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Fudge_DSC_4505

 

When I was in my full-blown homemade Christmas celebration years, I would make lots and lots of candy. The candy was always a hit simply because most people had never tasted homemade. Some of it came from my childhood – my mom’s favorites were popcorn balls, bourbon balls, and divinity. Of her favorites, I only liked popcorn balls which I often used as tree decorations. Divinity was too sweet – even for me – and I have never liked any sweet that is flavored with alcohol. And most of the others were recipes I had gathered from old cookbooks or good home cooks. Peanut brittle and chocolate fudge were on my top-of list. Of all of these goodies, chocolate fudge is the only one that I continue to make every Christmas. It is easy to make, the recipes yields quite a bit (the amount depends upon how small you cut the squares) and is always a welcome holiday gift.

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (bits or a block chopped into small pieces, use the

highest percentage you can find to help cut the sweetness of all of the sugar)

2 cups toasted walnuts or pecans, optional

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

20 large marshmallows

4 cups sugar

Two 5-ounce cans evaporated milk

Lightly butter a 6 cup baking pan (square or rectangular) or a platter. Set aside.

Combine the chocolate with the nuts, if using, butter, and vanilla in a large heat-proof mixing bowl. Set aside.

Combine the marshmallows and sugar in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the evaporated milk and place over medium heat. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Continuing to stir, boil for exactly 6 minutes.

Immediately remove from the heat and, beating constantly with a wooden spoon, pour the hot mixture into the chocolate mix. Beat vigorously for a few minutes or until the fudge is creamy. Quickly scrape the fudge into the prepared pan or platter, pushing slightly with the back of the spoon (or a spatula) to spread the fudge evenly.

Cool for at least 1 hour before cutting the candy into small squares. Store, in layers separated by waxed paper, for up to one week or, refrigerated, for up to 3 weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving

Griddle Scones_DSC_7141

 

This recipe comes from An American Family Cooks, my family cookbook which is published by Rizzoli. I will, from time to time, share recipes from the book. If you enjoy them and would like more, the book can be ordered from your local bookstore, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.

This is my oldest family recipe. Unfortunately I did not know my mom’s mother who brought the recipe with her from Scotland where it had been taught to her by her Aunt Ann. The recipe card still reads “Gram’s Aunt Ann.” These scones would not be recognizable as such in modern bakeries that bake giant, fluffy fruit-filled mounds called scones. Most scones today have absolutely no relation to these flat, griddled gems which are somewhere between pancakes and biscuits. In fact, the recipe card says “Have griddle same heat as for pancakes and fry on a dry griddle.” They should be eaten hot off the griddle with sweet butter and homemade jam.

 

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 scant teaspoon baking soda

Sugar to taste

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons butter

Enough buttermilk to make a soft dough, usually about 1 cup

 

Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Add the sugar and salt – I use about 2 tablespoons sugar and no more than ¼ teaspoon salt. Cut in the butter using your fingertips.

Slowly add the buttermilk, beating with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.

Lightly flour a clean work surface.

Scrape the dough onto the work surface and divide it in half. Pat each half into a fairly neat circle about ¼-inch thick and then cut each circle into 6 wedges.

Heat the griddle over low heat until very hot.

When hot, add the scones, a few at a time, and cook for 3 minutes to just set. Then, increase the heat slightly and cook for another 4 minutes or until the dough begins to puff up a bit and the underside has begun to color. Using a spatula, turn and cook for an additional 6 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Watch carefully, adjusting the heat as necessary, to keep the scones from burning.

Remove from the heat and serve hot with butter and jam.

Onion Marmalade
At a recent greenmarket I bought a few onions that were a little sleeker and paler than the big fat deeply red onions I would normally buy. Turns out they are called La Rossa di Tropea or cipolla di Tropea or in plain English “onion from Tropea”. Photos of this onion that I have seen in Italian publications show it to be a very bright maroon-red, but the ones I purchased were almost a pinkish-brown. Apparently it is an onion that was brought to southern Italy by the Greeks and its cultivation perfected by the Arabs who settled there. Mine were simply raised by one of the passionate young farmers that inhabit the greenmarket in our neighborhood on Sundays.
At first I was going to keep them for eating raw, but then I had quite a few ordinary red onions on hand so I decided to combine them to make one of my favorite condiments, onion marmalade. In Italy I believe the marmalade is made with red onion, roasted bell peppers, garlic, and a little chile. My version is simpler – just red onions. It keeps well and is terrific with roasts, steaks, and chops.
The recipe is easy – takes time to cook — but very little effort. You can either make it on the stove top or in the oven; all you need is very low heat.
Cut as many red onions as you like into thin strips. Toss them with enough olive oil to make them glisten. Place in a nonstick pan large enough to hold them in a relatively thin layer. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of light brown sugar (more if you like sweetness), and drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top. Place over low heat and cook for a couple of hours, frequently tossing and turning with tongs. You want the onions to almost melt and all of the liquid to evaporate. Store, refrigerated, in a nonreactive container for up to 3 weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Greensgreens-2

These days “greens” can mean any green leafy vegetable and the green market is filled with all kinds – some I grew up and some totally new to me. The other Sunday we picked up a beautiful bouquet of mixed greens that the farmer had put together which, once home, I placed in the living room as our floral arrangement of the day. I often do this for the dining room table as I prefer vegetables to flowers as the scent is more conducive to the aromas coming from the kitchen. I have no idea what was in the mix – some things I immediately recognized and others seem totally new. But, once cooked, they came together in a most delicious way.

