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castiron

One of the biggest non-emotional adjustments in the empty-nesting phase is learning to cook for fewer people. Cooking for three when one of those is a growing, teenaged boy is more like cooking for four, and a half. In addition to the challenge of avoiding a week’s worth of leftovers, I’ve had to learn the balancing act of often cooking for one as my schedule more closely resembles 9-5 whereas Keifel is on the seven days a week, nearly round the clock schedule of retail. I’m not adverse to cooking for one but I often don’t feel like making a big production out of it. One of my favorite dinners for one is spinach or arugula (depending on mood and availability), half a small avocado, maybe a little crumbled bacon, and a fried egg all drizzled with a mustardy vinaigrette kissed with a little honey. If left to my own devices for an extended period of time, I would probably eat it almost every night occasionally throwing in some roasted asparagus or some warmed butter beans or chickpeas.

When I’m not in a salad mood or want to putt around the kitchen a little more (cooking is most often my Zen-like state), I’ll make an oven pancake. They go by several monikers: Dutch babies, German pancake, souffléd pancake… We’ve always called them Dutch babies despite the potentially disturbing visual. If I’m dining alone, I generally make an unsweetened or barely sweetened one with a mix of whole grain and white flour. I like mine with tart lingonberry jam, but they are equally good with a dusting of powdered sugar and a squeeze of lemon. They can also be a vehicle for something a little less like an American breakfast option. Just add a pinch of sugar in the recipe given below and then top your oven pancake with sautéed vegetables, a bit of leftover beef stew, wilted greens with a bit of feta or other crumbly cheese, or even a barely warmed lentil salad. May sound odd but it’s very satisfying. If you wanted to do something like it for more people and fancy it up a bit, you could make the pancakes in individual pans or baking dishes.

Victoria’s Dutch Baby

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

You’ll need:

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup milk (just about any kind will work, I’m partial to local, whole, non-homogenized)

2 large eggs (local are best, if you are using particularly small eggs you might want three)

1/2 cup flour (all purpose or a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat or spelt, or all whole-grain – though it will be heavier)

a large pinch to a 1/4 cup of sugar (depending on desired level of sweetness)

a pinch of salt

 

Melt the butter in a 8″ cast-iron skillet or something similar over medium heat while you mix up the batter.

Keeping an eye on the butter, add 1/2 cup milk to a two-cup glass measuring cup. Crack in two eggs. The amount of total liquid should be about a cup. If it’s much less than that, add a third egg. Beat the eggs and milk together. Add the flour(s), the sugar, and salt and beat together (I have a small French whisk, the long skinny kind, that works with my wide-mouthed measure cup. You may have to use a fork in a smaller measuring cup) until only small lumps remain and the mixture is the consistency of heavy cream.

The butter should have melted and may be bubbling in the pan. If it isn’t bubbling, turn up the heat to medium-high and swirl the butter in the pan to coat the bottom and about an inch or so up the sides. Once the bubbles have started to die down, pour the batter into the pan and let it cook on the stovetop for about a minute. Transfer the pan to your hot oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, until puffed and golden.

If you’ve got a well-seasoned cast-iron pan, there should be no sticking if you swirled the butter around well. In other pans, your mileage may vary. Top with your heart’s desire. Will feed 1-4 depending on the topping and how hungry everyone is.

Late Saturday Lunch

victoria  —  March 3, 2012 — 1 Comment

Due to March’s decision to take that whole “in like a lion” thing a little too literally, I found myself unexpectedly home today – a Saturday – having not driven to Chattanooga last night. Keifel’s work schedule and my sleepiness precluded a fancy pants breakfast so I decided a fancy pants lunch was in order. Have I mentioned that I consider crêpes a food group?

I spent part of the morning planning two upcoming cooking events (not catering = not getting paid) and came across this recipe in my perusing. I had almost everything on hand.

Buckwheat Galettes with Gruyère Cheddar, Onion and Bacon Filling

Makes 12 – requires some type of pan suitable for making crêpes (and requires scales – sorry)

  • 75g buckwheat flour
  • 75g all-purpose (or plain) flour
  • 2 medium, local eggs, lightly beaten
  • 250ml whole 2%, non-homogenized milk
  • 1 Tbsp veg oil (safflower is my go to)

Filling:

  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 200g American-style smoked bacon, local, cut into thin strips (crosswise)
  • few thyme sprigs or teaspoon dried
  • 2 garlic gloves, minced
  • 100g black wax, extra sharp Cheddar, grated
  • 100ml crème fraîche ricotta cheese

Mix the flours together, sprinkle in a little salt, mix 100ml water with the beaten egg and whisk mixture into the flour, add milk slowly until batter is smooth. Cover and chill 2 hours to let the flours hydrate. Not doing this will make you curse the pan, me, whoever first thought buckwheat was edible and probably your mother for you having been born. Recipe doesn’t call for it, but I think they would brown better with a teaspoon or two of sugar; mine were a little on the not-browned side.

