Thursday, December 31, 2009

Peace in the new year


A message for the New Year.  This inscription is part of a monument marking the former site of the Vatican Pavilion from the 1964 Worlds Fair in Flushing Meadow Park

This has been an especially hectic and personal holiday season for both Amanda and me. We are really looking forward to getting back to our tri-weekly posts after the New Year (and decade!) begins. Please accept the following which is a post I wrote last year for another blog. The black eye pea salsa recipe is one of my favorites and is very holiday appropriate.
Sometimes my daughter's compulsion to play with her food results in a couscous message I can get behind.

Best wishes to everyone for the new year!

From the blog: 

Originally Published: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2008


I am thinking about black-eyed peas, a traditional Southern dish served on New years day to represent good luck. On the cusp of a new era we can use all the luck available, so I hail the tiny pea as a perfect party food for the season.

Cheap and easy to cook, they come dried, frozen or canned. I have tried all three varieties with happy results. My black eyed pea salsa served as a dip with pita chips was a big hit at an election night party I attended with friends. Lots of red onions, minced jalapeno and garlic and a good glug of sharp red wine vinegar bring this dish together. Let it sit for a while so the flavors develop. I threw in a large handful of garden mint, the last of the summer crop harvested before the frost sets in. Cilantro, parsley and chervil are all good substitutes.

With any left over peas I made a simple soup, tossing them into chicken stock and adding chopped kale and cooked macaroni, seasoned to taste. Adding a large spoonful of parmesan cheese doesn’t hurt. This makes a perfect hardy lunch as the weather cools.

Black-eyed peas are particularly cute with their cream colored skin and little button of black. They have a deep rich nutty flavor that can stand up to aggressive seasoning. They are inexpensive and plentiful, so enjoy this humble bearer of good fortune.

Black-eyed pea salsa

1.5 cups dried Black-eyed peas, picked over (or 2 cups canned peas rinsed and drained or 2 cups defrosted frozen peas)
2 quarts water
1 T red wine vinegar
1 t salt
1 t sugar
1 garlic clove finely minced
zest of a lime (optional)
.5 cup red onion, small dice
1 jalapeno pepper, finely minced
.5 cup fresh chopped herbs (parsley, mint, cilantro, chervil, chives or any combination of these)

Rinse dried peas and add to sauce pan with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer tightly covered for about 40 minutes or until peas are very tender.
Drain and set aside.

In a mixing bowl combine the vinegar, salt, sugar and garlic wisking to blend. Add in the cooked peas, the onion, jalapeno and herbs. Toss to combine and taste for seasoning. Add the lime zest if you prefer a more zingy bright flavor. Let salsa sit for an hour to allow the flavor to develop. Salas will keep in the fridge for up to four days. Serve with pita chips.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

the morning after

Christmas was truly wonderful. I had eleven teenagers, one baby and 14 adults in my little house in Queens for dinner.
Due to necessity we had to have two seatings. This was the first seating, the "kids" table. They all helped get the table ready and kept me entertained all evening.

This was me. I never stopped moving long enough for any one to get a picture of me in focus.

This was the menu that I wrote on the wall. Can you make out at the bottom Tangerine Sorbet with Star Anise? That was an inspired combo I was particularly proud of. Even my Brother-in-law the sous chef at Craft Steak was impressed.  Everything on the menu tasted great. The Brownie Pudding was contributed by my sister-in-law and it was SICK good.

So here is what we drank:

Petrale. Aglianico 2006. This was a gift.

This one was called Carinu. I picked up at a wine tasting in Chelsea Market for about $16.99. Both wines were really nice. The Carinu in particular had a lot of character and complexity. Amanda, do you know them? What do you think?

I had spent a full day cooking the day before and then just heated everything in the oven right before serving. With the vegetables I blanched them ahead of time, then made some seasoned olive oil: lemon and shallots for the green beans and garlic and red pepper flakes for the broccoli rabe. Before serving I heated the oils in skillets and quickly sauteed the vegetables in the hot oil till they were warmed through.

