31 March 2006

Okra and Creole Gumbo recipe

Okra is grown throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world for its fibrous pods full of round, white seeds, which, when picked young, are eaten as a vegetable. It was brought to the United States via the African slave trade route, and can be grown in the southern states as an annual crop. It is also one of the most popular vegetables in late 20th century Japanese cuisine. In Israel, Jordan and other parts of the eastern Mediterranean, okra, known in Arabic as bamia, is widely used in a thick stew made with vegetables and meat…

…The best okra, like almost all vegetables, is young and fresh right out of the garden. Okra gets very woody when it gets too mature, so it is best to pick often, and refrigerate for a few days until it is required.

Okra may be steamed until tender, either whole or sliced about 1 cm thick. Okra can also be boiled with tomatoes, fried in a cornmeal batter, or simply stir-fried. Okra can also be the thickening agent in gumbo; when cooked, it has the same mucilaginous properties as nopales (the pads of the prickly pear cactus). It can also be pickled. In the southern United States it is occasionally breaded and fried or served au gratin. From Wikipedia.

There are almost as many recipes for “gumbo” as there are fish, crustacean, fowl or meats as the main ingredient. A recipe from the Big Easy follows:

Creole Gumbo
Based upon a number of gumbos served in New Orleans

Recipe Summary
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Yield: 6 servings

4 small blue crabs, cooked
1/8 cup clarified butter
6 ounces onion, finely sliced
1 ounce celery, finely sliced
1 green pepper, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, blanched, skinned, seeds removed, cut into quarters
2 cloves garlic, smashed
4 cups fish stock
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 pound oysters
8 ounces tiny shrimp, cooked
1 (12-ounce) can okra, okra pieces halved
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon file powder
1/8 cup cold water

Remove legs from crab and smash with back of knife. Remove claws and break in 3 pieces. Remove meat from body and head.

Heat 1/8 cup clarified butter in large saucepan on high heat. Add crab parts and meat, then add onion, celery and green pepper. Stir in tomatoes and garlic. Mix fish stock with tomato paste and add to crab saute. Bring to boil and add bay leaves. Simmer gently, stirring and skimming top frequently, for 8 minutes. Stir in oysters and their juices, then add shrimp and okra. Season with pepper.

In small bowl, blend file and cold water. Add to soup and stir briskly. On medium-low heat, cook soup for 1 hour; do not let soup boil. Serve piping hot. From TheFoodNetwork.

Choucroute garnie

Choucroute garnie (French for dressed sauerkraut) is a famous Alsatian recipe for preparing sauerkraut with sausages and other salted meats, and often potatoes.

Although sauerkraut is a traditionally German and Eastern European dish, the French annexation of Alsace and Lorraine following the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 brought this dish to the attention of French chefs and it has since been widely adopted in France.

In principle, there is no fixed recipe for this dish - any preparation of hot sauerkraut with meat and potatoes could qualify - but in practice there are certain traditions, favourite recipes, and stereotypical garnishes that are more easily called choucroute garnie than others. Traditional recipes call for three types of sausage: Frankfurt sausages, Strasbourg sausages, and Montbéliard sausages. Fatty, inexpensive or salted cuts of pork also often form a part of choucroute garnie, including ham hocks, pork knuckles and shoulders, back bacon and slices of salt pork. Other recipes call for fish or goose meat, but this is far less typical.

The sauerkraut itself is usually heated with a glass of Riesling or other dry white wines or stock, and goose or pork fat. In some recipes, it may also be cooked with chopped onion and sliced apples.

Choucroute garnie is available throughout France in canned or microwavable ready-to-eat form.

From Wikipedia.

See recipe for Choucroute Garni on this blog.

Choucroute Garnie recipe

Choucroute Garnie recipe

CHOUCROUTE GARNI


INGREDIENTS

3 pounds sauerkraut
1/2 pound chunk bacon
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup carrots, thinly sliced
1 cup onions, thinly sliced
parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns
10 juniper berries (or 1/4 cup gin)
1 1/2 cups beef bouillon
3/4 cup water
1 cup dry white wine
salt
1 2 to 3 pound smoked pork butt
1 kielbasa
4 knockwurst
3 smoked bratwurst
3 unsmoked veal sausages

INSTRUCTIONS

Drain the sauerkraut. Place in a large bowl and cover with cold
water. Soak for 20 minutes, changing the water twice. Drain again.
Then take up large handfuls and squeeze out as much water as possible.
Set aside.

Remove the rind from the bacon and cut into strips about two inches
long and one half inch wide. Blanch bacon by placing in a saucepan
and covering with two quarts of cold water. Bring to a boil, then
simmer 10 minutes. Drain. Melt the butter in a two and one half or
three quart casserole.

Add the blanched bacon, carrots and onion and cook slowly, covered,
for 10 minutes. Do not let the vegetables brown. Stir in the
sauerkraut, breaking up any clumps in it. Cover and cook on top of
the range slowly for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325F. Tie the
parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns, and juniper berries in cheesecloth,
and bury them in the sauerkraut. Pour in the bouillon, water, wine
and gin if you are using it. Add salt to taste. Continue cooking on
top of hte stove until it comes to a boil, then place in the oven and
cook, covered, for 4 hours. Check now and then to be sure the
sauerkraut is not too dry. If all the liquid has cooked away, add a
little more bouillon or wine. The sauerkraut should just bubble.

Start the meat two and one half hours before serving. Place the pork
butt in a pot, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the
heat and simmer, covered, two hours. Start the sausages one hour
before serving time. Place the kielbasa in a large pot with cold
water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, 20 minutes.
Add the knockwurst and smoked bratwurst to the kielbasa pot. Bring to
a boil again, the simmer 10 minutes. Add the veal sausages and simmer
5 minutes longer. Turn off the heat and let stand 5 minutes more.
Remove the herb bouquet before transferring the choucroute to a
platter.

From webpeople.

30 March 2006

Samosa

Stuffed pastries are common across many cultures. Samosa are similar to pierogi (Russia and Poland), gyoza (Japan, China and Korea), and dumplings (England and the United States). From Wikipedia.

