Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy Sourdough

Hurricane Sandy gave us a 4-day weekend and we're making the most of it.****[see postscript]

While I should be reading, I am cooking up a storm to match the one outside.

Here's a new spin on one of my favorites, Rich People's Bread. I adapted this staple by adding 1/2 cup of pumpkin, and a little bit of nutmeg & cinnamon. I substituted the cranberries/raisins that I usually use with chopped dates. Delicious right out of the oven with some butter.

Should I name the recipe Sandy Sourdough?

****I wrote this blog on October 29th--well before the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy became real--for my family and my city. While my family made it through with only property damage (some really severe), a lot of people lost their lives. The storm plunged the city into darkness and water, and the displacement has been profound. Some communities were nearly decimated. Red Hook's Fairway--the place where I get many of the ingredients I use in recipes recorded in this blog--suffered catastrophic damage. Let this be a lesson: do not underestimate or joke around with Mother Nature. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Spicy Autumn Chutney

Chutney is my new favorite thing. I recently replicated a salad I had at an Albany restaurant, the secret ingredient was spicy apple chutney. I described the salad in a previous blog post, but didn't yet tell you how to make the chutney.

Now's the time to stock up on this stuff, right at the end of the apple season. I cut some apples for a tart, saving the best and most beautiful slices for the tart and discarding the uglier pieces for this chutney. The last time I made it, it was a little too hot. This time, I think I could have used just a speck more jalapeno. It'll be great though with greens and goat cheese.

Spicy Apple Ginger Chutney

4 cups of chopped apple
1 tbsp diced ginger
3 garlic cloves, diced
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pickling spices

Saute the ginger, garlic, onion, and jalapeno in a deep sauce pan. Once they are carmelized, add the apple and stir to coat and warm. Add the vinegar, brown sugar, raisins, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and pickling spices and stir often over a medium flame. The mixture is finished cooking when most of the liquid is evaporated and the apples are soft and nicely mushed with the raisins.

Spoon in to clean canning jars and seal tightly. If your lids pop, you can keep this at room temperature for quite some time. If they don't, refrigerate and use within three weeks. You can eat the chutney right away, but I find that the flavors deepen after a few days.

I've heard that spicy apple chutney is great with a pulled pork sandwich, too, and that's the next destination for this batch.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pearl Couscous for an Autumn Date

I created this recipe for a fall dinner with friends of Tilapia and a kale-goat cheese-chutney salad recipe, which I blogged about here

All of the ingredients in this dish are underrated. Together, the flavors are fantastic. And it's totally easy to make as well. You can substitute just about any dried fruits, nuts, vegetables, and liquids in this recipe for what I've chosen.

Pearl Couscous with Dates, Walnuts, and Preserved Lemon

1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil, or rice bran oil
1 ¼ cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 tablespoons finely chopped dates 
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts 
1 tablespoon diced preserved lemon
½ teaspoon salt 
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup pearl couscous

Sautee the onion, garlic, and celery in oil in a deep and wide sauce pan. Add couscous and season with salt, pepper & cumin. Toast for a minute or so, and then add vegetable broth & water, which will sputter. Quickly add dates, walnuts, lemon and give it a quick stir. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and cover. Resist the urge to stir, or you'll make the dish sticky. Once the liquid is evaporated, test the couscous and make sure it's cooked. Do not overcook or the couscous will be mushy and/or burned at the bottom of the plan. Fluff with a fork and serve. You can garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Burning Hands Relish

My hands were burning like hell three years ago. I had just finished making 200 little jars of hot pepper relish as wedding favors. I spent that Saturday night at my BFF's house with both hands in big containers of yogurt while drinking red wine from a straw and watching Saturday Night Live.

Two blunders mark that experience: First of all, I never wrote down the recipe I used. And second, I didn't wear gloves while cutting hot peppers.

I'm recording the recipe as best I can this time, having improvised quite a bit from a recipe found in The Complete Book of Pickles & Relishes, originally published in 1965 by Leonard Louis Levinson. This book, which I acquired by marriage from my husband who is a trained chef, is my basic pickle-, relish-, and chutney-making bible.