While I was doing all this cooking I still had to eat! I made a treat for myself and sauteed some broccoli, olives, chickpeas and sun-dried tomatoes in some olive oil and garlic.

I made some spaghetti and tossed it all together with a splash of white wine and a handful of grated Romano cheese. Delish!

My family's holiday was a warm and happy event. We have so much to be grateful for. Access to plentiful and fresh food is an incredible blessing that I try never to take for granted.

Note to Amanda: Best wishes to get well soon! xoxo d

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

what a girl wants

Getting gifts for foodie friends is soooooooo easy, ridiculously easy. We like everything. Everything edible. Even bad edible things are a treat because we would never buy them ourselves. Like a big bag of those new dark chocolate M&Ms for example. Foodies like food. What can I say?
Getting out the door to go gift shopping was a little challenging this weekend.

For good edible things how about some expensive olive oil? I like to go to Fairways olive oil tasting bar and taste ALL the oils and will occasionally buy one for myself as a treat. My latest favorite is a Spanish oil with lots of natural spice. I favor very assertive oils and use them on my salads and to garnish a dish. If I am heating the oil in cooking I will use the everyday supermarket extra virgin olive oil. But for raw oil I want tons of flavor.
These are a few of my favorite things. I am running low.

The spicy Spanish oil I am currently in love with is called ANIGUALA and the last time I went to Fairways in Red Hook, Brooklyn they didn't have any left!! Whah! I also have in my cupboard the last of another lovely bottle of Spanish oil, also cold extract extra virgin, called Mas Portell Arbequina. This one is much smoother, but with lots of body and character. Olive oil ALWAYS makes a great gift because you use it up and then NEED MORE!

There are not too many cookbooks this year that I am jonesing for as it turns out. I looked at a copy of Nigella Lawson's Nigella Christmas and it was very appealing. I wouldn't buy it for myself but I would love it as a gift. Nigella is hilarious and cool and the pictures in the book are great. She is such a homey cool mom type that I think Christmas would really be her thing so I suspect that the recipes in this book are pretty great. I wanted to cook some of the pictures as I leafed through it.
Not to get all food networky on you, but Jamie Oliver's book The Ministry of Food also looks great. It is his passionate attempt to introduce healthy cooking on a broad scale. Oliver is genuinely concerned with improving the food culture in Britain and now in the United States and he is trying to do something about it. All my respects to him in this monumental effort.
600 Curries by Raghavan Iyer is the book I am most excited about. It is right up my alley and the title says it all. I have not come across a copy yet but the reviews are very positive.
A few of my favorite cook books from last Christmas. Kylie Kwong is a super hip Australian chick who owns a restaurant in Sydney, but spends a lot of time in Hong Kong. Her books are fantastic for technique. 

The other disposable item that a hard core cook goes through like water is tea towels or dish towels if you prefer. I can't have enough of these as they don't last long in my hands. There are so many styles and colors to choose from to help keep a kitchen bound person happy and dry. Too many is not enough.
My current collection of dish towels. I pick them up wherever I go, in airports when I travel as a souvenir, in dollar stores on Queens Boulevard, and I am always looking for vintage ones in flea markets.

Of course nothing warms the heart of a foodie more than people eating, so a donation to your local food bank will always be a warmly welcomed gift. Sites like Feeding America offers a food bank locator to find the food bank nearest you.
Sharing a holiday meal with my (very large) family on Friday will bring me joy and the comfort of continuing a tradition with cooking and caring and lots of hugs and laughs. I can't wait to welcome my family into my home, including all my nieces and nephews home from college. It is going to be wonderful!

Best wishes for a happy holiday!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

holiday time!

Ahhhh, the winter holidays in New York City. This is my favorite time of year. New York pulls out all her jewelry and puts out a lavish display, from the tacky to the superfine. AND the city clears out and becomes the hometown again that I grew up in. Not having to travel or go near a crowded airport is another bonus of staying home next week.