You can, if you like, cook them with bacon, ham or smoked turkey bones, pancetta, onion, or garlic, but I usually just toss the chopped wet greens in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil, mashed garlic, and chili flakes. I don’t cook them for too long – just enough time to wilt and flavor, season with some sea salt, and you have the perfect side dish for almost any meat or fish.

Flavored Vinegar_DSC_5804

 

If you have a bottle of fine quality vinegar that is just hanging around the kitchen, take a few minutes of a lazy afternoon and turn it into a flavored brew. I often do this when I have extra herbs, very ripe fruit, or am just in the mood to fancy up that bottle of white wine vinegar on the shelf. Fruit-flavored vinegars make delicious shrubs and switchels, both early American thirst quenchers that are rarely made today, but if you decide to do so, I think you will find them extremely refreshing on a hot summer day. More about those later.

To make flavored vinegar you will need the following for every 2 cups of white wine, champagne, or rice wine vinegar.

For berry-flavored:

2 cups crushed berries, ¼ cup sugar, 1 strip of orange peel, and a few whole berries to put into the finished bottle

For garlic- or shallot-flavored:

5 cloves garlic, crushed, or ½ cup chopped shallots, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, a couple of garlic cloves or large pieces of shallot to put into the finished bottle

For herb-flavored:

½ cup chopped fresh tarragon, sage, thyme, basil, or chives or a combination of fresh herbs that you prefer along with a few sprigs of the fresh herbs to put into the finished bottle

 

Place the vinegar into a medium non-reactive saucepan. Add the fruit, sugar, and orange peel OR the garlic or shallots and red pepper flakes, OR the herbs. Place over medium heat and bring to just a simmer. Lower the heat and cook gently for about 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to come to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, strain the vinegar through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a clean nonreative saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Immediately pour the vinegar into a sterilized bottle, add the berries OR garlic/shallot OR herbs. Cover and set aside to cool before storing in a cool spot.

little berries

 

What wild berries the bears didn’t get to first have been lovingly picked all summer long by my dearest friend, Lynn, and her doggy pal, Lena Mae. Lynn always tries to save some for me to pick when I finally get upstate New York for a visit. Then we combine all of the berries and make a winter’s supply of jam.

I don’t much follow the USDA regulations that say all jams have to be preserved in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Nor do I use pectin. I like the pure berry taste that really stands out when you boil the berries with some sugar and lemon juice until they are thick. It does take a bit of sugar to get the mix to gel, but the lemon offsets the sweetness and highlights the berry flavor. I do make sure that my jars are sterilized and hot when I am filling them and that my caps and lids are new. I fill the boiling hot jam into the jars, cap tightly, turn upside down and let cool. When cool, I turn right side up and store in a cool spot for winter’s toast. This is the way my grandmother did it, my mother did it, and we never had a problem. So it is what I do. However, in my last preserving book, The Best Little Book of Preserves and Pickles, I tell you to follow the USDA rules – I may do it my way in my kitchen, but I know better than to mess with the government in print!

 

GreenTomato

I have posted about my love of green tomatoes in the past, but you can never sing their praises too often. They are one of those vegetables that no one has figured out how to bring to the market in the middle of January. Only in the mid to late summer can you find beautiful green tomatoes right off the vine carrying that pungent fragrance. My husband Steve had a fascinating aunt, Rubie, who when she was very much alive and a gardening fool, would send me a big box of green tomatoes individually wrapped in newspaper that she instructed me to “fry up and few and set the rest on the window sill to ripen.” You know what, that’s exactly what I did and I had sunny, bright red tomatoes for weeks throughout the early fall.

The green ones that I fried got this treatment. To serve six people, you will need about 5 large green tomatoes.

 

5 large green tomatoes, washed, cored, and cut, crosswise, into ½-inch thick slices

2 large eggs

½ cup buttermilk

2 cups Wondra flour

1 cup cornmeal

Salt and pepper to taste

Oil of choice – I use canola

 

Place the tomato slices on double layers of paper towel to drain slightly.

Whisk the eggs and buttermilk together in a large, shallow bowl.

Place 1 cup of the Wondra flour in a large shallow bowl.

Combine the remaining cup of flour, cornmeal, and salt and pepper in another large, shallow bowl.

Heat a thin layer of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, working with one at a time, dip the tomato slices into the plain flour, then into the milk mixture and finally into the flour-cornmeal mixture, pressing down to coat evenly.  Shake off excess and place in the hot pan.

Fry each slice for about 3 minutes.  Turn and fry for another 3 minutes or until crisp and golden on both sides. Using a slotted spatula, lift the slices from the pan and place on paper towel to drain.

Serve hot with a spritz of fresh lemon or any tart relish or condiment.  Or, if you like, make a cream gravy in the pan and drizzle over the tomatoes.

 

Fried green tomatoes_image-1

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