Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Chefs’ Category

Beets with Greens_DSC_6222

We’ve been visiting friends who have their first garden growing on their deck in large planters.  We have been watching the beets grow and were beginning to see the glorious red globes peeking out of the earth when we left.  Beets have always been a favorite vegetable for me and now they seem to hold that same allure with my grandchildren – except the littlest one who hasn’t yet decided that vegetables are part of the necessary food groups.

My mother loved to make Harvard Beets which was the only way I refused to eat them.  I called them slimy….  You never see them anymore and, as far as I am concerned, this is with good reason.  If you’re not familiar with them Harvard Beets are diced cooked beets cooked in a very sweet, slightly vinegary cornstarch-thickened sauce.  Why any cook ever decided to add sugar to an already sugary beet is a mystery to me.

I am so delighted that beets are beginning to appear at the green market.  They will be on our table throughout the summer and early fall.  I prefer to bake them in their skins, wrapped in foil.  When done, I push off the skins, slice them and either pickle them or give them a quick sauté in butter, season with salt and pepper and toss in some fresh dill, parsley or tarragon.  So, yummy.

Read Full Post »

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve been thinking a lot about avocados —- well, you know, it is a time of isolation when our thoughts can run amok!!!!  Why avocados?  I don’t really know but I would guess it is because during this extraordinary time people have taken to cooking and blogging and social mediaing about their favorite or, often, most challenging dishes.  Among the top 2 have been avocado toasts and sourdough bread.  I have never done an avocado book but I have done a couple of classic bread books – The French Culinary Institute’s Fundamentals of Bread Baking and Master Baker Lionel Vatinet’s A Passion for Bread and you would think that I would have, by now, mastered not only sourdough bread but tons of others.  Instead I just make my own traditional white batter bread that my mom and probably my grandmother made.  So, that leaves avocados.

Even when I was a wee one, avocados were a favorite.  Before I had teeth, my mom would slather a saltine with mashed avocado as a treat.  I’m told I would lick off the avocado and hand the cracker back for more until the cracker folded….  I still love avocado slather on a saltine.  However, when our Aussie friends introduced us to their national breakfast dish, avocado toast, I took to it like that proverbial duck to water.  There are so many versions that it is hard to keep an up-to-date list but my favorite remains any that combine avocado, tomato and/or olives.

Another favorite is individual nacho-like avocado chips.  All you need is a fresh tortilla chip (I lie, you can use bagged tortilla chips.), mashed, well-seasoned avocado, some cooked chicken or pork, grated cheese and some kind of zesty salsa/sauce to drizzle as you snack.  A perfect nosh with a chilled margarita!

A note on the latter – fresh tortilla chips are so so so so so much better than packaged chips.  And, easy to make.  Cut small corn tortillas into triangles or even break them into random pieces.  Season with a little oil and salt, tossing to coat.  You can add some ground cumin, cayenne or chili powder if you like.  Lay them out in a single layer on baking sheets and bake at 300°F, tossing and turning occasionally, until they are crisp and lightly colored.  They are addictive!

DSC_6650

Read Full Post »

blog_PotPie_IMG_7327

My mother made extraordinary pastry as did my father’s sister, Mary Frances.  Their skill intimidated me and, until I decided to make pot pies commercially, I never made pastry, I would always ask mom to make it for me.  So, when I decided to open my pie shop MOM in the 1970s, I had to spend many, many hours carefully watching her make her famous pastry.  She worked with me and my dear friend, Hu Pope, who would be making the pastry daily in the bakery, torturing us with her skill and our ineptitude.  Of course, the fact that she never measured anything and kept telling us that it was all in the feel didn’t help either.  We eventually got it, but I still believe that it was mainly the use of a big Hobart mixer and a commercial pie shell press which kept our hot hands from touching the dough that gave our acclaimed pastry the same flaky texture of her homemade dough.  However, the years in the bakery eliminated all intimidation and I began fearlessly tackling pastry making.  I usually do a fine job but I still miss my mom’s touch.  Since I made chicken pies every day for 10 years, I now generally leave their preparation to the kids, except for those chilly days when I miss my mom.