There is a neighborhood near me in Queens called Middle Village that is really fun to drive through at dusk to see all the lights on the Archie Bunker style houses complete with moving mechanical reindeer and inflatable Santas on Vespas. In Manhattan yesterday I walked by Bergdorf Goodman's and was mesmerized by their Alice in Wonderland inspired holiday windows. Every year they outdo themselves and this year the details are truly incredible. The Time Warner Center at Columbus circle is dazzling with gigantic stars and glittering purple trees out front. The outdoor craft market across the street on the corner of Central Park is worth a visit too.

I have to admit the festivities on the home-front have gotten off to a slow start this year. I have been cooking for so many parties straight through Thanksgiving that I haven't had a chance to plan my own. Christmas this year will bring 28 family and friends to my dinner table. This is what my mother would have called "a busman's holiday" for me. Which is to say that there will be a lot of work involved! yeah. I usually farm out dessert duty to my sister-in-law who makes a beautiful bouche de noel (a French yule log cake).  I think I will stick my uptown sister on Champagne duty (anything special she should look for this year, Amanda?)
I found these Mandarine oranges at Fairways to put in my salad.  I was looking for kumquats, but these were a happy alternative.

As for the menu, it has to be simple but special. It won't be vegetarian for this crowd, but there will be plenty for everyone's preferences (I hope). What is it you may ask. Well, I don't know yet, but I will definitely include my favorite salad of the season which is colorful and festive and easy to make for a crowd. I prepare all the different ingredients ahead of time (even the day before) and then assemble right before serving. The salad consists of mixed greens, chopped radicchio, sliced tangerines or kumquats, pomegranate seeds and sliced radishes.
My daughter loves the chore of removing the seeds from the skin of a pomegranate. Hey, I'll take the help!

The julienne does not have to be perfect. Daikon radish would work in this recipe too but I like the like red tips on these radishes.

This combination seems to be a winner. The sweetness of the fruits really plays well against the bite of the radish and radicchio. The colors are just perfect and the texture is great; crunchy and juicy- all in one little salad. I will dress the greens with the tangerine and walnut oil vinaigrette recipe from a few posts ago. To serve, I toss the salad greens and radicchio with the vinaigrette then sprinkle the rest of the ingredients on top. So pretty!

Mixed Greens with Citrus, Radish, Radicchio and Pomegranate Seeds
1 lb mixed greens
1/2 a small head of radicchio, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 cup sliced kumquats or sliced tangerines
10 radishes sliced or julienned
1 pomegranate seeded

Toss salad greens and radicchio with vinaigrette. Top with the remaining ingredients.
serves eight

Tangerine & Walnut Oil Vinaigrette
Juice of 1 Tangerine (my tangerine yielded 1 Tbs of juice, not much LOL!)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teas. salt
1 teas. freshly ground pepper
3 TBs Sherry Vinegar
1/4 cup walnut oil

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl except the walnut oil. Mix well with a whisk. Slowly drizzle in the walnut oil as you continue to whisk until well blended. Toss vinaigrette with the salad and serve.

Beautiful salad, Deb! Your comments make me miss my NYC days! Don't get me wrong, I love the "burbs" this time of year. But the Big Apple certainly holds a special place in my heart! On Thursday, the Westwood, NJ firetrucks came down my street, blasting Christmas music, with Santa riding on top. The firemen run alongside the trucks, giving candy to all of the children patiently (or not so much) awaiting this yearly ritual. It's so festive and wonderful, I wouldn't miss it for anything!

This time of year I like to take advantage of Italy's answer to Champagne - Prosecco. It's delicious and sparkly  - and much more affordable than Champagne. Prosecco is made predominantly from Prosecco grapes, in the northern region of  Veneto. It's elegant, refreshing, and simply put - delicious. Typically, this delightful sparkler has citrus notes, as well as flavors of almond, honey, and melon. It is crisp and lively, and suits all festive occasions. (I drink it all summer long as well...)