Samosa is a South Asian food item from India. It generally consists of a fried triangular-/pyramid-shaped pastry shell with potato, onion and pea stuffing, but other stuffings like minced meat are also used. The size and shape of a samosa, as well as the consistency of the pastry used can vary considerably. It is spicy and is often eaten with chutney, such as mint, coriander or tamarind. It can also be prepared in a sweet samosa variety. Samosas are common throughout India, Pakistan, and Myanmar.

samosa


Samosa Recipe

INGREDIENTS

1 cup all purpose flour

1/8th cup oil

1/8th cup water

4 Boiled mashed Potatoes

1/2 cup Green peas

Some chopped cashews

Some raisins

1/2 tsp Garam Masala

1/4 tsp Pepper

Salt

1/4 tsp Red chilli powder

1/2 tsp Dry Mango Powder

1/2 tsp Jeera powder

Oil for frying

INSTRUCTIONS

Mix flour, water, oil, some salt and red chilli powder to make dough. It should not be very soft. Leave aside for 15 minutes. Heat two spoons oil and add potatoes & peas. Cover on low flame for 5 minutes. Add all masalas and mix well and again cover for 5-8 minutes. Add cashews and resins in the end and keep on flame for 3-5 minutes. Keep aside to cool. Make small rolls of the dough and make it like chapati. Cut it in two parts (like semi-circle), then take one semi circle and fold it in a shape of cone. Use water while doing so. Stuff the potaoes-peas mixture in that cone and seal it by taking a drop of water on finger. Heat oil properly and fry. Serve hot with Imli chutney or green Chutney.

Ingredients and additional recipes available from IndianBlend.

Borscht and Beet Borscht recipe

Borscht (also borsch or borshch), is a type of hearty Eastern and Central European vegetable soup, the beetroot being the defining ingredient.

The type of the soup that is named borscht differs slightly by culture:

* In Russian cuisine, all borscht has beets and cabbage and optionally potatoes.
* In Ukrainian, Belarusian and Polish cuisine, the potatoes and cabbage are both optional. Boiled potatoes may be served on the side with borscht.
* In Mennonite cuisine, borscht refers generically to soup and may not have beets at all. Other common ingredients, depending on the cuisine, include: tomatoes, carrots, pork, chicken, beans, onions, cucumber, and mushrooms.
* In Romanian cuisine, borscht does not necessarily include beetroot, but often refers to any soup which is sour, as well as the ingredient used for souring (fermented wheat bran).
* In Hong Kong-style western cuisine, borscht is tomato-based instead of being beet-based, contains beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots.

Borscht can be prepared and served either hot or cold. It can also be served either uncreamed or with some sour or whipping cream blended in. In Russia the most commonly used product is smetana, a type of dairy product similar to crème fraîche. From Answers.com.


******


Beet Borschtborscht

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup onions, chopped
4-1/4 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp. dill, or 1 Tbs. fresh, minced
1 lb. beets, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup celery\cooked, chopped
1/2 cup carrots\cooked, peeled and chopped
1-1/2 Tbsps. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup nonfat sour cream

Instructions

Melt butter in a heavy non-reactive saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic and onion 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent. Stir in stock and dill. Increase heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Add beets, celery and carrots and simmer over medium heat about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. Stir in vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Serve soup with a dollop of sour cream.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4

From Chefs.com.

Prepared borscht is available from Kosher.com.

29 March 2006

My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme

For Julia Child fans, and there are many of us, her memoir, My Life in France, has just been published. From Jessica's Biscuit:

"Begun several months before she died, My Life in France was completed by Paul's grandnephew Alex Prud'homme, based on hours of talks with Julia and on family letters. Funny, earthy, forthright--Julia is with us on every page as she relishes the French way of life that transformed her, and us.

This delightful memoir of Julia's years in Paris, Marseilles, and Provence opens with Paul and Julia--a tall, wide-eyed girl from Pasadena who can't cook and doesn't speak a word of French--disembarking in Le Havre, and ends with the launching of the two Mastering cookbooks and Julia winning the heart of America as 'The French Chef.'"




My Life in France

by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
Hardcover - 336 pages
Published: March 2006
ISBN: 1400043468
Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Available fom Jessica's Biscuit and Barnes and Noble.

Flan

FLAN

In cooking, flan is a custard-like dessert originating from Spain and popular in former Spanish colonies such as Latin America, the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Although Spanish in origin, it is sometimes wrongly associated in the United States with Mexican cuisine.

Flan is normally made with whole eggs, milk, and sugar. The typical flavoring is simply vanilla but there are numerous variations that include almonds, pistachio, lemon, and various other fruits. It is traditionally cooked in a bain-marie (double boil) with its caramel sauce on the bottom layer. When finished cooking, the mold is inverted, covering the flan with the sauce.

Flan can also be prepared from store-bought instant flan powder, commonly made from agar instead of eggs to get its consistency, “Royal” being one of the most popular brands that make it. The steps to prepare it are similar to that of instant gelatin, but mixing it with hot milk, instead of water. In some Latin America countries the traditional eggs-based, home-made dessert is known as “milk flan” or even “milk cheese”, and is the agar-based instant-made product which is known as just “flan”.

Flan is particularly ubiquitous in Japanese convenience stores. It is not uncommon to find an entire shelf in a Lawson or 7-Eleven dedicated to over a dozen brands and varieties of flan. Flan is referred to simply as pudding in Japan.

Crème brûlée is a similar dish found in French cuisine that some would argue inspired flan. It is denser than flan and rather than caramel sauce it has sugar sprinkled on top which is then burnt with a torch to create a hard crispy top. In Argentina, and in some neighbouring countries, it is usually eaten with Dulce de leche. From Wikipedia.

See the recipe for basic flan on this blog.

Packaged flan is available from MexGrocer and LaTienda.

Flan recipe

flanFLAN

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 cups heavy cream
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
Pinch salt

INSTRUCTIONS

To make the caramel: have ready a 2-quart round flan mold and a large roasting pan. Combine 1 cup of the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a heavy-bottomed pot or pan. Place over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar begins to melt. Swirl the pan over the heat until the syrup darkens to a medium amber color, about 10 minutes; don’t stir with a spoon. Remove from the heat and immediately add the lemon juice, swirl the pan again to combine, and then pour into the flan mold. Tilt the dish so that the caramel evenly coats the bottom and a bit up the sides, place in the roasting pan and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, bring a kettle of water to a boil for the water bath and keep it hot.

Combine the cream, cinnamon, and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium-low flame. Bring the cream to a brief simmer, stirring occasionally. Take care not to let the cream come to a full boil to prevent it from spilling over.

In a large bowl, cream together the whole eggs and yolks with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar; add a pinch of salt. Whisk until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. Temper the egg mixture by gradually whisking in the hot cream mixture; don’t add it too quickly or the eggs will cook. Pass the mixture through a strainer into a large measuring cup to ensure that the flan will be perfectly smooth. Pour the custard into the caramel-coated mold.

To create the water bath: pour the hot (not boiling) water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the side of the mold; be careful not get water into the custard. Carefully transfer to the middle oven rack, and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the custard is barely set and just jiggles slightly. Let the flan cool in the water bath, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to serve, run a knife around the inside of the mold to loosen the flan. Place a dessert plate on top of the flan and invert to pop it out. From FoodNetwork.

