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Archive for the ‘Chefs’ Category

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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tromboncino-squash

 

One of the benefits of having a local big city green market – and, by the way, it is here through all of the seasons – is that the farmers get inspired by the chefs who shop with them and then us everyday folks get to taste the fruits of their mutual labors. All that to say that every once in awhile a “new” vegetable gets “discovered” and we reap the reward. One such discovery this past Sunday was tromboncino zucchini at Berried Treasures. Franca Tantillo whose farm in Cooks Falls, New York provides the market with her famous Tristar strawberries among other tasty items was singing the praises of this “discovery” and handing out pieces to lure buyers into the fold. I, of course, heard the siren call and succumbed to a few of these rather sensual looking squashes. Then, as I wandered back home through the hot streets I had to stop at Tarallucci e Vino to show Rita, my most favorite Italian-born barrista, my find. And, what did Rita say – “Oh, my mom grew tons of those in her garden back home – we got tired of eating them.” Call about getting your enthusiasm deflated!

Well, I took them home anyway and, as Rita suggested, I thinly sliced a couple and made a light, lemon-scented salad. Then I took the remaining 2 and turned them into quick pickles adding 2 little yellow zucchini I had on hand. Quick pickles are easy to do – just heat up equal parts white vinegar and water and season as you wish – lots of sugar and you have sweet pickles, more salt and a couple of tablespoons of sugar and you have everyday pickles – add chiles, onions, garlic, spices and you decide what your end result will be. Great to keep on hand all year round. I recommend that you only make a small batch ‘cause if you keep them too long they get soggy, mushy, and not something that is a joy to eat.

 

©StephenKolyer_zucchini

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Garlic fresh_P6288157

Garlic Scapes_P6288150

‘Tis the season for all types of fresh vegetables, but one of our favorites is fresh garlic.  And, when it arrives, so do garlic scapes.  Both are less pungent than dried garlic (which my son, Chris, tells me I always use too much of in everything) and the bulb has a sweetness that is only detected in the dried when it is roasted.  This is an easy recipe that allows that flavor to shine.

 

4 to 5 cups chicken stock or low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth

⅓ cup unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

8 ounces diced pancetta

2 bulbs fresh garlic, peeled and finely minced

1 shallot, peeled and minced

8 ounces arborio rice

Zest of 1 orange

Salt and pepper

½ cup finely chopped garlic scapes

½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese plus more to taste
Place the chicken stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a bare simmer, lower the heat, and leave on the heat as you prepare the rice, taking care that it doesn’t boil and lose volume.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or just until the pancetta begins to crisp.  Add the garlic and shallot and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for another 4 minutes or until the aromatics have softened, but not taken on any color.

Add the rice and orange zest and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute or until the rice is glistening.   Season with salt and pepper.

Begin adding the stock, a large ladleful at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the stock before adding more.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 minutes or until the “sauce” is creamy and the rice is almost cooked.  Add the scapes and cook, stirring, for about another 5 minutes or until the rice is al dente.

Stir in the cheese, taste, and, if necessary, season with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and ladle into shallow soup bowls, sprinkling with additional cheese, if desired.

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