Prosecco is my sparkler of choice for all family gatherings and celebrations. Ranging from $9.99 to $17.99 a bottle, this is the perfect alternative to Champagne - especially for larger get-togethers. My family loves it. Rose Prosecco is also wonderful. It makes a perfect host/hostess gift as well. For something different, add a little peach nectar to make a belini. Yummy! Look to Riondo, Bisol, and Sorelle for some outstanding examples of this affordable gem.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

comfort and soy

As the days get shorter our thoughts turn to comfort. Comfort food, of course. Now Amanda, I apologize right up front, I'm not talking diet food. Oh no. I am thinking about peanut sauce, gooey and rich and poured over noodles. Peanut sauce takes on all types of shapes and flavors in my kitchen. I never make it the same way twice. Rather, I proceed from a basic plan and improvise as I go. My peanut sauce is an Asian melting pot with my gratitude and apologies to all.

Tonight the peanut sauce was tossed over noodles with some steamed broccoli and some pan fried firm tofu. I like to get the tofu really golden and crispy.
It's about half way there.

I then add to the noodles tons of chopped scallions and julienned cucumber. I love the mixture of all the  crunchy textures glued together with that non-dietetic peanut sauce. The sauce itself usually has ginger, garlic, lime and or lemon juice, jalapeno, sugar, coconut milk and soy sauce. I just throw it all in a pot and let it melt down a bit and start tasting it to adjust the flavor. Oh yeah, and I use Skippy extra chunky peanut butter. I can hear you all groaning. I'm sorry. It tastes really good. Amanda, just skip down to the next paragraph about the kale salad. Ok, I would love to hear anyone's peanut sauce recipe. I tried Daniel Boulud's version and IT WAS NOT GOOD. It really wasn't and he is GREAT. The Malaysian Restaurant Penang on Queens Boulevard makes an AMAZING  peanut sauce that I just love but am too shy to ask for the recipe because if they said no I would probably cry.
It's a white girl from Manhattan's version of peanut sauce over noodles. Yeah that's linguine under there. I said I'm sorry.

Anyway, kale salad, what a concept. Amanda told me about a swanky wine tasting dinner she recently attended that served a salad she believed to be finely minced uncooked kale. Really? She said it was fantastic. Huh, worth a try. I picked up a bunch of stunningly colorful red kale today at Whole Foods and thought I would give the salad a shot.

When you finely mince beef for steak tartar it gets very tender, so perhaps it would work for kale. Perhaps. Kale leaves are particularly tough for a green leafy veg, but if this technique worked, well, how cool? So I tried it, chop chop chop.

I dressed it with white balsamic vinegar and some walnut oil and lots of s & p. And I tasted it. Um, chewy. Really chewy. It didn't taste bad and if you served it to me I would eat it, but I did not get it to the point where I would serve it to you. So I will pursue this concept further and see where it goes.

Peanut Sauce
1 cup of extra chunky peanut butter
3/4 cup of coconut milk
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 inch piece of peeled ginger finely minced
2 scallions finely minced
1 jalapeno finely minced
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs sugar

Put all ingredients in a small pot and cook over low heat for 10 minutes untill all the ingredients are blended. taste to adjust seasoning. Store in fridge for a week. Great with everything!

You had me at "peanut sauce". Admittedly, it doesn't take much to get me salivating. But I am particularly susceptible to any recipe involving peanut butter, be it main course, salad or dessert. I get weak at just the thought of cold sesame noodles from my local Chinese take-out establishment. I can waive the calorie counting for a night for the occasion of trying out your recipe!

Vouvray is the wine that jumps to mind. One of my favorite whites, I sometimes inadvertantly overlook it. Vouvray is a region in France located in the Loire Valley.  Made from 100% Chenin Blanc, the wine is made in a variety of styles, raging in dry, or sec to the slightly sweeter demi-sec, and much sweeter moelleux. There is an occasion for each style! I would enjoy a richer style with this dish, one which has characteristics of honey, figs and nuts. Vouvray pairs very well with stronly flavored dishes, and I think this combination would be beautiful!