28 March 2006

Maple Syrup Book

Here is further information on maple syrup, following one of our earlier blogs. Just published:

Maple Syrup Book
by Eagleson, Janet and Hasner, Rosemary
Hardcover - 96 pages
March 2006
Color and Black & White Photographs
ISBN: 1550464116
Boston Mills Press

In this richly illustrated book, the authors explore every aspect of maple syrup's history and lore, from Native legends surrounding its discovery to its importance in the pioneer diet. They explain the sugar maple's exalted status in the maple tree family and why maple sap is still one of nature's great mysteries. Included are details of how sugar maples are tapped and how the sap is collected, a long-standing and important tradition in New England.

The Maple Syrup Book also includes insights from producers of maple syrup and maple sugar as they reveal their affection for a shared passion. A Maple Syrup Flavor Wheel describes the many colors, grades, and flavor variations available, and there are selected recipes and notes on cooking with maple syrup.

Available from Jessica's Biscuit.

Tomato - Fruit or Vegetable?


What do you realy know about tomatoes?

Fruit or Vegetable?

“Botanically speaking a tomato is the ovary, together with its seeds, of a flowering plant, i.e. a fruit. However, from a culinary perspective the tomato is typically served as a meal, or part of a main course of a meal, meaning that it would be considered a vegetable (a culinary term which has no botanical meaning). This argument has led to actual legal implications in the United States. In 1887, U.S. tariff laws which imposed a duty on vegetables but not on fruits caused the tomato’s status to become a matter of legal importance.

The U.S. Supreme Court settled this controversy in 1893, declaring that the tomato is a vegetable, along with cucumbers, squashes, beans, and peas, using the popular definition which classifies vegetables by use, that they are generally served with dinner and not dessert. The case is known as Nix v. Hedden.

The tomato is now grown world-wide for its edible fruits, with thousands of cultivars having been selected with varying fruit types, and for optimum growth in differing growing conditions. Cultivated tomatoes vary in size from ‘cherry tomatoes’, about the same 1-2 cm size as the wild tomato, up to ‘beefsteak’ tomatoes 10 cm or more in diameter. The most widely grown commercial tomatoes tend to be in the 5-6 cm diameter range. Most cultivars produce red fruit, but a number of cultivars with yellow or orange fruit are also available. Tomatoes grown for canning are often elongated, 7-9 cm long and 4-5 cm diameter; these are known as ‘plum tomatoes’.

Most tomatoes today are picked before fully ripe. They are bred to continue ripening, but the enzyme that ripens tomatoes stops working when it reaches temperatures below 12.5 °C. Once an unripe tomato drops below that temperature, it will not continue to ripen. Once fully ripe, tomatoes can be stored in the refrigerator, but are best eaten at room temperature.” From Wikipedia.

You don’t have to can tomatoes in order to preserve them. If you grow tomatoes or purchase really great tomatoes somewhere and want to keep some for future use, the easiest way is to simply freeze them! Be sure the tomato is fully ripe, and quarter or chop the amount you wish to freeze. If chopped, fill an air tight container, seal tightly, and freeze. Or quarter the fruit and place in an air tight plastic bag, in quantities you may need. Then either defrost, or take directly from the freezer, and add to your soup, casserole or recipe. There are no additives, salt, and the taste is garden-fresh! 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes equals 3 cups chopped and drained fresh tomatoes.

NEVER REFRIGERATE FRESH TOMATOES! Don't buy refrigerated tomatoes: Cold temperatures make the flesh of a tomato pulpy and destroys the flavor.

Tomatoes are now eaten freely throughout the world. Today, their consumption is believed to benefit the heart. Lycopene, one of nature's most powerful antioxidants, is present in tomatoes and has been found to be beneficial in preventing prostate cancer, among other things. For more nutrition information on tomatoes go to - Health Benefits of Sweet Tomato.

To ripen, place green or unripened tomatoes in a brown paper bag and place in a dark spot for three or four days, depending on the degree of greenness. Do not put tomatoes in the sun to ripen - this softens them.

BASIC TOMATO SOUP

1 quart tomatoes, raw or canned
2 teaspoons sugar
1 pint water
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 bay leaves

Simply simmer all ingredients together for 20 to 30 minutes.

This recipe alone, or with chicken, beef, or vegetable broth, can be used a base for other soups or dishes.

Espresso: Ultimate Coffee

Espresso is coffee at its purest and most intense, and has rapidly grown in popularity in the past decade. In this revised edition of his James Beard Award finalist book on espresso, coffee expert Kenneth Davids provides a lucid, engaging examination of its appreciation, history and culture. For longtime devotees and brand new aficionados, this is the ultimate book on the ultimate coffee.

Espresso: Ultimate CoffeeEspresso
by Davids, Kenneth
Paperback - 180 pages Published: May 2001
80 Black and White Photographs and Illustrations Throughout
ISBN: 0312246668
Griffin

Available from Jessica’s Biscuit. See additional information on espresso on this blog.

Haggis

Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish. Although there are many recipes, it is normally made with the following ingredients: sheep’s pluck (heart, liver, windpipe and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock and traditionally boiled in the animal’s stomach for several hours. In this state it somewhat resembles other stuffed intestines, otherwise known as sausages, of which it is among the largest types. There are also meat-free recipes specifically for vegetarians which supposedly taste similar to the meat-based recipes.

haggis

Haggis is traditionally served with “neeps and tatties” which is mashed turnip (Scots generally refer to Swedish turnips as ‘turnips’ rather than ’swedes’, hence “neeps”) and potatoes.

In some ways, the northeastern U.S. dish scrapple resembles haggis, however scrapple differs in the following ways: it uses pig offal instead of sheep offal and cornmeal instead of oatmeal; it is a meat loaf rather than a sausage; and it is baked instead of being boiled. As a result, the appearance and the flavour vary significantly. So the resemblance lies more in the fact that it is a combination of offal, grain and vegetables than in any specific ingredient or cooking style.

Other similar dishes are the balkenbrij from the Netherlands, pölsa (made with beef rather than sheep) from Sweden and saumagen (made from pork) from Western Germany.

It is unknown when or where the first haggis was consumed. One theory, put forth by food historian Clarissa Dickson-Wright, is that haggis was invented as a way of cooking quick-spoiling offal near the site of a hunt, without the need to carry along an additional cooking vessel. The liver and kidneys could be grilled directly over a fire, but this treatment was unsuitable for the stomach, intestines, or lungs. Chopping up the lungs and stuffing the stomach with them and whatever fillers might have been on hand, then boiling the assembly — likely in a vessel made from the animal’s hide — was one way to make sure these parts did not go to waste. The more likely origin however is from the days of the old Scottish cattle drovers. When the men left the highlands to drive their cattle to market in Edinburgh the women would prepare rations for them to eat during the long journey down through the glens. They used the ingredients that were most readily available in their Highland homes and conveniently packaged them in a sheeps stomach allowing for easy transportation during the journey.