When I was a child, chicken pie was often made from leftover roast chicken and gravy.  It is one of those homey dishes that can be made in almost any way – the chicken can be dark and white meat, all white meat, chopped, shredded, cubed, or turkey; the vegetables can be cubed, diced, sliced (Chris’ method,) chunked; mushrooms added.  You get the picture.  This recipe is the basic – it’s up to you to make it your own.

I share photos of my individual chicken pie.  I usually make these as an introduction to people dining with us for the first time.  I think they are homey, delicious, warming and do all the things you want to do to bring people to your table.  I also share a recent photo of one of Chris’s West Coast famous chicken pot pies.  How proud my mom would be of him.

blog_PotPie_IMG_7303

 

Serves 6 to 8

One 4 pound chicken, rinsed and cut into pieces (or 2 pounds boneless,

skinless chicken breasts cooked in about 3 cups canned, fat-free, low-

sodium chicken broth)

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Nana’s Flaky Pie Crust (recipe follows)

4 organic carrots, well-washed, trimmed, and cubed

3 medium organic potatoes, well-washed and cubed

1 organic onion, peeled and diced

1 cup frozen petit peas, thawed

2½ tablespoons chicken fat or butter

2½ tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour

Place the chicken in a heavy saucepan, cover with cold water, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Place over high heat and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 1 hour or until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve, separately reserving the chicken and cooking liquid.  Set aside to cool.

While the chicken is cooking, make the pastry.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces, wrap each piece in plastic film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to chill before rolling.

When cool, remove and discard the chicken skin.  Pull the meat from the bones and, if necessary, cut it into bite-sized pieces.  Place the meat in a heatproof bowl and discard the bones.  Set the meat aside.

Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

Pour 3 cups of the reserved cooking liquid into a large saucepan.  Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Add the carrots, potatoes, and onion and again bring to a boil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and simmer for about 12 minutes or just until the vegetables are barely cooked.  Remove from the heat and stir in the peas.  Strain the vegetables, separately reserving the vegetables and the liquid.

Place the chicken fat or butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  When melted, stir in the flour.  When blended, whisk in 2 cups of the hot broth, cooking for about 5 minutes or until the broth has thickened.  Pour the thickened gravy over the chicken meat.  Add the vegetables, gently folding the mixture together.  If the mixture seems too thick, fold in some of the remaining unthickened cooking liquid.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator.  Unwrap and, working with one piece at a time, roll the dough out as directed in my NOTE.  Fit one piece into a 10-inch pie plate and prick the bottom with the tines of a fork.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pie plate.  Fold the remaining top crust in half over the rolling pin, lift, and place over the filling.  Unfold to cover the filling and attach to the bottom crust by pressing the excess dough from the edge of the top and bottom crust together with your fingertips.  Fold the pressed dough edge up and inward, making a rim around the edge of the pie.  Starting at the edge opposite you, pinch the dough between your thumb and index finger around the edge of the pie at about ¾ inch intervals, forming a fluted design.  (The pie may be made up to this point and stored, well-wrapped and frozen, for up to 3 months).

Place the pie on a baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Lower the heat to 350ºF for an additional 20 minutes or until the crust is golden and the filling is almost bubbling out.

blog_PotPie_IMG_7275

Nana’s Flaky Pie Pastry

Enough dough for one double-crust 10-inch pie

            2½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

            ¼ teaspoon salt

            Pinch sugar

            ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening, chilled

            ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled

            ½ cup ice water

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Process to aerate and blend.

Add the shortening and butter and, using quick on and off turns, process just until crumbly.  With the motor running, add the water and process just until the dough begins to ball.  Scrape the dough from the processor bowl and divide it into two equal pieces.   The dough may also be frozen; thaw before using.

NOTE:  My mother never used a food processor to make her dough but I think it makes great pastry, particularly because the processor allows you to make quick and easy work of the job without handling the dough too much.  However, if you over-process, the heat created from the speed of the machine will toughen the dough.

