of your gravy. It is important to skim off as much fat as possible from the drippings. Scrape them into a tallish pan and use a ladle to skim off the fat. If there is time, place the drippings in the refrigerator or freezer where the fat will congeal and rise to the surface making removal easier. If you make the gravy in the roasting pan, strain it through a sieve to remove any solids before serving. Most importantly, add the milk and flour mixture before the stock becomes too hot. This will ensure that the flour thickens the gravy as intended rather than cooking or clumping.
"Light-Hearted" New England Style Gravy
Giblets and neck from a chicken or turkey
1 small carrot
1 small onion stuck with 3 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
1 stalk celery with leaves
4 whole black peppercorns
1-1/4 c. milk
2/3 c. flour
4 c. giblet stock
A good grind of white pepper
Place the ingredients in a 2-quart pot and cover with water. Place on the stove and turn burner to high. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer several hours. Allow stock to reduce to about 4 cups. When the stock has simmered for several hours, has reduced sufficiently and is strong in flavor, remove from heat. Place a colander over a 1-quart pot. Strain the stock into the pot. Set the giblets aside for addition to soup stock.
Measure the milk and flour into a small bowl and mix with a whisk. Mix until the mixture is smooth and free of lumps. Place the pot containing the stock on the stove and turn the burner to medium low. Whisk in the milk and flour mixture and the defatted drippings, if using. Gently reheat whisking constantly. Do not allow the gravy to boil. When the gravy has thickened sufficiently, adjust seasoning and pour into a heated gravy boat and serve.
If the gravy requires additional thickener, remove ½ cup of gravy from the pan and place in a bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour until the mixture is smooth. Add more gravy from the pan into this mixture and whisk until smooth. Carefully whisk this mixture into the gravy, whisking until the gravy is smooth and sufficiently thickened. If necessary strain the gravy through a sieve to remove any lumps before serving.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
The pizza dough recipe comes from the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook and is reprinted here with permission from King Arthur Flour. Check out the King Arthur web-site. The secret to the crust is letting the dough rest 20 to 30 minutes after rolling and decorating, and preheating the oven for 20 minutes prior to baking the pizza.
What to bake your pizza on? This is a matter of personal choice. Some people swear by stones. This is one piece of kitchenware I do not own, but Bella does and insists it is the best possible way to bake pizza. The perforated aluminum pizza pans I use work very nicely, too. And then there is the plain old cookie sheet. It all works!
Traditional Pizza Dough
(Makes enough dough for 2 18” pizzas)
1-3/4 c. warm water
1 Tbsp sugar
1 packet or 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
6 c. All Purpose Flour
¼ c. olive oil
1 Tbsp salt
Bread machine: Measure all ingredients into bread bucket. Set bucket in machine and press to click into place. Set machine to dough cycle, and start. Keep an eye on the dough while it mixes as it will probably be necessary to add a little bit of water to achieve a firm but elastic dough.
By hand: Pour the water into a mixing bowl and dissolve in it the sugar and the yeast. When the yeast is active, add your first cup of flour, then the oil and salt. Add another 4-1/2 cups of flour, mixing with a large spoon until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl and hold together. Kneading: Sprinkle the last ½ cup of flour onto your kneading surface. Turn out the dough and knead until it begins to feel as if it really belongs together, adding only enough flour to keep it from sticking to the board or you. Let is rest while you clean and grease your bowl. Continue kneading the relaxed dough until it feels smooth and springy.
- Full rise in a bread machine is equivalent to the dough cycle. By hand—form the dough into a nice ball, place it in the greased bowl, turning it so the top is lightly greased also. Cover it and put it where it will be warm and cozy (no drafts). Let this rise, until it is doubled (when you can poke your finger in it and the dough doesn’t spring back at you).
- Slow rise is so you can make the dough ahead of time (K.A. says this dough has the best flavor). Make the dough using half the amount of yeast the morning of the day you plan to use it. Cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. It will rise happily all day. About 15 minutes after you take it out, the dough will be ready to roll out and decorate.
- No-rise: For the spur-of-the-moment party—just give your dough a 5 to 10 minute rest. It won’t have quite the flavor or be as light and fluffy as a fully risen dough, but it will be “better than store bought.”
Dough can be used immediately or frozen for later use. If the dough is to be frozen, divide into two equal pieces and wrap each separately in plastic wrap and place in zip lock bags. Write the date on the bag. Use within 3 months.
Putting the Pizza together:
If dough is frozen, thaw in refrigerator over night, or in microwave for 5 minutes at power level 3. Take dough from the zip lock bag, remove plastic wrap, and let sit covered with a towel at room temperature for 30 to 40 minutes.
Shaping: Flatten dough with your hand and with rolling pin roll out like pie dough from center to outside. Or pat and stretch dough to desired shape and size. (If dough is not cooperating it is probably still too cold, cover with towel and let rest for a few more minutes.) If using a metal pizza pan, lightly grease with olive oil and, if you like, sprinkle with a little corn meal. Put dough on prepared pan, stone (whatever you will be baking it on) and fit into/onto the pan.
1 12 oz. jar pizza sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp, dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. red pepper seeds
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese
Topping possibilities: Pepperoni, peppers, onions, black olives, mushrooms.