Since many countries’ food safety laws outlaw some of the ingredients in haggis (for example, United States law forbids the sale of any animal’s lungs for human consumption), expatriate Scots and Scots descendants overseas have been known to engage in haggis smuggling to obtain true Scottish haggis. At least one American company produces haggis for the U.S. market. The Caledonian Kitchen, a Dallas, Texas based gourmet business, began producing both a Highland beef and vegetarian haggis commercially in 1999. Its haggis is in wide distribution throughout the US.

Haggis is an amusing subject for many people. Those who ask a Scotsman for information about it will rarely get a straight answer. A common “answer” to the question “What is a haggis?” often goes along the following lines. “A haggis is a small four-legged Scottish Highland creature, which has the limbs on one side shorter than the other side. This means that it is well adapted to run around the hills at a steady altitude, without either ascending or descending. However a haggis can easily be caught by running around the hill in the opposite direction.” Surprisingly the humorous myth is believed by many tourists, thus they are shocked - and possibly disappointed - to hear the truth. From Wikipedia.


King Arthur Flour; The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion


In many of our recipes, we recommend the use of King Arthur flours. Why? We believe it's the best flour readily available everywhere. The following history of the product and the company, and a book of recipes explains further. Taken from Jessica's Biscuit.

King Arthur Flour

Professional Biography

In 1896, The King Arthur Flour Company's three owners were stumped.

Mark Taylor, George Wood, and Orin Sands were rolling out a new flour, but they were stumped on the name. They needed to somehow express the flour's premium characteristics -- its integrity, strength, reliability, and superior performance. They chose the name King Arthur, a name so powerful it eventually stood for the company itself.

The King Arthur Flour Company is the oldest food company in New England. Headed for almost two centuries by five generations of the Sands family, the firm continues to prosper under the leadership of Chairman of the Board, Frank E. Sands, II.

For over two centuries, King Arthur Flour has contained absolutely no chemical additives. The company proudly guards the quality of its best-known product line, King Arthur Flour; the guarantee of quality has been the theme of every advertising and promotional campaign in its history. Despite the national trend toward a decline in home baking, King Arthur is the only flour in the nation whose sales are consistently continuing to rise. King Arthur Flour is the top-selling brand in New England, and it is now on the shelves of stores in all 50 states.

King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook
by King Arthur Flour
Hardcover - 640 pages Published: August 2003
Color Photographs and Black and White Illustrations
ISBN: 0881505811 Countryman Press

2004 KitchenAid Cookbook of the Year

From Christmas cookies and pancakes to chocolate cake and sandwich bread, The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion will be there to guide home bakers every step of the way.

Every kitchen comes equipped with a fundamental, dependable cookbook classic such as Joy of Cooking or Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook. Now bakers have a modern classic of their own. From leavening, mixing, proofing, and kneading, through shaping and baking, the experts at King Arthur Flour lead you through hundreds of easy and foolproof recipes—from tricky yeast breads and sourdoughs, to trendy flatbreads and crackers, to family favorites such as pancakes and waffles. They also present fried doughs, quick breads, batter breads, biscuits, quiches, cobblers and crisps, cookies, cakes, brownies, pies, tarts, and pastries.

For more than 200 years King Arthur Flour has been in the business of making the highest quality key ingredient in all of baking: flour. They've done decades of experimentation and research in their famous test kitchens on how the various ingredients in baked goods behave and why. The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion now brings you more than 350 recipes that will teach you which ingredients work together, as well as what doesn't, and why. It is this knowledge that will allow you to unleash your own creativity and to experiment in the kitchen.

You'll get a complete overview of ingredients in chapters on flours, sweeteners, leavens, fats, and more. You'll find information on substitutions and variations, as well as troubleshooting advice from the pros at King Arthur. Recipes are enhanced with sidebars that share baking secrets and provide clear-step-by-step instructions, and each recipe is accompanied by a detailed nutritional analysis. Techniques are further explained with easy-to-follow illustrations by culinary illustrator Laura Hartman Maestro.

The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion is the definitive kitchen resource. Exhaustive in scope, authoritative in style, and offering clear, practical, and encouraging instruction, it is the one book you'll turn to every time you bake. Like your set of measuring cups and favorite wooden spoon, it will become an essential kitchen tool. No kitchen in America should be without a copy.

King Arthur Flour is the largest single educator of bakers in the world. More than one million students have gone through King Arthur's seminars, hands-on classes, and online courses. The company is recognized as the home baking authority by nationally recognized food writers, cookbook authors, chefs, food personalities, restaurant owners, and home bakers. These recipes have been created by the many experienced bakers at King Arthur Flour in Norwich, Vermont, and are the final result of decades of development and adjustment. Every recipe has been thoughtfully created, then rigorously tested and retested in King Arthur Flour's kitchens.

Available from Jessica's Biscuit.

Olives, Anchovies, and Capers: The Secret Ingredients of the Mediterranean Table

The following cookbook is related to two of our blogs, on capers and anchovies.

Olives, Anchovies, and Capers: The Secret Ingredients of the Mediterranean Table by Brennan, Georgeanne

“No one knows just what makes the Mediterranean shores so white, the sun so golden, or the sea so blue. But thanks to award-winning author Georgeanne Brennan, we now know what makes the cuisine so delicious. Olives, capers, and anchovies are the secret ingredient behind the magical flavors of the Mediterranean. Toss a few tangy olives or capers, or a savory anchovy or two into these over 50 dazzling recipes and instantly capture the fresh, sun-drenched flavors of Italy, France, Greece, Tunisia, and Morocco. Brennan reveals the basic techniques for salting, brining, curing, and seasoning these delicacies and also explores their history and common uses.” From Jessica’s Biscuit.

Olives anchovies and capers

Olives, Anchovies, and Capers: The Secret Ingredients of the Mediterranean Table
by Brennan, Georgeanne
Hardcover - 132 pages Published: May 2001
Color Photographs
ISBN: 0811824942
Quirk Books

Available from Jessica’s Biscuit.

Anchovies

anchovy The anchovies are a family (Engraulidae) of small but common schooling saltwater plankton-feeding fish. They are found in scattered areas throughout the world’s oceans, but are concentrated in temperate waters, and rare or absent in very cold or very warm seas.

The anchovy is a small green fish with blue reflections dorsal to a silver longitudinal stripe that runs from the base of the caudal fin. It is a maximum nine inches in length and body shape is variable with more slender fish in northern populations. The snout is blunt with small, sharp teeth in both jaws. The mouth is larger than those of herrings and silversides, two fish which they closely resemble. It eats plankton and fish larvae.

It is generally very accepting of a wide range of temperatures and salinity. Large schools can be found in shallow, brackish areas with muddy bottoms, as in estuaries and bays.