Some pastry recipes give an approximate measurement for the water, but that always scares me.  How do you tell when enough is enough if you’re not a seasoned cook?  Most approximates are based on flavor so it really becomes a matter of taste but, with pastry making it is all up to the kitchen witch.  Rainy days, humid days, hot days, warm kitchen, glutenous flour – all of these play in how much water will be enough water to create a dough that just holds together and does not toughen.  I’ve found that the ½ cup of water is nearly always the correct amount.  Add the water slowly and watch carefully.  The incorporation moves much quicker with the food processor than it does when making dough by hand.

If you have never made pastry before, the rolling out is usually the most frightening task.  I have found that Wondra flour is terrific for flouring the work surface and the rolling pin as it only adds a light coating of flour to the dough.  Then, don’t panic; use a light hand, pushing the dough out from the center, lightly coating it and the rolling pin with Wondra if it seems to hang onto the rolling pin.  Lift the pin gently as you near the edge of the pastry to prevent breakage.  When the desired size is reached, lift the pastry by gently folding it in half over the rolling pin and slip it, still folded, into the pie pan.  Carefully unfold it to cover the bottom of the pie pan and remove the rolling pin.  Do not stretch the dough or it will shrink when baked.  If the pastry tears, not to worry, just gently pinch it back together.  Smooth the pastry down into the pan with quick pressing movements.

A further note:  If you can find an excellent quality lard and you aren’t concerned about fat in your diet, use it in place of the vegetable shortening and butter when making a savory pie.  It adds a wonderful meaty flavor.

From my son Chris:  Longing for home on a chilly, foggy San Francisco afternoon, I decided to make a chicken pie.  I was feeling a bit challenged as I wasn’t sure that I could live up to my pot pie heritage.  Nana, mom’s mom, made the flakiest pie crust you have ever tasted and I had spent my teenage years living off of the acclaimed chicken pies that mom made at her bakery.  I called mom and got the basic recipe, did my shopping, and announced to Canada that we were going to have a MooMoo dinner.  I was worried that I had overestimated my skill but forged ahead.  I was aiming for Nana’s flaky crust and a pie that could be cut into nice even pieces with just a calm oozing of gravy.  But although the finished pie looked terrific, the crust wasn’t as flaky as I had hoped and the filling ran all over the place once I cut into it.  Didn’t matter – Canada loved it and so did I.

Determined to master the craft, we added chicken pie to our favorite menu list.  After a good many tries, I like to think that mine is now equal to Nana’s.  I always use organic vegetables, but conventional can easily be substituted.

IMG-4150

Read Full Post »

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s that time of year — asparagus is filling the green markets and being plucked from home gardens.  There is nothing as delicious to see than those bright green heads peeking up through the softening earth.  When I was a little one – there I go again talking about when I was —- my mom and aunt would take me in hand as they scouted the edges of irrigation ditches looking for the first spring crop.  I have absolutely no idea why asparagus grew along the ditches but if any of you readers do please tell me.  We would have asparagus every night until it got too warm and the asparagus disappeared.  It would also be canned and pickled.

When I use it in risotto, I like to add the trimmings to the stock to deepen the asparagus flavor.  And, if you don’t have stock or broth on hand, just add the trimmings to water and that will give you a flavorful stock.  If you have any on hand, a small dice of fennel also works to add some complexity to the final dish.

Serves 4

Approximately 4 cups hot chicken stock or low-sodium chicken

broth

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ cup finely diced onion

Salt

1 cup Arborio rice

½ cup dry white wine

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut, on the diagonal, into

thin pieces

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pepper

Place the chicken stock or broth in a large saucepan over medium heat.  If you have them, add the trimmings from the asparagus to the stock to add flavor.  Bring to a simmer; then, remove from the heat and keep warm.  

Place the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan over medium heat.  When melted, add the onion and season with salt.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or just until the onion begins to soften.  Lower the heat, add the rice and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until the rice is shiny and has absorbed some of the butter.

Return the stock to low heat.

Add the wine to the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until the rice has absorbed the wine.  

Begin adding the hot stock, about ¼ cup at a time, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, as each ¼ cup is absorbed and the rice is creamy but, al dente.

Stir in the asparagus and olive oil and cook for an additional 4 minutes or until the asparagus is still crisp-tender.

Remove from the heat and stir in half of the cheese.  Cover and let stand for 3 minutes.