An hour and a half later or so, make the filling, sauté the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towel. Remove all but a tablespoon or two of bacon fat from the pan and add the onions. Sauté until lightly golden brown, add the garlic and thyme and sauté a few more minutes. Add back the bacon and set on the back burner, on low, until you’re done making the galette part of the recipe.

When your batter has hydrated for two hours, heat a crêpe or similar pan on medium heat. Dip a paper towel into the veg oil from the crêpe part of the equation and rub the inside of the pan with a very thin even layer or oil. Place 1/4 cup of batter and twirl around the pan until evenly distributed, it’s fine if some goes up the sides a little, in fact it’s good and will help you tell when your super skinny pancake is done. When the lacy bit at the edge pulls away from the side of the pan flip your crêpe over with a large palette knife, wooden crêpe spatula or whatever is handy (I use my fingers a lot for this) and let it cook on the other side for about a minute. Place on plate in very low oven to keep warm until you’ve finished the others. Do not be discouraged if the first one is a disaster. It is traditionally referred to as the dog’s pancake and is not a moral failing on your part. Finish your crêpes, oiling the pan as needed. You’ll get between 12 and 10 depending on the severity of the dog pancake. Stir the grated Cheddar and ricotta into the onion mixture on the back burner and heat through. Fill crêpes by putting a large tablespoon of filling on one quadrant and folding over the crêpe in quarters. Two per person is pretty filling especially with a little astringently dressed spring mix on the side for the green stuff. Recipe in the mag recommends serving with hard cider as this is practically the national dish of Brittany. Drink it if you got it.

 

 

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Pumpkins not included

In culinary school one of the things I loved best and hated most was mystery basket days. They weren’t attached to winning a million or your own restaurant or your face next to Guy Fieri (shudder) on the Food Network or even not looking like an idiot on the Food Network; they were attached to grades. For this type-A, it was a struggle between this has to be perfect and oooh fun. Stress can kick creativity in high gear and occasionally my team and I would get the blue ribbon for the day.

Fast forward five years.

I am not currently cooking professionally. I work a workaday week and have to get dinner on the table. Life is currently filled with obligations, desires and some tragedy. What’s a girl to do with a fridge full of farmer’s market whim, some staples and some things that just need to get used? What is said girl suppose to do if she is also slightly comatose from too many sleepless nights and extra braining at work?

Enter Whole Foods’ Recipe app for iPhone On Hand feature. If you ever played with Google Cooking you’ve got the basic idea. In the app you choose three ingredients you have in the pantry or fridge and touch search. The magical Internet elves sift their recipe cards and give you a list of what you could make with those three items. Obviously, the app is more limited than Google Cooking and you can’t add things like birds’ nests and unicorn horn to your larder list but it does offer some tastier options, many with healthy eating considerations.

My adventure tonight yielded white beans and sausage over polenta with kale. I didn’t have beans but I did have a red pepper. It also didn’t say add a splash of cream and the grated end of some cheese to the polenta, but, hey, I needed to use them up. Recipes are a map and I encourage detours. As always, your mileage may vary, but I like the app and the type-A in me is still challenged enough with the tweaking and tasting even if it is cheating.

No shrink ray needed

victoria  —  October 20, 2011 — 2 Comments

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Dinner for hungry teenagers

Thrown together pot pie filling: poached chicken, frozen veg mix, sautéed onion, pan gravy, and thyme. Oil-based pie crust from late 1940s edition of Good Housekeeping cookbook. Muffin tin. 375 oven. 60 minutes-ish. Ta da.

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Still summer. Still hotter than h-e-double hockey sticks. And I now have even greater reason to avoid turning on the oven; the element burnt out in a spectacular pyrotechnic display while making biscuits by request of the newly-returned from Trinidad boychick. In case you were curious, you can finish half baked biscuits on broil with fair results.

All that aside. We’re here for the sloppy joes. I honestly can’t tell you the last time I had them but I think it might have involved pigtails and Mom pouring the sauce out of a can of Manwich. They were definitely something I associated with late night dinners of my youth.