The style and acidity of Vouvray is based on the balance of sugar in the wine. Vouvrays have great ageability, especially the moeulleux style. This is a wine, if you have not yet tried, is definitely worth seeking out. With Deb's peanut sauce, I would definitely lean towards an off-dry, or slightly sweet style. The sweetness of the wine is a fine balance to the zip from the jalapeno, and saltiness from the soy sauce.

Deb, I cannot wait to try this one out! Sounds wonderful and right up my alley!

As for the kale salad, it definitely looks like the one I enjoyed the other night! You mentioned the toughness of kale, and that you chopped away - believe it or not, your pieces are still larger than the ones in my salad! The kale I had was chopped so fine, almost like little strands of confetti. It was so shredded, there was no toughness at all. Just a wonderful crunchiness that gave me the idea that it could not have been blanched. Pine nuts added to the crunchiness as well, and plump somethings (like very large raisins, but I don't know what they were) gave the salad a scrumptuous sweetness and chewy texture. Perhaps I should call the restaurant and investigate this a little!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Soup's On

I have a new love. It's rich and complex, soft and elegant. Its beautiful caramel hue is so inviting. It warms my soul. Armagnac. So perfect this time of year. Incredibly wonderful to sip a snifter of this soothing elixir in front of a fireplace on a cold winter's night. Indescribable. I discovered it last week and fell immediately, and hard. I sit now, snifter beside me, reflecting on my night's concoction.

Fine Cooking was always one of my favorite food magazines. This is due to the fact that the writers actually try to teach you something, and not merely provide recipes. They give you step by step guidelines for techniques such as braising, roasting, grilling, etc. They instruct in a way that enables you to create your own recipes, with your own ingredients, following the basic steps. My goal as a novice "cook" was to become confident enough to not have to follow recipes, but rather create them on my own. My husband is a culinary graduate and has always offered me insight on the proper techniques used in the kitchen. When we first met, I did everything all wrong. I didn't think the "steps" to creating a dish were important, as long as the finish product tasted good. I learned quickly how wrong I was. The order in which ingredients are sauteed, how hot the oil must be before frying something, how to tell if something is done cooking not necessarily by the temperature, but by how it feels to the touch - all things a good cook must come to understand, and I learned them well. Through my husband, and of course Fine Cooking, I have learned a lot, and it has made me more skilled in the kitchen.

Which brings me to tonight's recipe - a basic white bean, kale and barley soup, which I created on my own following very simple, basic "soup-making" steps. I'm on a serious quest to lose 10 pounds before my upcoming family vacation to Mexico in January. I wanted to make the healthiest, and most satisfying soup possible. I started out with my aromatics - onion and celery. I also added some sliced carrots. After sauteeing for several minutes in some olive oil, until the onion and celery were translucent and soft, I added some organic, low sodium vegetable broth from Whole Foods. I am trying very hard to cut down on my sodium intake, so I set out to use as little salt as possible. (Admittedly, the soup is a little bland as a result. Feel free to add as much salt as suits you!)

I brought the broth and vegetables to a boil, and added a little over a 1/4 cup of pearl barley and a big sprig of rosemary. I let it simmer for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes until the barley was done. At this point, I added a large amount of kale and 1 can of white beans.

finished product

I have a large appetite and I am trying to cut down on my portion size. The addition of the barley was intended to make this meal a little more satisfying. I also added quite a bit of pepper. As I mentioned, it could definitely use salt, but I will not succumb. When I reheat it everyday for lunch this week, I will add a touch of shredded pecorino romano for extra flavoring. The soup looks beautiful and is very tasty.

But I do have a question for all of you who have more experience than I:  Is there anything I can use in place of salt to make up for its absence?