Spawning occurs between October and March, but not in water colder than 54 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius). The anchovy appears to spawn 100 kilometers from the shore, near the surface of the water.

The anchovy is a food source for almost every predatory fish in its environment, including the California halibut, rock fish, yellow tail tuna, sharks, chinook, and coho salmon. It is also extremely important to marine mammals and birds; for example, California brown pelicans and elegant terns, whose breeding success is strongly connected to anchovy abundance.

They are also eaten by humans. Anchovies preserved by gutting and salting in brine, matured, then packed in oil, are an important food fish, both popular and unpopular for their strong flavor. In Roman times, they were the base for the fermented fish sauce called garum that was a staple of cuisine and an item of long-distance commerce produced in industrial quantities. Today they are a key ingredient in Caesar salad and Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, and are occasionally used as a pizza topping. Because of the strong flavor they are also an ingredient in several sauces, including Worcestershire sauce and many other fish sauces, and in some versions of Café de Paris butter. Fishermen also use anchovies as bait for larger fish such as tuna and sea bass.

The strong taste that people associate with anchovies is due to the curing process. Fresh anchovies, known in Italy as alici, have a much softer and gentler flavor. In English-speaking countries, alici are sometimes called “white anchovies”, and are often served in a weak vinegar marinade.

European anchovy Engraulis encrasicolus is the anchovy of commerce. Morocco now leads the world in canned anchovies. The anchovy industry along the coast of Cantabria now dwarfs the traditional Catalan salters, though the industry was only initiated in Cantabria by Sicilian salters in the mid 19th century.

Setipinna taty or ikan bilis is the anchovy commonly used in South-East Asian cooking to make fish stock or sambals. From Wikipedia.

See recipe for Entrecote with Café de Paris Sauce, and Cafe de Paris Butter on this blog.

Anchovies are of course available in your local supermarket, or fine imported gourmet anchovies are available online at iGourmet, Kosher.com, and LaTienda.

Cafe De Paris Butter

Cafe De Paris Butter

INGREDIENTS

1 lb. butter, soft when ready to use
1 oz. catsup
1/2 oz prepared hot mustard
1/2 oz. capers
2 oz. shallots, roughly chopped
1 oz. parsley, roughly chopped
1 oz. chives
1/2 t marjoram, dried
1/2 t dill weed, dried
1/2 t thyme, dried
10 tarragon leaves
pinch rosemary
1 clove garlic
4 anchovy filets
1 t cognac
1 t maderia
1/2 t worcestershire sauce
1/2 t paprika
1 t curry powder
4 black peppercorns
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 orange
1/4 t salt

INSTRUCTIONS

Combine all the ingredients (except the butter) into a bowl and let it stand in a warm place for 24 hours. Grind into a puree and fold into the soft butter.

From hungrybrowser.com.

Entrecote with Café de Paris sauce

Entrecote with Café de Paris sauce

Sauce for Entrecote Café de Paris

(Madeira Pan Sauce with Mustard and Anchovies)
(makes 2/3 cup, enough for four steaks)

This sauce recipe is from a well known cooking magazine. The recipe is inspired from the one served in “a Paris bistro, where the menu includes steak frites and nothing else. If you do not have Madeira on hand, Sherry makes a fine substitute. This sauce is prepared and the pan in which steaks are initially seared and the sauce is prepared while the steaks are finishing in the oven in a separate pan or on baking sheet.

INGREDIENTS

1 large shallot, minced (about 3 tbsp.)
1 cup Madeira
2 anchovies fillets (about 1 tbsp.) (you may substitute anchovy paste)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon juice from one lemon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
salt and ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

Set the skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until softened, about one minute. Add Madeira; increase heat to high, and scrape pan bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Stir until liquid is reduced to about 1/3 cup, about six to eight minutes. (If steaks are not yet out of the oven, set skillet off heat and wait for steaks to come out of oven and rest for two minutes before proceeding.) Add accumulated juices from baking sheet and reduce liquid one minute longer. Off heat, whisk in Anchovies, parsley, thyme, mustard, lemon juice, and butter until butter has melted and sauce is slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over steaks, and serve immediately. From hungrybrowser.com.

Anchovies are of course available in your local supermarket, or fine imported gourmet anchovies are available online at iGourmet, Kosher.com, and LaTienda.

See our blog for the cookbook Olives, Anchovies, and Capers: The Secret Ingredients of the Mediterranean Table.

Café de Paris sauce and Café de Paris butter

Café de Paris sauce and Café de Paris butter

Café de Paris sauce is a sauce said to have been invented by one Madame Boubier and her daughter in the 1930s; the daughter then married the proprietor of the Café de Paris restaurant in Geneva. This simply presented restaurant — famous worldwide among gourmets of steak — now serves nothing but rib steak with café de Paris sauce, green side salad, chips, and wine. The exact recipe for the sauce has remained a trade secret for decades, but it has been widely imitated. The sauce is clearly based on butter, and it is generally believed that the other ingredients include, inter alia, tarragon, and some liqueur, perhaps Pernod or madeira. Many imitation recipes can be found, usually including a dozen or more ingredients.

Café de Paris butter

The above named sauce is often confused with Café de Paris butter. Probably this herbed butter was originally an attempt at imitating the original Café de Paris sauce, but the recipes have now more-or-less standardised at something distinctly different. This very piquant sauce consists of butter, mustard, parsley, shallots and garlic, with possibly several other herbs and spices (commonly Worcestershire sauce or anchovy), all whipped to a stiff frothy consistency. It is traditionally served on grilled meats, especially steak, a piece being sliced off and allowed to melt on the hot meat. From Wikipedia.

Restaurant Terrazza Danieli

Venice, one of our favorite cities, offers a multitude of dining experiences, in all price ranges. This one offered us an unsurpassed venue to celebrate a friend’s birthday, at dusk, with memories for a lifetime.

The main building is the original 14th century palace of Doge Dandolo’s family, a Venetian gothic landmark lavishly appointed with pink marble, stained glass, ceilings decorated with golden leaves, Murano glass chandeliers, and antiques. These glorious interiors are rivaled only by the captivating panoramic views from our rooftop restaurant, La Terrazza Danieli.

“Restaurant Terrazza Danieli, the charming rooftop restaurant, delivers delectable Mediterranean and regional cuisine. Your fine dining experience will be beautifully complemented by the captivating panoramas of the Grand Canal and the Lido and Adriatic Sea. Appetizers and drinks can also be enjoyed at the Bar Dandolo piano bar.”
Danieli

Restaurant Terrazza Danieli
Hotel Danieli
Castello 4196 Venice 30122 Italy
Phone (39)(041) 522 6480 Fax (39)(041) 5200208

Almonds

lmondsThe Almond (Prunus dulcis, syn. Prunus amygdalus, or Amygdalus communis) is a small deciduous tree belonging to the subfamily Prunoideae of the family Rosaceae. An almond is also the fruit of this tree. It is classified with the peach in the subgenus Amygdalus within Prunus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell. The fruit lacks the sweet fleshy outer covering of other members of Prunus (such as the plum and cherry), this being replaced by a leathery coat containing the edible kernel which is often called a “nut” in common and culinary usage, but which is a drupe and not a nut in botanical parlance.