Uncover and pour into individual serving bowls.  Garnish with the remaining ½ cup of cheese and a sprinkle of pepper.

Serve immediately.  

Read Full Post »

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I know I disappeared once before and then promised to do better about keeping my blogging moving ahead.  Then, it just seemed as though there was so much information and so many recipes and food talk online that what I had to add didn’t seem necessary.  So, once again, I shut down.  However, through this past year or so, friends kept asking me to return to the blog.  When I would ask why, the general answers seemed to be about the same – your recipes are easy, your comments light and comforting to novice cooks and fun to read.  Even those great cooks told me that they enjoyed my banter as much as they enjoyed seeing what I was cooking and why I was cooking.  All that to say as the pandemic is raging across the world, I’m back.  And, I dearly hope, here to receive plenty of comments from all of you who take the time to read my ramblings.  It’s you who make this all worth doing.

Here is a “Welcome Back” photo from my dear husband, photographer Steve Pool.  You can visit his work on his website www.stevepool.net – his show this past October was a sold-out event.  It features Sausage Rolls, a specialty of my dear friend, Stuart Clarke, and was taken at my December DeGustibus at Macy’s Cooking School class

Read Full Post »

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you follow my blog, you know that the photos on it are taken by my husband, Steve Pool.  After many, many years of prodding, we finally got him to put himself out into the internet world through a website which is www.stevepool.net.  I share one of his much-loved flower photos with an urge for you to visit his website.  He sells prints and should you desire, I think he might make cards from any of the photos on the website or from any photos on my blog that lend themselves to the card format.  We – his friends, family, and editors – love his work and I hope you will share it with others also.

Read Full Post »

 

As I mentioned upon my return to writing these posts, one of my joys is watching our youngest granddaughter thrive.  So, we often go to the west coast to visit her which is where we’ve been these past couple of weeks.  This is a photo of the two of us doing what she loves best – playing and learning.  We are at a cash register that she recently got as a birthday gift learning about how to pay at the grocery store as well as the worth of each bill and coin that you have to spend to buy your groceries.  Her monies – as she calls the play money – all seem to have the same value to her at the moment no matter how many times we try to point out the differences it is all there just to spend.  As we neared the end of our visit, I told her parents that she should have been named Sunshine as that is what she brings to each day.  A have never known such a happy, joyful child and I’m so happy that we are able to frequently spend time with her.

 

_DSF6547

Read Full Post »

Thomcord_Grapes_DSC_6605

Grocery shopping the other day at Trader Joes – one of my favorite stops – I saw a young woman handing out tastes of something called a Thomcord grape with a small piece of Manchego cheese.  Although I usually don’t bother to snack on samples when I shop I was intrigued by the grape so I popped one into my mouth.  It was so delicious – a little sweet, a little tart with a snappy skin – small as a plain old grape jelly Concord grape and about the same color, but no seeds and no bitter skin.  So, of course, I bought some.  They are absolutely terrific with almost any cheese – we served them with a cheese selection and a glass of Cava after a light dinner.  A wonderful ending!

Read Full Post »

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 August 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.

Read Full Post »

IMG_0022

It’s been quite a while since I wrote my last blog post.  I don’t exactly know why I stopped. Maybe I felt I had run out of things to say. Maybe I just got lazy.  Maybe I wondered if I had been at it so long that I couldn’t write another recipe that was interesting.  But if I really wanted to speak the truth I think that after I lost my oldest son to lung cancer, my heart just wasn’t interested in doing too much of anything other than watching my grandchildren grow up, particularly our youngest granddaughter who is 15 years younger than our middle granddaughter. Watching her as she celebrates her birthdays gives us one more chance to feel the joy of watching a little one grow up to be an amazing adult.

One day last week the thought came to me that I’d like to be back at it.  So here I am.  I hope that I have a little stick-to-it still in my bones and that I will keep writing recipes for years to come.  More than anything, I would love to hear from you if you come across the blog. I would love to hear about the foods you enjoy, favorite recipes, and, of course, tell me if you enjoy the blog or even if you hate it.  If the latter I’ll try to do a better job.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: