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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

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We have been “babysitting” a friend’s little dog so I have been out in Central Park far more than I normally am.  Today, I came across a whole chestnut in the middle of a number of chestnuts that had either been attacked by squirrels or stepped on by other dog walkers.  I picked it up as it brought up a memory which made me laugh out loud.

Years and years ago when I was a newcomer to the neighborhood and spent a lot of time exploring the park with my children, I came across some of these very same chestnuts.  What I didn’t realize (or know) was that these are horse chestnuts, not those sweet chestnuts so loved by the French, found roasting by an open fire or filling the fall and winter air with the intoxicating aroma from the chestnut carts that can be found in midtown Manhattan.

These are chestnuts are not to be eaten.  However, I thought I had found gold as I grew up in the west and had never seen a chestnut or a chestnut tree.  So, of course, I spent some time picking quite a few up from under their tree.  I took them home and turned the oven on to high. I laid the chestnuts out on a sheet pan and popped them in the hot oven to roast.  After taking care of my little ones I began to hear some strange noises coming from the kitchen which, of course, being distracted by the children, I ignored for a bit.  But, then the noises got louder and louder.  I hurried into the kitchen and discovered that the noise was coming from the oven.  As I opened the oven door, I was bombarded with bits and pieces of chestnut.  Every chestnut had popped open and the meat and shell had turned into shrapnel, most of which clung to the inside of the oven and was turning into cinder leaving an absolutely awful odor.

Had there been a household computer in those days I’m sure I would have gone to it and looked up my prize to see what I had done wrong.  But, instead, I had to go to cookbooks and encyclopedias to try to discover my error. It took a while but eventually, I found that 1) these were not chestnuts to be eaten and 2) when you roast chestnuts you have to prick the shell otherwise they will burst.  I never tried it again and to this day I don’t like chestnuts!

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What are ebelskivers?  Not nearly as scary as the name sounds….. they are Danish treats that are sometimes called Danish pancakes or Danish puffs.  They are more puff than pancake as they are cooked into little round balls in a pan made especially for them.  My friends at ScanpanUSA (www.scanpan.com)  presented me with an ebelskiver pan some time ago and although I have used it I have infrequently made the dessert it is named for.  However, they are so easy to do and just enough work that I am willing to put my “no sweets diet” aside.  With this batch I made half with jam filling and half with bittersweet chocolate – I loved them both.  Next, I am going to try to make a savory version which I will report on once done.

I make this small recipe otherwise I’d eat too many of them, but you can easily double the recipe.  If you have children or a sweet tooth, I’d recommend doing that as these are rather like doughnut holes that you can just pop into your mouth.

 

Æbelskiversor Ebelskivers

Makes about 18

 

2 large eggs, separated

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ cup milk

½ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Raspberry or other jam of choice (you’ll need about ¼ cup)

9 bits of bittersweet chocolate or 3 bittersweet chocolate chips per ebelskiver

Butter for brushing ebelskiver cups

Cinnamon sugar or confectioners’ sugar for dusting

 

Place the egg whites in a small bowl and beat, using a hand-held electric mixer, for about 4 minutes or until stiff, but not dry.  Set aside.

Combine the flour, sugar and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl, whisking to blend well.

Combine the milk, cream, butter and vanilla with the reserved egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk to blend.  Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and beat to just combine.  The mixture should be a bit lumpy.

Fold the egg whites into the batter until incorporated, yet still light and airy.

Place the ebelskiver pan over medium-high heat.  Add a dab of butter to each cup and, using a pastry brush, lightly coat the entire cup with the melting butter.

When the butter bubbles, add about a tablespoon of the batter to each cup.  As the batter begins to set, place either a teaspoon of jam or the chocolate bits in the center.  When the batter is fully set, add a tablespoon of batter to cover the filling.  Carefully turn the cooked half and continue to cook until the batter has cooked through and the filling is hot and/or melted.  I use a long wooden skewer and my fingers – take care not to burn them – to turn the ball.

Remove from the pan and set on a wire rack.  Dust with sugar and serve warm.

Continue making ebelskivers until all of the batter is used.

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If you are a past reader you know that I love “nursery” desserts like custard, puddings, floating island – almost anything that would have been served in an English nursery.  The only ones I don’t like are those with gelatin bases or what I used to call wiggle desserts.  A grunt is almost one of those nursery desserts but it is a little more grown-up.  But how I love the names of old-fashioned fruit desserts like this one.  Buckles, slumps, pandowdies, fools, betties, sonkers, crumbles – all silly names for delicious fruit desserts probably most of them from early English cookbooks.  I particularly love a grunt (also called slump) in the summer as it can be cooked on the stove top rather than in the oven so you don’t have to heat up the kitchen on those hot days.  This is one of my favorite recipes —- summer or winter.  You can use almost any fruit that is in season.  If using harder fruits, such as apples or pears, pre-cook them a bit longer to soften.

 

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ cup half and half

¼ cup cooled, melted unsalted butter

½ cup water

½ cup orange juice

¾ cup granulated sugar

8 cups blueberries

Zest of 1 lemon

Pinch ground nutmeg

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Heavy cream or whipped cream for serving, optional

 

Combine the flour, light brown sugar and baking powder in a medium mixing bowl.  Whisk together to blend completely.  Add the half and half and melted butter and, using a wooden spoon, beat until a soft batter forms and no lumps remain.

Combine the water, orange juice and sugar in a heavy bottomed 12-inch frying pan.  Place over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved into the liquid.

Add the blueberries, lemon zest, and nutmeg, cover and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes.

Uncover and drop the batter by the heaping tablespoonful into the bubbling fruit. Continue dropping until all of the batter has been used and the entire top is almost covered in dumplings.  Lower the heat to barely simmer, cover and cook for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into a couple of the dumplings comes out clean.

Remove from the heat and set on a wire rack to cool slightly.

Serve warm, dusted with confectioners’ sugar or with heavy cream poured over each serving or whipped cream dolloped on top.  You could also serve with vanilla ice cream or yogurt – do whatever your diet points you toward.

 

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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.

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While in California with its wonderful farmer’s markets I was shocked to still see strawberries in late August.  We bought a couple of containers and they were so sweet and delicious that I decided to make some jam like my mom did.  We bought a flat – 12 containers – and I did just as she did.  Washed and stemmed each berry, threw them in a pot with the zest and juice of 1 lemon and probably about a cup or so of sugar.  Simply put the pot on the stove to simmer away just until the mixture was thick and jammy.  No pectin and just a trace of sugar.  I loved the result as you could taste the essence of the berries without the overload of sweetness from cups of sugar.  Unfortunately, this can only be done when the fruit is perfect, just as these late season berries were.

 

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.

 

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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!

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.

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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.

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