Preheat oven to 450. Use the back of a spoon to spread sauce over crust. Sprinkle on the chopped garlic, basil, oregano, red pepper seeds. Next, sprinkle on the Parmesan and then the mozzarella. Put on the toppings of your choice. Allow pizza to sit on counter for 20 to 30 minutes. Bake as directed below.
1/4 c. pesto
3/4 c. quartered Artichoke hearts
¼ c. Dried tomatoes, halved or julienned
¼ c. sliced black or Kalamata olives
½ c. Feta cheese
Preheat oven to 450. Use the back of a spoon to spread the pesto evenly on top of the dough. Place the rest of the toppings on top of the pesto. Allow the pizza to sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Bake as directed below.
Preheat oven to 450 for at least 20 minutes before baking the pizza. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until bottom is golden brown. Let pizza stand for a few minutes before cutting and serving.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Pear Cheese Log
1/2 c. chopped dried pears
2 Tbsp. brandy or pear liqueur
8 oz. shredded cheddar
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tsp grey poupon
3/4. c. slivered almonds, toasted & coarsely chopped*
Crackers to serve
In a small bowl, combine chopped pears and brandy. Cover and let stand 1 hour.
In a the work bowl of a food processor, combine cheddar, cream cheese, and dry mustard pulsing until fluffy.
Add the apricot mixture and pulse just until combined. Cover and chill 1 hour.
Place cheese mixture on plastic wrap; shape into an 8" log. Press almonds onto sides of cheese log. Wrap in plastic wrap. Store in refrigerator. Serve with crackers.
1-3/4 c. cheese or 1 log.
*To toast almonds preheat oven to 350. Place almonds on a cookie sheet with sides and spread them out. Bake at 350 for 5 to 8 minutes or until the almonds are golden brown and fragrant. Be careful not to burn them.
Monday, January 4, 2010
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Dutch Apple Pie
4 good-sized Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and halved
½ c. flour
¼ c. sugar
½ c. sugar
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. milk
½ tbsp. cinnamon
a good grate of nutmeg (about ½ tsp.)
1 9 inch pie plate lined with pie crust pastry (see earlier post A Singular Failure for pie crust recipe)
Preheat oven to 425.
In a small bowl, mix 1/2 c. flour and 1/4 c. sugar and sprinkle evenly into the bottom of the prepared pastry. Place the apple halves cut side down with one in the center and six around the edges. Trim to fit if necessary. Sprinkle the ½ c. sugar around the arranged apple halves.
Pour the cream in a cup measure and then pour in the milk. Stir to combine. Pour this mixture between and around the apples. Sprinkle the cinnamon and grate the nutmeg over the apples.
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and bake for 50 minutes or until the apples are soft in the middle. Cool on wire rack.
Serve warm or cover and chill. Can be made 1 day ahead, cover and store in the refrigerator. Let pie stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
After much experimentation, I settled on a pie crust recipe and my fat of choice. I use only butter in my pie crust. No lard or shortening—I won’t use these ingredients. Lard is so unfriendly to heart health and shortening is a known carcinogen.
So, why butter? Doesn’t it have an equally bad health rep? I selected butter mostly for its flavor and the flaky texture created when the solid fats melt away during baking, but recently became aware of its other qualities. Due to alternative health experts, butter’s dietary and nutritional reputation is being salvaged. In recent years, many alternative health experts have taken a second look at butter and, when eaten in moderation, consider it to be a healthy fat with significant health benefits. Among some of butter’s healthful properties--it is high in vitamins E, K, D, A, an excellent source for anti-oxidants, lauric acid, iodine, and lecithin. Its saturated fats have strong anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties. These are only some of butter’s health benefits.
This is a wonderful pie crust recipe. It has wonderful flavor, fantastic texture, and handles extremely well.
Double Pie Crust
(Makes one 9 or 10 inch double-crusted pie or 2 single 9 inch pie crusts)
2 ¼ c. flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
¾ c. COLD unsalted butter
1 tsp. cider vinegar
2 large egg yolks
6 tbsp. ice water
Measure cider vinegar, egg yolks and ice water into a small bowl. Stir with a fork to combine. Set aside.
In a bowl combine the flour, sugar and salt. Stir to mix. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or two knives until it is the same consistency as coarse meal. Sprinkle with vinegar mixture over the flour. Stir with a fork to combine.
If dough is too dry, add more water 1 tbsp at a time. Divide dough into two equal portions. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour and up to three days. The dough can also be wrapped in plastic wrap, placed in a zip lock freezer bag and frozen for up to two weeks. Thaw in the refrigerator over night and let sit at room temperature a few minutes before rolling out.
Let dough sit at room temperature to soften slightly before rolling. Lightly flour a flat surface—preferably marble. Roll out the dough from the center to the edges. Turn the dough and lightly flour the dough and the surface to prevent sticking. If the dough cracks or rips, moisten with a small amount of water and apply a piece of dough to “patch” the area. Dough can be reshaped into a circle using hands during rolling.
Place selected pie plate upside down onto dough. The dough should be about two inches wider in diameter than the pie plate. Remove the pie plate and fold the dough into quarters. Gently lift the quartered dough and place it in the pie plate, and center it. Unfold the dough, and gently press it into the plate.
Using a pair of kitchen scissors trim the crust to ½ or 1 inch of the edge of the pie plate.
Fold the edge under and crimp using fingers or a fork.