Healthy White Bean, Barley and Kale Soup
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced on an angle about 1/4" thick
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped celery
64 oz low sodium vegetable broth
2 large sprigs rosemary
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup pearl barley
1 15 oz can white beans
three large handfuls roughly chopped, or hand-torn kale

Basically, follow the directions above. Start by sauteeing the onion, carrots, garlic and celery, until translucent. Add the vegetable broth and rosemary sprigs and bring to a boil. Add barley and simmer about 1/2 hour until barley is done. Add white beans and kale at the end. Let the kale wilt a bit, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

I refridgerate mine and eat it all week. Probably gives me about 6 servings.

Thanks for the great recipe Amanda. Cooks love it when someone else does the cooking for us once in a while! I am sure your family enjoyed the soup. As for the salt, well, there is really no way I can tell you how to make things taste as good without it. Professional cooks rely on salt to enhance flavor and bring a dish together. A small amount of salt can go a long way and unless there is a very specific reason to eliminate it altogether I would add just enough to enhance a dish. I prefer to season things at every stage of cooking and never use salt at the table when I eat. Most professionals consider it a terrible insult to have someone salt their food after it has been served. It implies that the food has not been seasoned correctly. The addition of pecorino romano to your soup will indeed add missing flavor because IT IS SALTY. 
Limit salt, use it judiciously, add lots of herbs and spices to flavor food, eat in moderation.  Amanda, it sounds like you are taking some very smart steps to eat more healthfully and will lose those pounds before your trip. Good luck!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Brightening the Day

One of the pleasures of the season is the emergence of all things citrus. This time of year I really look to citrus fruits to fill an important role in my winter cooking- they must bring the sweetness, the freshness and the brightness to the recipes. Peaches and tomatoes are out for now. Fresh herbs are fast disappearing from my garden as we finally have a real frost going. So it is the citrus family that will carry me through, gulp, till Spring. sigh.

Now I know citrus fruits are not local to me here in Queens, NY, but they were MEANT to travel. They have that nice thick skin, like a fancy suitcase, perfect for a long journey. I just got back from a weekend in Sarasota, Florida where it rained for two days. I went to the farmers market tucked into my rain slicker and the farmers were very happy to see me. Happy to see ANYONE actually, because in Florida the weather is supposed to be perfect and if it is even a little off, people just stay home, so they tell me. It was true that I did not have to wait on line at all at the popular organic produce vendors and I actually got to have some leisurely chats with those farmers. So let it rain, HA!

I bought half a dozen local tangerines that still had leaves attached (I LOVE THAT!!!). They weren't the prettiest color in the world but I have learned that the skin of citrus fruit is NO INDICATION of what is inside and in this case it held true again. The fruit was sweet and juicy and sooooooo fragrant. Where are the pictures you might ask.
Some cute tangerines sitting in this vintage Russel Wright dish I purchased at the flea market in Long Boat Key,  Florida at a bargain price, 50% off, for a grand total of $3.00!!

I am sorry to report that I FORGOT to bring my camera. Oh my. But it was raining so it really didn't matter. Anyway, I packed the tangerines that were left over from the weekend into my hand luggage and they travelled home with me. SO when is local local? The fruit was local when I bought it and I had to come home anyway. So it goes. I still exempt citrus fruit from the local thing. Like I said,those guys were MEANT to travel!

Amanda, does any wine work well with tangerines perchance? I made a salad with tangerines, onions, capers and goat cheese and dressed it with a tangerine, sherry vinegar and walnut oil vinaigrette adding a pinch of smoked paprika. A very nice way to brighten up a December table.

Tangerine, Capers & Goat Cheese Salad
1 Tangerine, peeled and cut into slices
1 teaspoon capers
2 oz crumbled goat cheese
1 TBs Thinly sliced Onion
2 cups washed mixed salad greens

Tangerine & Walnut Oil Vinaigrette
Juice of 1 Tangerine (my tangerine yielded 1 Tbs of juice, not much LOL!)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teas. salt
1 teas. freshly ground pepper
3 TBs Sherry Vinegar
1/4 cup walnut oil

For the salad- combine all the ingredients in a bowl
For the dressing- combine all ingredients in a small bowl except the walnut oil. Mix well with a whisk. Slowly drizzle in the walnut oil as you continue to whisk until well blended. Toss vinaigrette with the salad and serve.

serves two.