The tree is probably a native of southwest Asia and north Africa, but has been so extensively cultivated for so long over the warm temperate regions of the Old World that its original natural distribution is obscure. It can ripen fruit as far north as the British Isles. It is a tree of moderate size; the leaves are lanceolate, and serrated at the edges; and it flowers early in spring. The fruit is a drupe, having a downy outer coat, called the epicarp, which encloses the reticulated hard stony shell, or “endocarp”. The seed is the kernel which is contained within these coverings.

California produces 80% of the world’s almonds. Almonds are California’s sixth leading argicultrual product and it’s top agricultural export. California exported almonds valued at 1.08 billion dollars in 2003, about 70% of total California almond crop .

Spain is the next largest producer of almonds after California, producing numerous commercial varieties of sweet almond, most notably the Jordan almond (imported from Málaga) and the Valencia almond.

Culinary uses

While the almond is most often eaten raw, it is used in some dishes. It, along with other nuts, is often sprinkled over desserts, particularly sundaes and other ice cream based dishes. It is also used in Baklava. There is also almond butter, a spread similar to peanut butter.

The sweet almond itself contains practically no starch and may therefore be made into flour for cakes and biscuits for patients suffering from diabetes mellitus or any other form of glycosuria. Almond extract is also a popular substitute for vanilla extract among people with diabetes. Sweet almonds are used in marzipan, nougat, and macaroons, as well as other desserts. Almonds are a rich source of Vitamin E, containing 24 mg per 100 grammes. They are also rich in monounsaturated fat, one of the two “good” fats responsible for lowering LDL cholesterol. From Wikipedia.

See blog on Nougat on this blog also.

Almonds, in many guises, are available online from AlmondPlaza.

Nougat (Torrone)


Nougat is a confectionery made with sugar or honey, roasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios or hazelnuts are common) and sometimes chopped, candied fruit. The consistency of nougat can range from chewy to hard depending on its composition. White nougat is made with beaten egg white and is soft, whereas brown nougat is made with caramelized sugar and has a firmer texture.

Nougat is particularly popular in southern Europe: for example, in Italy in Cremona, in France in Montélimar and in Spain at Christmas (where it is called turrón, or torró in Catalan).

The nougat found in many modern candy bars is not very similar to traditional nougat recipes, being a mixture of sucrose and corn syrup aerated with a whipping agent such as egg albumen or hydrolyzed soya protein. It may also have vegetable fats, milk powder and nuts added. This nougat is a popular ingredient in American candy bars such as Snickers, Milky Way, 3 Musketeers, Charleston Chews, and Mars Bars.

Spanish turrón follows the traditional recipes with toasted almonds (66%), sugar, honey (12%) and egg white with a net weight of c. 300 g.

Persian nougat is yet another variety that has been produced in Isfahan, Iran for many centuries by Ashrafi nougat and other traditional producers.

History

According to legend, nougat was born in Cremona, Italy in 1441. It was during a wedding of local nobility that the bride and groom were offered a sweet made with honey, almonds and egg white. It was in the shape of the Torrazzo, a 13th century tower, from which the Italian word for nougat, “Torrone”, originated. From Wikipedia.

Nougat (torrone) in various treats can be obtained online from iGourmet and Naso&Gola.


27 March 2006

Quebec tourtière and Tourtiere du Saguenay recipe

Every Christmas Eve in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where there is a heavy French-Canadian population, family and friends would gather after Midnight Mass for a reveillon, which always included tourtière.

"A tourtière is a meat pie originating from Quebec, usually made with ground pork and/or veal, or beef. It is a traditional Christmas and New Year's Eve dish in Quebec, but is also enjoyed and sold in grocery stores all year long. This kind of pie is known as pâté à la viande (literally, meat pie) in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. Tourtière is not exclusive to the province of Québec. Tourtière is a traditional French-Canadian dish served by generations of French-Canadian families throughout Canada, including the provinces of New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia." From Wikipedia.

There are many recipes for tourtière. Here is one:

Tourtiere du Saguenay

For the Filling:

1/2 pound pork shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 pound veal shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 pound beef shoulder, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 ounces salt pork, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced 1/2-inch thick
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten

For the Pastry:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup lard, cold
6 to 7 tablespoons ice cold water
Chopped parsely, as a garnish

Using a meat grinder or an electric mixer fitted with a medium coarse die, grind the meat and fat together. In a mixing bowl, combine the ground meat, onions, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Place the potatoes in a medium bowl and cover with water, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Combine the meat and potatoes together and mix well.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt. Mix well. Add the shortening and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water and let sit for 1 minute. Using either a fork or your hands, carefully press the mixture together forming a soft ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in half and roll the dough out on the floured surface into a circle about 12-inches in diameter and 1/8-inch thick.

Preheat the oven 350 degrees F.

Gently fold the circle of dough in half, and then in half again so that you can lift it without tearing it, and unfold into a 9 by 2-inch deep-dish pie pan. Spoon the meat mixture into the pie crust. Brush the edges with the beaten egg. Lay the second pie crust over the meat mixture. Crimp the edges and place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300 degrees F and continue to cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove from the oven and cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Slice the pie into individual serving. Garnish with parsley.
From FoodNetwork.

Note: The pies can be frozen. Cut into individual slices for single servings, and reheat in microwave or oven.

Foie gras

Foie gras [fwä grä] (French for “fat liver”) is the fattened liver of a duck or goose that has been overfed. Along with truffles and caviar, foie gras is considered one of the greatest delicacies in the world of French cuisine. It is very rich and buttery, with a delicate flavour unlike regular duck or goose liver.

France is now the “home” of foie gras. 80% of the world production (16370 tonnes in 2003, 96% in duck and the rest in goose), and 98% of the transformation, occur in France [1]. 30,000 people are involved in the industry with 90% residing in the Périgord (Dordogne) and Midi-Pyrénées régions in the southwest, as well as in the east (Alsace). The European Union recognizes the foie gras produced according to traditional farming methods (label rouge) in southwestern France with a geographical indication of provenance.

Québec also has a thriving foie gras industry. Many Canadian chefs use Québec foie gras as a demonstration of national pride.

Foie gras is a luxury dish. Many in France only consume foie gras on special occasions, such as Christmas or New Year’s Day eve réveillon dinners, though the recent increased availability of foie gras has made it a less exceptional dish. In some areas of France foie gras is a year round pleasure.

Duck foie gras is the cheaper and, since a change of production methods in the 1950s, by far the most common kind. The taste of duck foie gras is often referred to as musky with a subtle bitterness. Goose foie gras is noted for being less gamey and smoother. From Wikipedia.

Goose and duck Foie gras is available from fine specialty food stores and online from iGourmet, CAVIARetc., and GourmetGroceryOnline.


Foie gras with sauternes

American Regional Cuisine

One of the possible guide books for the Gourmet and Ethnic Foods blog could very well be the book American Regional Cuisine. It is a good beginning source for exploring cuisines of many U.S. regions.

“New England clam chowder, New Orleans gumbo, Southern fried green tomatoes, texas barbecue…Each region of the United States has its own cuisine, with distinctive ingredients, techniques, and recipes. From north to south and from east to west, this volume explores this tremendous culinary diversity in a comprehensive cookbook and guide to the nation’s cuisines. By placing each cuisine within its historical and cultural context, the book offers readers a deeper understanding of each cooking style and the qualities that make it unique.

Two hundred delicious recipes twenty for each type of cuisine are introduced by well-known chefs and restaurateurs. The recipes are drawn from every part of the menu, from appetizers to desserts, and detailed instructions ensure that nothing is left to chance in the kitchen. Perfect for anyone who wants to learn how to cook “fluently” in the language of the nation’s regional cuisines, this book will bring new variety and authenticity to any cooking repertoire.” From Jessica’sBiscuit.

American Regional Cuisine

American Regional Cuisine
by The Art Institutes
Hardcover - 540 pages Published: January 2002
color photographs
ISBN: 0471405442
John Wiley & Sons

Available from Jessicas’sBiscuit.

Feijoada (Brazilian Black Beans) and Caipirinha; recipes

Brazil

Feijoada (Brazilian Black Beans)

This is the national dish of Brazil. It is traditionally served on a Saturday and it is a festive meal to share with family and friends. There are as many recipes as there are cooks in Brazil and some regional variations too.

This recipe was featured in National Geographic Traveler magazine, July/August 1999 issue and on the Peace Corps website in 2004. From maria-brazil.org

Recipe:

8 cups dried black beans
3 pounds carne seca (Brazilian salted cured beef)
2 pounds sweet sausage (or use Portuguese choriço when available)
2 pounds baby back spareribs
2 bay leaves
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil

The night before, soak the beans in a large bowl with water to cover at least 3-4 inches. Soak the carne seca in water to cover. The next morning, drain the beans and place in a large pot with water to cover by at least 3 inches. Bring the beans to a boil in medium heat.

Meanwhile, cut the carne seca into 1-inch pieces. Cut the sausage into 1-inch pieces. Cut the ribs into 2-rib sections.

Add the carne seca, sausage, ribs and bay leaves to the beans. Simmer for about 2 hours or until soft (Goya brand black beans usually take about 2 hours) , stirring from time to time, adding water as necessary to keep beans covered. Keep an eye on the beans so they don’t burn at the bottom!

Chop the onion and garlic. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until golden brown. Add two ladlefuls of beans and mash them. Put this back into the pot. It will thicken and season the beans.

Continue to simmer gently for at least another hour, adding water as necessary. A good feijoada should have a creamy consistency when done. Remove the bay leaves. Some people take the meats out at this point and serve them separately on a platter. Serve the feijoada and garnishes in ceramic bowls and platters, it will add a touch of authenticity!

To serve feijoada, put a mound or rice on your plate and place a ladleful or two of feijoada on top. Arrange oranges and curve around the sides. Sprinkle the beans and serve with farofa (manioc) and add a spoonful of sauce to the side.

If feijoada is the national dish of Brazil, then Caipirinha is the national drink.

Caipirinha

Caipirinha is a Brazilian cocktail made from cachaça, limes, sugar, and ice. In Brazil, it is served in most restaurants, and is considered a characteristic drink of the country. Its simplicity and tangy sweetness have made it popular all over the world, and it is considered by the IBA (International Bar Association) to be one of the 50 greatest drinks of all time.

Caipirinha Recipe

In an old-fashioned glass, add 1 large lime, cut in four, and 2 full tbsps of white sugar. With a pestle, crush the lime crudely, until the sugar is moist and a strong scent emerges. Add a few cubes of ice and top it off up with white cachaça. The mixture should be shaken for best distribution. Some bartenders prefer to use sugar (or gomme) syrup instead of powdered, as the former gives a smoother texture in the finished drink. From Wikipedia.

Chitterlings or chit’lins

Chitterlings or chit’lins are the intestines of young pigs, cleaned and stewed and then frequently battered and fried.

Chitlin’s are considered a delicacy (a special and desirable food) in South Carolina and other parts of the South. But chitterlings must be prepared carefully. They must be soaked and rinsed thoroughly in several changes of cool water, and repeatedly picked clean, by hand, of extra fat and specks. They are then boiled and simmered until tender. They can be prepared different ways. Standard recipes call for simmering the chitlin’s for three to five hours in water seasoned with salt, black pepper, and perhaps hot peppers, along with vinegar and an onion. But everyone has a different recipe. Sometimes they are cooked with hog maws (hog stomach), or fried in a batter. From FoodReference.com.


Watercress and Watercress soup recipe

Watercress

Watercress (Nasturtium nasturtium-aquaticum, N. microphyllum) are fast-growing, aquatic or semi-aquatic, perennials native from Europe to central Asia and one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by human beings. These plants are members of the Family Brassicaceae or cabbage family, botanically related to garden cress and mustard — all noteworthy for a peppery, tangy flavor.

The stems of watercress are floating and the leaves are pinnately compound. Watercresses produce small, white and green flowers in clusters.

Watercress contains significant amounts of iron, calcium and folic acid, in addition to vitamins A and C. In some regions watercress is regarded as a weed, in other regions as an aquatic vegetable or herb.

Many benefits from eating watercress are claimed, such as that it acts as a mild stimulant, a source of phytochemicals and antioxidants, a diuretic, an expectorant, and a digestive aid. From Wikipedia.

If you can stand the tart, some say bitter taste, watercress is wonderful on its own, with any salad dressing. Or add to a salad or as a garnish, instead of parsley.

Watercress Soup

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

1/4 lb. watercress, roots trimmed

1/2 cup onion\cooked, chopped

4-1/4 cups water

2 Tbsps. lime juice

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. salt (optional), or to taste

3/4 cup sour cream

Instructions:

Combine watercress, onion and water in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. Simmer 15 minutes or until watercress is tender. Transfer watercress and onion to a blender, reserving broth. Process until smooth, adding a small amount of watercress broth. Return puréed vegetables to watercress broth. Add lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Divide soup among serving bowls. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

From Chefs.com.

