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Lima beans only appear in the green market in the fall and they don’t hang around for very long.  I suspect that this is because they are a pain to disrobe from their tough pod and honestly I don’t think many people like them very much.  I, on the other hand, really like them and try my darndest to pick out the pods that contain pale green, medium-sized beans.  The large beans tend to be starchy and not very flavorful – at least to me.  The tiny ones are so small that you would have to buy pounds and pounds to unearth enough for a meal.  This is a long way to say that when I find them I buy whatever I can.  Sometimes serve them like I do fava beans – let guests peel off the pod and eat the raw beans with some slivers of cheese – ricotta salata, parmesan, or any other hard cheese that you can peel off paper thin slices.  When cooking, I often mix them up with other vegetables or beans and do a quick stir in some olive oil and butter or with some pancetta or bacon to add some smoky flavor.  Always add a little onion and a nice bit of salt and pepper.  You could do the same thing with frozen limas that you have let thaw and patted dry, but oddly I never do.  I just prefer the fresh beans and the fact that they are so seasonal makes them even more alluring.

cranberries-cooking_pb239355ranberry-chutney-pb239361

The winter holidays always mean cranberries to me – cranberry relish or chutney alongside the bird (whether turkey or something more exotic) is at the top of my list. My mom always served Cranberry Ice as an accompaniment to our Thanksgiving turkey so I’ve given you a bonus recipe here for it just because it is not a recipe I’ve seen much and I thought you might like it. Cranberry Ice never appeared any other time of the year – a reasonable guess would be because you couldn’t get cranberries at any other time in those days. As a child, the most amazing thing was that she served it at the middle of the meal in her mother’s coupe glasses. Only when I was very much an adult did I learn that this course is called an intermezzo, a term I’m sure my mom had never heard nor did she know the culinary etiquette that covered it. Just in case you’ve never heard the term it simply translates to a palate cleanser between courses – often a refreshing, not-at-all- sweet, sorbet. It is rarely served anymore, even in the fanciest of fancy restaurants.   How she came to do this I, regretfully, never asked. (As for the coupes they were slightly iridescent; the luminescent colors fascinated me, but not enough as an adult to keep the glasses after my mom passed away. Of course, this is a decision I now rue.)   The ice is refreshingly delicious and works just as well as a dessert, particularly with a bit of dark chocolate on the side. My mom’s recipe calls for 1 bag of cranberries which, I bet, in her day weighed 1 pound. However, the current 12 ounce weight seems to work just fine. Since you can now buy pure, unsweetened cranberry juice, you can probably use that also.

Makes about 3 pounds

1 large tart green apple, peeled, cored, and chopped

6 cups chopped fresh cranberries

1 cup chopped red onion

1 cup dried currants

½ cup chopped celery

¼ cup finely chopped preserved lemon, skin only

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1½ tablespoons minced garlic

2 cups light brown sugar

¾ cup dry red wine or any fruit juice you prefer (each one will add a different flavor)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon mustard seed

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

 

Combine the apple, cranberries, onion, currants, celery, preserved lemon, ginger, and garlic in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar. When blended, add the wine, cinnamon, mustard seed, cloves, cardamom, and cayenne, stirring to blend well. Bring to a boil; then, immediately lower the heat and cook at a very gentle simmer for about 30 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and is very flavorful.

Remove from the heat and pack into sterilized jars and tightly cover, if canning, or into nonreactive containers with lids for refrigerating. If canning, place the sealed jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from the bath and set on wire racks to cool before storing. If refrigerated, set on wire racks to cool before transferring to the refrigerator. Canned, the chutney will last for a year; refrigerated for 6 weeks.

Cranberry Ice

Makes about 1 quart

1 package fresh cranberries

3 to 4 cups sugar, depending on how sweet you want the ice to be

Juice of 6 lemons, strained

 

Place the cranberries in a large saucepan with cold water to cover over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; then, lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes or until all of the cranberries have popped and are soft.

Remove from the heat and pour through a fine mesh sieve into a large, heatproof mixing bowl, pressing lightly on the pulp. You do not want to push any seeds through; the liquid should be clear. Discard the solids.

Add the sugar to the hot juice, stirring until dissolved. Add the strained lemon juice (the straining is important as you want the juice to be completely clear). Measure the juice and add enough water to make 1 gallon of liquid.

Pour the liquid into shallow 1 quart containers or into ice cube trays and place in the freezer. Freeze for about 2 hours or until almost completely frozen.

Remove from the freezer and place in the bowl of a heavy-duty standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle (or a food processor fitted with the metal blade). Chop into chunks to facilitate beating. Beat or process until the consistency of sherbet.

Use immediately or return to the freezer for no more than an hour or it will get too hard to serve easily. If it does get too hard, beat or process again. You can also freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker following manufacturer’s directions for freezing sorbets.