I love the way this recipe sounds! Most often I think long and hard about what wine would be the perfect accompaniment to these dishes. For me, this one was a no-brainer. First, let me again emphasize that salads and wine pairing are tricky. Very few wines can pair well with a salad. This is due large in part to the vinegar in the dressing - it wreaks havoc on the palate. Second - this is definitely a fall salad, and my mind, and mouth, go immediately to white. I typically don't drink white very  much in the cooler weather. This is just a personal thing, not a rule! 

But right away I think of California Sauvignon Blanc. This varietal, when grown in a warm climate, shows off beautiful passionfruit and citrus flavors. I think these characteristics, along with the tangerine in the dressing and on the salad would be perfect. I particularly am impressed with the Provenance Sauvignon Blanc 2008 from Rutherford in the Napa Valley. A touch of Semillon is added with gives the wine roundness and a bit of richness too. While not a sweet wine, there are prominant sweet fruit flavors which I think would offer a nice counterpart and balance to the saltiness of the capers. The Provenance was rated 91 points by The Wine Spectator, and just appeared on their Top 100 Wines of 2009 List. At $14.99, this is a great buy!

MaryAnn Worobiec from The Wine Spectator had this to say about the 2008 Provenance Sauvignon Blanc: "Key lime, passion fruit, melon and nectarine flavors are ripe, juicy and fleshy, with great intensity, a vivid acidity and terrific focus and clarity. "

Deb - I will definitely be trying this combination! I anticipate another winner!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Match Made in Heaven

First, I want to mention that I had planned to take some wonderful pictures of my experimentation with Deb's recipe for Acorn Squash Fritters. Unfortunately, I seem to have misplaced my camera. Therefore, my descriptions alone will have to suffice.

I took home a bottle of Ercavio Tempranillo Rose. I wish to put to test my inclinations to pair a delicious Rose with the fritters. The fritters were quite straightforward and easy to make. Deb was of course right - definitely use a food processor to grate the acorn squash as it is incredibly hard. This was my first experience working with one. If you've made potato pancakes, it is really the exact same procedure. The consistency of the batter is very much the same. When putting the batter in the pan, as Deb told me, make sure the oil is hot enough. Flatten them out a little with the back of the spatula, and, handle them gingerly when flipping.

As I took the first fritters out of the pan and placed them on paper towels, I proceeded to open the bottle of Rose. As soon as the fritters cooled sufficiently, I took a bite. They were perfectly crispy and a little soft on the inside. The fritters have a little more sweetness than potato pancakes. They really came out nice. I followed my first bite with a tiny sip of wine. Then, another bite, another small sip, another bite, etc. The pairing was actually perfect. This particular wine has a creamy, almost "oily" texture. Lots of berry fruit on the palate. The mouthfeel of the wine in conjucture with the texture of the fritters was a wonderful combination. I have to say I was very pleased.

So, once finished, I had a big plateful of fritters. Knowing I would eat the entire plate if left to my own devices, I knew I had to figure something out. As luck would have it, I was going to a holiday block party later Saturday afternoon. Perfect! I would bring the fritters. I did, and they were enjoyed by everyone! They quickly disappeared! Thanks Deb, for a great recipe!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Amanda got me thinking about freezing. Her question about how best to freeze bean patties left me puzzled. I don't do much freezing. I cook so much and so often that I rarely rely on freezing as part of my kitchen routine. The biggest problem for me is not putting food IN the freezer, but taking it OUT. By the time I realize that I might want something from the freezer I don't have the time to defrost it. I use my freezer for long term storage of perishable ingredients, particularly things that come seasonally like tomatoes and peaches.
I like to puree mangos when they are in season and freeze for future use.

These little treats, wild picked blueberries will  freeze perfectly well when left whole or pureed.

Pamela Yee at Hook Mountain Growers freezes her home grown tomatillos whole.