During a visit to the Red Hook Added Value Community Farm, I lamented that I hadn't made relish for a long time. My husband encouraged me to take some time this weekend to make some, and so we picked up an assortment of late-summer produce: purple and green tomatillos, red, purple, and green bell peppers, and assorted, colorful hot peppers. Making relish is a snap--you just have to remember the damage these hot pepper can do to your nose, your eyes, and your hands. I guess I didn't learn my lesson from the last time.

Hot Pepper & Celery Pickle Relish

6 tomatillos
6 bell peppers
6-12 assorted hot peppers, depending on your taste and their size
1 large onion
2 stalks celery
2 cups cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons pickling or canning salt
8 small jars

Chop the tomatillos, onions, celery, and peppers roughly and then put in a food processor. Chop just enough so the relish is fine, but not a paste. Combine in a pot on the stove with vinegar, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil. Strain the relish from the liquid, reserving the liquid. Spoon relish into clean jars and fill with reserved liquid to the consistency you like. Screw on lids tightly and set aside until they pop. Distribute jars to close friends and advise them that the relish is good on such things as scrambled eggs, fish, hot dogs, and kielbasa.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Late Summer Treasure

I travel to Albany, New York for my job. A lot. Most people groan when they hear that, and offer their sympathy. But I adapt to my surroundings, and I love going to Albany.

In my opinion, the Albany food co-op is the city's greatest hidden treasure. I've never seen anything like it. If you read this blog, you know I cook a lot. And I use ingredients that you don't find in your everyday supermarket. I can always find exactly what I need at the Albany food co-op, and more. The people are friendly, the prices are great, their bulk section is amazing (I never knew there were so many different kinds of flour!), and they even have raw milk.

Albany's restaurants are also pretty amazing. New World Bistro Bar, a 10-minute drive from the capitol building and a place where you can often see Albany powerbrokers brokering power over a drink and a meal, is my favorite.

The menu is seasonal, and the food creative. It's warm and comfortable, and the service has always been friendly and attentive. They have a great wine list, except I'm always disappointed with their selection of local New York wines.

Farmer's Market Salad was on the menu that last time I visited, and I was blown away. I don't know if it was the menu description of the dish, or the server's recommendation, but I'm glad I chose it. I knew I had to make it at home. When I returned to Brooklyn, I had the opportunity to re-create the salad for friends who came over for dinner. I served it as the second course following pumpkin soup, and before tilapia over date-nut couscous. It was a hit.

New World Bistro Late Summer Farmer's Market Salad

Bunch of kale
Bunch of escarole
2 tbsp Apple chutney
1 tbsp Curried Cashews
2 tbsp Curried vinaigrette
3 oz goat cheese

Roughly chop the kale and escarole after washing thoroughly. Both greens retain a lot of sand. Toss the lettuce and chutney with the curried vinaigrette until the leaves are lightly coated. Tip: Add the vinaigrette gradually to taste instead of adding all 2 tbsp immediately. You may want to reserve some for the table. Toss in pieces of goat cheese and curried cashews. Arrange on a plate displaying all ingredients. Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ginger Rehab

You know you're cooked when you get that little tickle in your throat. Too late for the echinacea, too late for the Vitamin C. You just gotta stock up on the tea & cough drops and hope your schedule allows for a day or more resting at home. Mine didn't this time around. I had a 3-day retreat that I'd planned for my department in Albany, New York and a big party at home that Saturday night--neither of which I could cancel. Unfortunate, because in my experience, if you try to work through sickness with medication (my preferred coping meds are a steady stream of DayQuil and NyQuil), you're just staving off symptoms and your cold lasts longer. And that is, indeed, what happened.

What made this cold a tiny bit more bearable was the fresh ginger I picked up at the Albany food co-op. I'd never seen it before, and the co-op workers told me they wouldn't have it for long. I bought enough to do three things: make some ginger-tofu stir fry, stick one of the little root ends in water to see if it would grow, and cut little slivers into throat-coat tea all week. Delicious.