Clara_Thankful

 

This is the day when we should all take the time to remember the blessings in our lives.  I know that many people begin their Thanksgiving dinners by asking everyone around the table to express their gratitude for the goodness in their lives – a wonderful way to acknowledge what we often forget.  I love Thanksgiving not only for the warmth and hearty meal that it brings but because it is not specific to any religion so it can be embraced by people of all faiths, races, and ethnic backgrounds.  This year with so much conflict in the world and so much divisiveness in the United States it is more important than ever that we take the time to convey our thanks for any evidence of goodness that we see in the world.  Gratitude uplifts our thoughts, encourages a new outlook, enables friendships to grow, and enriches our lives in ways we don’t expect.  It is about kindness – it is an unselfish act of grace that we should all be willing to share.  Happy Thanksgiving.

OKRA_p8022088

 

I am probably one of the few non-Southerners who loves okra. I usually don’t buy it at the supermarket – only when it pops up at the green market in the fall does it make it to our table. It is such an interesting looking vegetable, particularly when it is the purple variety. When I have time and the price is right, I will pickle a good amount of okra. It makes a great accompaniment to charcuterie or cheese platters. But, as often as not, I will give it a quick stir-fry all by itself or mix it up with some tomatoes and onions. But occasionally – particularly when I’ve made cornbread or have shrimp on hand – I’ll turn them into my version of maque choux, that traditional Louisiana side dish that usually features just corn, bell peppers, and onion. Cornbread makes a good dipping tool and shrimp can turn it into a sorta gumbo. I never cook okra very long as I’m not a fan once it starts to get slimy. Although recently someone told me that if you blanch it for a minute or so, it stays bright green and doesn’t get slimy. I haven’t tried that method so can’t recommend it, but you might want to give it a try.

Maque Choux

Serves 4

2 tablespoons bacon grease (or any fat you like)

½ cup chopped red onion

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon minced hot green or red chile or to taste

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 cup fresh corn kernels

½ cup chopped red bell pepper

2 cups sliced okra

¾ cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper

½ cup chopped scallions

2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Hot sauce, optional

 

Heat the bacon grease in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, chile, and thyme and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes or until the onion is softening. Stir in the corn and bell pepper and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until just barely tender. Stir in the okra and then quickly add the cream, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes or just until slightly thick. Don’t cook too long as you don’t want the okra to start oozing – you want it slightly crisp.

Remove from the heat and stir in the scallions and parsley. Taste and, if necessary, season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

Serve hot.

PeachSalsa_9139653

When the first cool weather starts, I try to make quick work of whatever fruits and vegetables are coming down to the end of their summer bounty. Often, I take on too much and find myself miserable knowing that I fell for that inexpensive bushel of tomatoes, squashes, beans, or peaches or other stone fruits. I know that baskets of apples can’t be far behind which means apple butter and applesauce to be made – fall is a busy time in the kitchen!

Tomatoes and peaches are probably my least favorite products to can as both need to be skinned which is always so messy and sticky. Many years ago a friend and I went picking peaches and came home with about 6 very ripe bushels. We spent the entire night in the kitchen dripping in peach juice, sticking to everything as we canned and canned and canned. I have tried never to do that again.

Tomatoes, once skinned, are fairly easy to deal with as I just chop them up with some lemon juice, place them in sterilized quart canning jars, and process in a boiling water bath for about 45 minutes. I don’t salt them as I prefer to do that when I use them in whatever recipe they are needed. I usually add chopped basil and garlic to half of the jars so I have a simple marinara sauce ready to go all winter.

On the other hand peaches take some thought. You can make jam – the quickest and easiest way to use them. Or, you can make chutney, relish, salsa, or leave them whole and make pickled peaches which are terrific as an accompaniment to winter roasts, turkey, ham, or wild birds. I have friends who love, love, love fruit salsas so this year I made a batch of peach salsa just for them. Although great on its own as a garnish for grilled pork, poultry, fish, or shellfish, this salsa is also terrific mixed into mayonnaise for a sandwich spread or salad dressing or into sour cream for a taco garnish.

 

Peach Salsa

Makes about five 8-ounce jars

6 pounds ripe peaches, skinned, pitted, and diced

Juice of 2 limes or to taste

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, membrane removed, and diced

1 to 2 red or green hot chile peppers, cored, seeded, membrane removed, and minced

1 large onion, peeled and diced

½ cup chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons minced garlic

Salt

 

Combine the peaches and lime juice in a large mixing bowl. Add the bell peppers, chile peppers, onion, cilantro, and garlic, stirring to combine. Add salt to taste.

Ladle into five 8-ounce sterilized canning jars, seal, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from the hot water and place on wire racks to cool. If you don’t want to can the salsa, it will keep, covered and refrigerated, for at least a week.

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.

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