SO- I decided to set up a quick test on the bean patties to see what freezing strategy might work best. I made a quick batch of bean cakes from some white beans on hand. I made two patties, rolled one in breadcrumbs and pan fried it, and the other I left without the bread crumbs, un-cooked. Once the pan-fried patty cooled to room temp both patties were put in the freezer. I want to emphasize here that it is crucial to let cooked foods cool completely before freezing, to prevent them from getting soft and mushy when thawed.
Pan fried white bean patty on left, un-cooked patty on the right BEFORE freezing.

Later that day I removed the two patties from the freezer and baked the pan-fried patty in the oven at 400F for 10 minutes. The other patty I rolled in breadcrumbs and pan fried it. The results?
AFTER freezing: Pan fried white bean patty on left reheated in oven and the un-cooked patty on the right after breading and pan frying .

They both came out fine. The one that I pan fried after freezing was definitely moister than the baked patty. That moisture could work against you or for you, depending on what you are dealing with. Bean cakes tend to be a little dry so some moisture is good. I thought they were both fine and either method would work. So I learned something and I understand how freezing meals can really help a busy family get dinner on the table.

Speaking of leftovers, yes, I am still speaking of leftovers. Yesterday I was cooking in a client's kitchen when I came upon a stash of acorn squashes that never got cooked for Thanksgiving dinner. The challenge was to come up with a recipe using the squashes that the whole family would enjoy, their two school aged children included. The idea of acorn squash fritters crossed my mind. I decided to prepare them as if they were potato pancakes and see what happened.  Using the grating blade of a food processor rather than a box grater is essential for this because the squash is HARD. I am happy to report that the recipe was a success.  Grated onions and a little flour and an egg were the only additions. The fritters came out pretty and lacy with a golden orange color and they tasted really sweet and flavorful. I loved them and would definitely try that recipe again.  AND they would taste great with LEFTOVER cranberry sauce!

Acorn Squash Fritters
1 acorn squash peeled and shredded (use a food processor to do this)
1 onion grated
1/4 cup flour
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil

Mix squash, onion, flour and egg in a bowl. Heat oil in a skillet. When oil is hot, working in batches, carefully drop squash mixture by the tablespoon in to the pan. Flatten each fritter slighty with a spatula. Fry on one side for 5 minutes until golden brown. Carefully turn fritters and cook another 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towel.

 sometimes a label is just a label
Ok, one more thing. In a prior post I commented on the signage at Whole Foods, complimenting them on their labeling in the fish department, but criticising the labeling of their produce. Well, I have to admit that it had been a while since I actually looked at Whole Food's produce labels and I am here to tell you that they have mended their ways and in fact now list where every fruit and vegetable comes from. So, sorry WF. I am taking it back. I have other issues with the store, but I will save that for another time.

Deb - great (and educational) post! Two things about the bean patties. I made them last night for dinner. (By the way - they are amazing!) I had some of the bean mixture left over. So, coincidentally, I froze it as well. I shaped two patties and froze them individually wrapped in saran wrap. I wasn't sure at the time when I would get to make the rest, and I didn't want it to go to waste. Turns out, I wanted them for dinner tonight. So, I took them out of the freezer this morning to let them thaw before my return home from work. They definitely got a little mushy. I actually held them over the sink and squeezed them out a bit. (They were much firmer last night). Then, I rolled them in panko. I am enjoying them at this moment and they taste very good. However, I am rethinking my wine pairing. I am not drinking anything at the moment. But now I am definitely thinking Rose - one with lots of fruit and wonderful spice. I have prepared a little salad to go along with the bean cakes. It is a basic but delicious salad of mixed greens topped with a little bit of crumbled Danish Blue cheese, and  a touch of toasted walnut oil, balsamic vinegar and a small amount of Dijon. Yummy! If I only had that glass of Rose!

The acorn squash fritters will be on tomorrow night's menu! I'm thinking a Rose will work with that recipe as well. Perhaps I'll try it out and let you know how it goes!