Jules, said boychick, and I were a the farmers’ market on Saturday and he was carrying around a bag of hamburger type buns we purchased from the Provence stand. The woman we bought our peaches from asked if we’d slap a burger or sloppy joe on one of those for her. The idea was planted.

On returning home later than expected this evening, I had planned to make dal and rice. A very hungry Jules suggested sloppy joes instead. Not having made the messy sandwiches in question in eons, if ever, I consulted that tome of American recipes: The Joy of Cooking. Not having several things the recipe called for, I winged it.

Sunday Night Sloppy Joes (mostly local)

Chop one onion and 4 to 5 cloves of garlic finely. Heat about a tablespoon of safflower or similar high-heat oil in a saute pan. Stir that around a bit while cutting up 3 or four small sweet peppers nearly lost to the back of fridge demon or one regular-sized red or yellow sweet bell pepper. Add the pepper to the pot. Add two teaspoons celery seed unless, unlike me, you have celery, then chop up one stalk finely and add that to the pan. Saute until everything is softened but not browned. Add one pound (local!) ground beef, a tablespoon of pomegranate molasses (or 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the juice of half a lime), a tablespoon or two of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste, half a teaspoon red pepper flake and a tablespoon paprika. While that is browning, stir it some to break up the meat and rummage through the fridge for some pickled peppers you made a week or so ago, if you find them, chop them up and toss them in the pan with some of the vinegar in the jar (Tablespoon or so). If you don’t find them, add a tablespoon or two of pickle relish or chopped-up pickles of some persuasion with a little of the vinegar in the jar. When the meat has browned and is pretty much done, pour in a quarter to half a large can of Muir Glen crushed, fire-roasted tomatoes, depending on how sloppy you like your sloppy joes. Serve immediately on sturdy hamburger buns.

BONUS recipe!

Oil Biscuits (damn near instant bread for dinner which can be half baked and finished on broil if necessary)

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (can sub up to 1 cup with whole wheat for still pretty fluffy biscuits)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup safflower oil (or similar light tasting, high heat oil)

3/4 cup butter milk

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. In a 1 cup measure, pour in 1/4 cup oil, top with 3/4 cup buttermilk. Don’t stir. Pour into well in dry ingredients. Using a fork faff (technical term…) the flour mixture and liquid together just until it clumps up and most of the flour is moistened. Dump on clean counter or similar, gently knead and turn three times, then stop. No, really. Stop. Gently form into roughly 8″ square about an inch high. Using a  knife or bench scraper, cut into nine equal-ish squares. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake until tops are lightly browned (about 12 minutes). Serve immediately.

(For variety, grate 2 ounces sharp cheddar and toss in flour mixture or add chopped fresh herbs to the flour mixture. For impromptu short cakes you can add 1/4 cup sugar to the dry mixture and 1 egg to the wet.)

 

It’s hot. It’s really hot. According to the weather channel app it’s hotter here than it is in Trinidad. And, technically, at least til midnight, it’s still May. This fills me with fear and loathing. Yours truly is not a hothouse flower. I think I’m more squarely in the slow-growing tundra wildflower category. I prefer the temp 40-70F, with a breeze.

I love the produce summer brings and the long days, but then it’s too hot to cook so I go into salad and doing as little as possible to the food aside from running a knife through it. Tonight was a compromise of sorts. A lovely carrot salad and some honey-glazed chicken because you shouldn’t eat it raw.

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The chicken is an old standby. Melt together 1/4 cup honey, some grated ginger and garlic to taste, couple tablespoons soy sauce and the juice of a lemon and douse some chicken thighs (about 4) with the resulting elixir. 375F for 40 minutes, basting twice. Even folks who don’t like dark meat chicken will eye for seconds.

The salad was a riff on a Jamie Oliver recipe from Jamie at Home. Four good-sized carrots peeled and then shaved to shreds with the peeler mixed with a big handful of cilantro leaves, a shredded green onion and some very thinly sliced Hungarian wax pepper (or any mild pepper) tossed together with a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, ground cumin, black sesame seeds and finely grated (on a microplane) ginger equals some seriously tasty salad with enough left for a straight from the fridge breakfast.

Despite my trying to keep the hot cooking to a minimum, my oven is currently cranked up. Julian requested some teacher bribery for the end of the year in the form of brownies. So much for a cool kitchen/house.

(As a “by the way,” this is my first attempt at blogging from the phone so forgive any weird spellings, syntax or spacing til I check it on the big screen. Thanks.)

So working three jobs and trying, sometimes failing, to meet previously agreed upon social and volunteer obligations makes one’s family adjust to leftovers that go on and on, sometimes for a full week. I think Keifel may never eat white chili again. But, bless them, my husband and boychild have been troopers and as they are both pretty handy in the kitchen themselves, we haven’t survived on toast and Cheerios or warmed-over Chinese takeout. Well, not for weeks at a time at least.

Today, Keifel and I managed to team up for a slam dunk of a dinner. Now I don’t know that any Trini worth their salt would proclaim the delicious leftovers in our fridge authentic in any way other than a Trini was involved in the making. But, damn, if Keifel and I didn’t make some good chow.

The shopping was done almost two weeks ago, as canned and frozen bits stay that way. I made an auxiliary trip earlier in the week to get the things that don’t cotton to canning and freezing so much. Over the course of the last three days, Keifel saw to it that the chicken thighs went from freezer to fridge to thaw and then seasoned them in his special kitchen cabinet/fridge door kind of way. I’ll leave that to your imagination or to a comment in Keifel’s own realm to get to the bottom of that.

This morning, while driving back from collecting Julian from his Spring Break adventures, Keifel called to see if I would put together the green seasoning to speed along his cooking this afternoon. I pulled out the NAPS girls’ cookbook, one of the bibles of Trini cooking for the uninitiated, and turned to page 255 and the recipe for green seasoning. Now understand that this is an exercise fraught with pitfalls. A large one being that we have seen chadon beni all of one time in Nashville. A wilted pile of it was given to me by one of the produce guys at Whole Foods. Apparently, I can order it but who has time to remember to do that. Again, for those not familiar with this particular Caribbean/Latin American staple herb, it’s also called culantro or shadow beni. It looks kind of like arugula but not so curvy and tastes like cilantro on steroids. Okay, so that is issue one. Dealt with by purchasing a huge hunk of cilantro and using the tender leaves and the fragrant stems. Issue two is less easily surmounted.

Some time ago this bottle arrived at our house in the arms of a friend of Keifel’s. It was a repurposed plastic bottle (formerly home to fruit juice, perhaps) lovingly filled with what looked like blended grass clippings and smelled of cilantro, garlic and vinegar but was in fact her mother’s Green Seasoning. It lasted some time, as vinegar-preserved items will and Keifel was exuberant every time he opened it to liberally bathe some chicken thighs or pork chops. I remember that look on his face and I remember the smell. I am a good cook, but I am not awash in the teachings bestowed range-side in a Port-of-Spain kitchen. This makes me a little nervous.

I use the NAPS girls instructions as a jumping off point. The herbs in my possession are a little less than perfect with the passage of time in the crisper drawer but they are fine. The grocery did not have fresh thyme and the herb garden here is still in the planning stages. Before me on the counter I have a huge bunch of parsley, an equally large chunk of a row of cilantro, a clam-shell box of chives (the worst for the wear of the lot), a head of garlic, three limes, a bottle of vinegar and some dried (I know, cooks of a Trini persuasion–or any, persuasion for that matter– look away now) thyme. I get out the mezzaluna and its board and start murdering the herbs. All of the them and the diced up garlic, too, go for a spin in the food processor with some white wine vinegar, the juice of two of the limes and a little bit of water. The kitchen smells suspiciously of that fruit juice bottle. I carefully scrape as much as humanly possible into a mason jar, secure a lid tightly and place it in the fridge. It looks like a jar of very fresh grass clippings or a wheat grass smoothie, heavy on the wheat grass.

Keifel returns and pronounces it a triumph. He suggests that it hasn’t had time to mellow so it isn’t as good as N’s mom’s. I know he is lying but I appreciate the fib. He adds that to the marinating chicken, burns some sugar in oil and browns the chicken, adding canned black-eyed peas (’cause you can’t get canned pigeon peas at Whole Foods) and lets that stew. We discovered early on that cooking the rice and peas together made for mushy peas (and not in that cute English way) and hard bullets of rice. Rice was made separately with some coconut milk and a little ginger. Together they were amazing. And I get to eat it for lunch tomorrow, too.

sexy halloween cookies

I love Halloween will all the glee and exuberance of a young, sugared-up child. It is both a time to be goofy and slip into some other persona. One that is perhaps sexier than you (why so many naughty nurses?), uglier than you, bolder than you or just ballsy-er than you. On Halloween, for a few hours, you can be anything. Halloween’s roots go so much deeper though. Ancient cultures believed that the veil between the worlds of the living and dead was most easily pierced on this night. Some believed we needed to protect ourselves from the viscous and evil and came up with all sorts of ways to disguise themselves and protect their livelihoods. Others believed it was a time to celebrate those loved ones who had crossed over into the world of the dead. They decorated the graves, had parades and made foods the dead would appreciate from their time here and special ones just for this day. I choose the latter as my own ancestry for why this holiday is as meaningful as it is fun.

On the meaningful side I will create an ancestor alter to those beloved travellers in the next world and set out offerings for hungry ghosts who may not have anyone to celebrate their lives. On the fun side, I will dress up (someone much ballsy-ier than me, I think) and pass out candy to those children whose parents haven’t been brainwashed into avoiding the trick-or-treating. I also made cookies. Small offerings to those I am lucky to know.

If you would like to make your own glitteringly spooky creations, here’s what I did.

Shortbread Sugar Cookie Dough:

The best thing about this dough is it doesn’t rise very much at all, so you get a pretty flat surface to work with on the decorating end.

5 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups fine granulated sugar (I use fine evaporated cane juice)
1 pound (four sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature and soft
a pinch of salt
flavoring of your choice (optional), 1 teaspoon vanilla, zest of 1 lemon (orange or lime works, too), or a mix of spices (cardamom is nice for a mystery note)

Sift flour and sugar together into a large bowl. Work in the butter. I found that kneading it in by hand is really the only effective way to get the job done (take off your rings, though, sugar cookie dough in stone settings is hard to get out). Continue to knead until the dough cracks. This seems weird, to knead cookie dough, but skipping this step will make your cookie too tender to hold up to decorating and transporting. Roll anywhere between 1/3 to 1/2.” Bake on parchment lined cookie sheets at 325° until golden brown around the edges. Undercooking them makes them crumbly and not good for transporting. Decorate with royal icing (the Joy of Cooking one with powdered egg whites is great).

Depending on the size of your cutters this will make anywhere from 3 dozen to 100 cookies.

First gather all your cutters:
cookie cutters

Then all the crazily colored pastes and sugars:
paste & sugars

Roll out the dough and place on trays to bake:
rolled dough

On the trays

Let them cool their heels as you can’t slap icing on hot cookies:
cooling cookies

Decorate at will:
yay cookies!

The European tour class is going like a house afire though my numbers have dwindled, unfortunately that means my budget has as well. You can imagine the pouty chef here as you choose. Still, it is fun, though more work with the brain-twisty, food-budget maneuvering. We were in Russia, Belarus, Georgia and the Ukraine last week. The menu is marked to help decipher which dish is from where.

A Western Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and Georgian Menu

Yaitsa po-minsk
Beet puree
Byefstroganov
Kartoshka po-moskovsky
Lokshen kugel

Yaitsa po-minsk
Eggs Minsk – Belarus

10 hard-boiled eggs
1/3 cup soft butter
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons paprika
salt and black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons bread crumbs
3 tablespoons grated cheese
anchovy filets, soaked and halved

Peel the eggs and cut each in half, carefully preserving the white to be stuffed. Remove the yolks and set the whites aside on a tray or plate. Place the yolks in medium-sized mixing bowl and add the butter, mayonnaise, cream, herbs and paprika. Mix and then taste for seasoning, adding the salt and pepper according to your personal taste.

Chop four of the egg whites very finely and fold them into the yolk mixture. Fill the remaining whites with the yolk mixture, mounding the mixture attractively.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix the bread crumbs and cheese together. Lay the anchovies in a crisscross across the yolk mixture on each egg half and sprinkle with the crumb and cheese mixture. Brown for ten minutes in the oven and serve hot.

Beet Puree – Georgia

1 pound raw beets
2-3 cloves of garlic
½ cup shelled walnuts
½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon ground coriander
3 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425°F and wrap the beets in foil making a lose parcel so air can circulate but seal the edges well so stem can build up in packet and soften the beets. Roast the beets until soft, this can take up to 2 hours depending on the beets. Check after an hour to see where they are on the road to tenderness. Carefully open the packet and pierce with the tip of a sharp paring knife. There should be little to no resistance. Allow the beets to cool completely in their parcel before you proceed to the next step.

Peel and chop the garlic and add to a food processor and pulse to mince. Add the walnuts and salt and pepper and process again until everything is a fairly fine rubble but not pasty. Peel and roughly chop the beets (wearing gloved to avoid being dyed beet purple) and add the chopped beats to the processor with the herbs and the ground coriander. Continue processing until you have a fine paste. Add the red wine vinegar, pulse to mix and taste. You may need more vinegar if the beets are very sweet. You want something that approaches a relish with a balance of sweet and sour. Decant the puree to a glass bowl (to avoid pinking any plastic containers, but avoid metal because of the vinegar) and refrigerate for at least to hours up to overnight to allow all the flavors to marry.

Kartoshka po-moskovsky
Moscow Potatoes – Russia

2 ¼ pounds medium-sized potatoes
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 small onion, very finely chopped
5 tablespoon sour cream
salt, to taste
2 oz. red caviar (salmon roe) (we used yellow North American lumpfish roe)

Peel the potatoes, though if you have well-washed new potatoes you can leave the skins on. Bake in the oven at 350°F until they are almost soft. While the potatoes are baking, sauté the onions in a small amount of additional butter until meltingly soft. Set aside. When the potatoes are ready, cut a “lid” off the top of each potato and hollow out the centers using a melonballer or small teaspoon. Mash the lids and centers with the melted butter, the sautéed onions and the sour cream. Season the mashed potatoes to your taste with salt and pepper. Place the mashed potatoes in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and fill the potatoes hollowed out potatoes mounding the filling just slightly. Place the filled potatoes shoulder to shoulder in a baking dish and place under a hot broiler just until the ridges of the mashed filling begins to brown. Remove the potatoes from the oven, sprinkle with the caviar and serve immediately.

Byefstroganov
Beef stroganoff – Russia

1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and black pepper to taste
2 pounds of beef filet (or other tender cut), cut across the grain into thin slices
1 pound mushrooms
1 pound of onions
16 ounces of sour cream (full fat, to avoid splitting the cream)

Mix the mustard, sugar, a pinch each of salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon of water together into a thick paste and set aside. Give the mushrooms a good rinse and slice them about ¼” thick. Peel and julienne the onion into ¼ inch strips. In a skillet large enough to hold all the final ingredients, heat enough oil to just cover the bottom of the pan and sear the strips of beef in batches, setting aside on a clean plate.

After the beef has all been seared, add a small amount of additional oil and brown the onions and mushrooms, cover them and cook gently for about twenty minutes. Uncover and allow any accumulated liquid to evaporate. Add the meat back to the pan with the mushroom and onion mixture. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and add the mustard mixture. Cook until mustard mixture has coated all the ingredients in the pan and seems to have slightly thickened. Turn the heat to a bare simmer and add the sour cream. Stir gently until the cream has warmed through. Do not allow the mixture to boil or the cream will break and become grainy. If this happens the stroganov will still taste wonderful, it just won’t be quite as attractive. Serve immediately with hot, buttered egg noodles or boiled potatoes.

Lokshen kugel
Noodle bake – Jewish Ukrainian

Generous 1 pound of ribbon noodles made with egg
Salt to taste
4 eggs
7 tablespoons of sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons honey
7 tablespoons butter
1 ¼ cups raisins, soaked in hot water for 15-30 minutes
1 cup walnuts or almonds, roughly chopped
butter for the baking dish

Boil the noodles in lightly salted water according to the package directions. Drain them and rinse under warm water. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and the softened butter. Mix well. Fold the noodles into the egg mixture with the raisins and walnuts. Place in a greased ovenproof dish and bake in a 350°F oven for 45-60 minutes. Can be served either warm or cold according to personal preference.

Variation: The bake tastes even better (I know it’s hard to believe) with a finely chopped cooking apple added to the mixture with the raisins and nuts.

January Goings On

victoria  —  January 20, 2008 — 3 Comments

January has already been a busy month. My cooking classes started in Murfreesboro. We are doing a culinary tour of Europe and it has been a blast to prepare menus and hang out with the new crop of home cooks looking for some entertainment and new ideas. We started in Sweden, land of my foremothers, with a perfect cold weather menu. We were in Denmark last week with a revised vision of my International Class final project menu. I am doing all the cooking in about 2 and a half hours, so I couldn’t be quite as ambitious.

I also helped host a couples baby shower for CSG and the Carpenter. Their bouncing baby boy is due on Valentine’s day and Ms. Te, CSG’s sister, another friend of CSG’s and his wife and I wanted to do something for them before CSG got too close to her due date. We had planned an English tea for a Sunday afternoon. The party was in Columbia (45 minutes to an hour out of Nashville) at the friend and wife’s lovely 110-year-old home that they have completely renovated and decorated. Ms. Te and CSG’s sister helped get all the food set up. Ms. Te frosted and decorated the cake and CSG’s sis put the fruit tray together and made duck punch (rubber duckies afloat on Sprite and blue raspberry punch). I have to admit that I am more than dubious of blue food, but it did look cute and aside from that vaguely chemical taste of fake raspberry flavor, it would be a slightly sweet fun punch for kids’ parties too. I think it might be nicer with the blue Jones Soda or something not so sickly sweet as the Blue Hawaiian-style fruit punch.

Baby Shower spread
Who really needs an excuse for currant scones and clotted cream?

My classes at the community college have started as well. That’s been a challenge. Both my classes are online, distance learning courses. One of them I taught as a ground class last semester and the other is a new course for me. The material is fairly straight forward but there have been issues with content management and deployment. That is perhaps the most optimistic way to phrase it. Things seem to being ironing themselves out for the most part and I seem to be fielding fewer phone calls and emails from students who are having trouble actually getting to the content itself. That is a happy thing.

Last Thursday I also had the opportunity to see Peter Reinhart speak and make bread at the Viking Store in Franklin. It was very inspiring in many ways. I am determined now to try to make vollkornbrot, 100% whole grain rye bread. I love those dark, dense middle and eastern European breads. We had the opportunity to head home with a whole wheat and a rye starter but I think the cold in the house has kept them from doing what they are supposed to do. I’m going to give them a stir today and try to feed them tomorrow. Reinhart was mostly as I imagined. I bought his Sacramental Magic in a Small Town Cafe book back in college and was greatly inspired by the work Reinhart and his wife Susan were doing. Along with Edward Espe Brown’s Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings, I was inspired to cook for others. I’ve always liked cooking, the space it offers for meditation. It really is difficult to be distracted with minutiae when you have a knife in your hand dicing peppers for hours at a time or even the seemingly tedious act of babysitting something that needs to be stirred continually until finished. I, not so secretly, love those things and do my best deep thinking doing prep work and handwashing dishes. Both books are infinitely worth the price of admission if you are at all interested in the deeper meaning of work in the culinary industry. They are both, in essence, about really feeding people in a way that soothes physical as well as spiritual hunger. As one is Eastern Orthodox and one is Buddhist, I don’t think you need to subscribe to a particular theology (or theology at all necessarily) to gain from their philosophies.

In that vein, I am cooking dinner for 6 people who bought a North African feast dinner I donated to the silent auction at our UU church. I haven’t met any of them yet, so it should be an interesting evening and, I am hopeful, an opportunity to make some new friends. My mom will also be here this week so I may get thrown out of my own kitchen (happily) a little bit. I am hoping to entice her to make chicken and dumplings before she goes. I have tried and tried to make them like she does and they just aren’t as good. But, I suppose that is the order of things.

If you are interested in having your very own Swedish night at home, here is our menu and recipes from class. The Danish class was very similar to the one I posted during culinary school. Just do a search in the handy box above for Denmark.

A Swedish Menu

Pickled Cucumbers
Janson’s Temptation
Äppel Fläsk
Köttbullar

Cardamom Coffee Cake

Pickled Cucumbers

½ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons minced dill or parsley
2 medium cucumbers (or one English cucumber)

Combine all the ingredients, except the cucumbers. Wash and dry the cucumbers but do not peel them (it’s therefore important to try to buy unwaxed cucumbers, if possible. The English ones in plastic wrap are nice for this). Slice the cucumbers as thinly as possible – they should almost be transparent. A mandolin or other type of slicer can be helpful for this step. Place the very skinny cuke slices in a non-reactive dish, glass is best, and pour the dressing over and refrigerate for at least three hours before serving. It is traditional to serve the pickles in the dressing but they are a little more refined drained. Also, a safety note: these are not preserved and will only keep a few days in the fridge, but as a new batch is easily made and there are rarely leftovers, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Janson’s Temptation
Serves 4-6

This is not an everyday dish, but something for the smörgåsbord or a holiday meal.

6 medium baking potatoes
10 anchovies in brine
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2-4 tablespoons butter
generous 1 cup of heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325°F and lightly butter a 8 x 8” baking dish, preferably something attractive enough to go to the table. Peel the potatoes and cut into thin strips, similar as to how you would cut them up for fries. Soak the potato strips in cold water for about 30 minutes to help remove some of the starch. This will make the potatoes crispier. Meanwhile, cut the anchovies in half and reserve the brine. Fry the onions gently in half the butter until golden brown.

Drain the potatoes and dry with paper towels or a clean dish towel. Layer the potatoes with the anchovies and onions, beginning and ending with the potatoes. Pour over half the cream over and dot with the remaining butter. Drizzle over about 4 tablespoons of the anchovy brine. Bake for 25 minutes. Pour over the remaining cream and the remaining anchovy brine up to a tablespoon, then bake for another 20 minutes. This is traditionally served with ice cold beer to cut some of the richness.

Äppel Fläsk
Smoked bacon with onions and apple rings
Serves 4

2 to 4 tablespoons butter
1 pound Canadian bacon
2 large red, tart cooking apples, unpeeled, cored and cut into ½” rings
2 large onions, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In a heavy, preferably cast-iron, 10 or 12” skillet, melt a tablespoon of butter and fry the bacon until lightly browned. Remove from the skillet and set aside on paper towels to drain. Sauté the onions in the butter remaining in the pan until soft and translucent. Add the apple rings to the pan and cover. Simmer over a low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan at intervals to prevent the apples from sticking.

When the apple rings are sufficiently cooked (they should offer little to no resistance when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife), return the drained bacon to the skillet. Cover the pan and simmer an additional three to five minutes to warm the bacon through. Grind pepper liberally over the contents of the pan and serve immediately. Traditionally this dish is served right from the pan, so a cast iron pan is especially nice. This is a great lunch dish or an easy weeknight supper with a crisp green salad.

Köttbullar
Swedish Meatballs
Serves 4-6

There are as many recipes for meatballs as there are cooks so feel free to improvise as you feel. Make them small for a starter or buffet and larger if for an entrée.

2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
½ to 2/3 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup light cream or half and half
¾ pound ground beef (round steak is a good choice)
¼ pound veal
¼ pound ground lean pork
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/3 cup butter
¼ cup boiling water

Heat the 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan large enough to later cook the meatballs in (it’s nicer not to half to wash all the pans). When the butter has melted and the foam has subsided, add the onion and sauté until soft and golden. Meanwhile, soak the breadcrumbs in the cream. Combine the onion, breadcrumbs and cream, meats, salt, pepper and cloves and blend thoroughly but with a light hand. Overworking the meat mixture will result in tough meatballs with an unpleasant chew to them. Shape the mixture into small, evenly-sized meatballs, wetting your hands as necessary to prevent the meat mixture from sticking (ladies and gents, I also recommend taking off your rings for this as well). Heat the remaining butter and again wait for the foam to subside. Add the meatballs and sauté until browned on all sides, shaking the pan to turn the meatballs and keep them from sticking. When they are well browned, add the boiling water and simmer over the lowest possible heat for five minutes. This helps to insure that the meatballs cook all the way through. If serving as an entrée, make a cream gravy in which to serve the meatballs, otherwise set them out with toothpicks for a buffet.

Swedish Cardamom Coffee Cake

1 ¼ cups milk
1 package (scant tablespoon) dry yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
¾ cup sugar
6 ¼ cups sifted flour
½ cup room temperature butter
¼ teaspoon salt
3 egg yolks
2 to 3 teaspoons ground cardamom

For the topping:
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup chopped nuts
Milk

Put the milk in a small saucepan and heat it just until small bubbles appear around the edge of the pan (this is called scalding the milk). Remove from the heat and allow to cool to lukewarm. Dissolve the yeast in ¼ cup of lukewarm water and allow to proof for five minutes or until bubbly. Add the cooled milk with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Beat in 3 cups of the flour. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in bulk or about 1 to 1 ½ hours. After the rise, add the butter, remaining sugar, salt, egg yolks, cardamom and 3 cups of flour. Reserve the ¼ cup of flour for kneading the dough.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead with floured hands until smooth and elastic. Place in a buttered bowl and turn to butter all sides of the dough. Cover and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, again about an hour to an hour and a half. Divide the dough in half to make two cakes. Divide each half into 3 equal portions and roll each of those portions into 16” long snakes. Pinch the three strips together and braid then pinch the braided end together. Place cakes on an ungreased baking sheet. Let the cakes rise until doubled in bulk or about 45 minutes. Set the oven to 375°F about 20 minutes before the braids finish their rise and make the topping. Combine the cinnamon, sugar and chopped nuts and set aside. Brush the braids with milk, gently, and sprinkle over the topping. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely and serve with milky coffee.