Pickles


Almost everyone likes pickles, here meaning pickled cucumbers. And not just sweet or sour, or sweet and sour. Most supermarket varieties just don’t make the grade. In New York City debates occur over which is best (sour, half sour, new), or more authentic. The grand-daddy of pickles in NYC is Guss’ Pickles.

Here are a few definitions from Guss’ on different pickling methods for cucumbers, tomato and cabbage:

GUSS’ SOUR : Fresh cucumbers are packed in barrels with our own blend of all - natural pickling spices, freshly - chopped garlic, and a saltwater brine. They cure in barrels for at least a few months, producing their own sourness and unique flavor.

GUSS’ HALF SOUR : Fresh cucumbers are cured in a saltwater brine and skillfully seasoned with our own blend of natural pickling spices and freshly chopped garlic.

GUSS’ SOUR TOMATO : They cure in a salt and vinegar brine with all - natural pickling spices, freshly chopped garlic, coriander, and celery seed. They develop a full, zesty flavor while retaining their crisp texture and fresh character.

GUSS’ SAUERKRAUT : It ferments naturally for a minimum of 30 days, developing a fabulous full flavor and crisp texture. This sauerkraut is simply the best available!

These, and others (though, not “new”), are available from Guss’ through a link at New York First Company.

Honey


Honey is significantly sweeter than table sugar and has attractive chemical properties for baking. Honey has a distinctive flavor which leads some people to prefer it over sugar and other sweeteners.

Liquid honey does not spoil. Because of its high sugar concentration, it kills bacteria by plasmolysis. Natural airborne yeasts cannot become active in it because the moisture content is too low. Natural, raw honey varies from 14% to 18% moisture content. As long as the moisture content remains under 18%, virtually no organism can successfully multiply to significant amounts in honey.

Honey is a mixture of sugars, water, and other compounds. The specific composition of any batch of honey will depend largely on the mix of flowers consumed by the bees that produced the honey.

The flavor and color of the substance is largely determined by the nectar source. Common flavors of honey include orange blossom honey, tupelo honey, buckwheat honey, clover honey, blackberry, blueberry, and even cranberry honey.

While it is rare for any honey to be produced exclusively from one floral source, honey will take on the flavor of the dominant flower in the region. Orange blossom, tupelo, and sourwood are favored types in the United States. Greece is famous for wild thyme honey, as is France for lavender and acacia honey.

Comb honey

A popular honey product. The honey is sold still in the wax comb. Comb honey was once packaged by installing wooden framework in special supers, but this labor intensive method is dying, and being replaced by plastic rings or cartridges. After removal from the hive, a clear cover is usually fitted onto the cartridge so customers can see the product.

Raw Honey

Honey as it exists in the beehive or as obtained by extraction, settling or straining without adding heat. Raw honey contains some pollen and may contain small particles of wax. Local raw honey is sought after by allergy sufferers as the pollen impurities lessen the sensitivity to hay fever.

Chunk Honey

Honey packed in wide mouth containers consisting of one or more pieces of comb honey surrounded by extracted liquid honey. This type is preferred in the US South.

Strained Honey or Filtered Honey

Honey which has been passed through a mesh material to remove particulate material (pieces of wax, propolis, other defects) without removing pollen. Preferred by the health food trade - it has a cloudy appearance due to the included pollen, but it also tends to crystallize more quickly than ultrafiltered honey.

Ultrafiltered Honey

Honey processed by very fine filtration under high pressure to remove all extraneous solids and pollen grains. Ultrafiltered honey is very clear and has a longer shelf life, because it crystallizes more slowly. Preferred by the supermarket trade.

Source: Wikipedia

For some distinctive types of honey, honey products, and honey recipes, visit E&M Gold Beekeepers.

Molasses

Molasses or treacle is a thick, syrupy derivative of the juice of the sugarcane plant or the processing of sugar beet. The quality of molasses depends on the maturity of the sugar cane or beet, the amount of sugar extracted, and the method of extraction.

Cane Molasses
Sulphured molasses is made from green (not yellow) sugar cane and is treated with sulphur fumes during the sugar extraction process.

Each season, the sugar cane plant is harvested and stripped of its leaves. Its juice is then extracted from the canes (usually by crushing or mashing), boiled until it has reached the appropriate consistency, and processed to extract the sugar. The results of this first boiling and processing is first molasses, which has the highest sugar content because comparatively little sugar has been extracted from the juice.

Second molasses is created from a second boiling and sugar extraction, and has a slight bitter tinge to its taste. Further rounds of processing and boiling yield the dark blackstrap molasses, which is the most nutritionally valuable, and thus often sold as a health supplement, as well as being used in the manufacture of cattle feed, and for other industrial uses.

Sugar Beet Molasses
Molasses from the sugar beet is different from cane molasses. Only the syrup left from the final crystallisation stage is called molasses; intermediate syrups are referred to as high green and low green. It is about 50% sugar by dry weight, predominantly sucrose but also containing significant amounts of glucose and fructose. The non-sugar content includes many salts such as calcium, potassium, oxalate and chloride. As such, it is unpalatable and is mainly used as an additive to animal feed or as a fermentation feedstock. It is possible to extract additional sugar from beet molasses through a process known as molasses desugarisation. This technique exploits industrial scale chromatography to separate sucrose from non sugar components. The technique is only economically viable in areas where the price of sugar is supported above the world market e.g. in areas with trade barriers, and is prevalent in the US and is also seen within the European Community. From Wikipedia.

From grandmamolasses.com comes the following:

"Despite the fact that molasses is very “today,” its American history dates back to 1493 when Columbus introduced it to the West Indies. Molasses became an important product in Colonial trade. It was the major sweetener used in America until after World War I because it was less expensive than sugar. Molasses was so important that the founders of the colony of Georgia promised each man, woman, and child who endured a year in Georgia 64 quarts of molasses as a reward.

Baking was the most popular way to prepare food in the Colonies, so molasses became associated with baked goods: doughnuts, mince pies, pumpkin pies, ginger bread, baked beans, corn bread, countless cookies, and cakes. Maine children poured it over buttered bread for Sunday night supper, while molasses formed the base under the crumb topping of Pennsylvania Dutch shoofly pie. In England, any candy made of molasses was called toffee, which evolved into taffy in the Colonies, and a great Saturday night activity was a taffy pull.

The most important spirit that warmed the Colonists’ was rum - made principally from molasses. Just before the Revolutionary war, it is estimated that Colonists, including women and children, downed an average of four gallons of rum a year. As a matter of fact, some historians argue that it was not the British tax on American tea that precipitated the Revolutionary War, but the Molasses Act of 1733 which imposed a heavy tax on sugar and molasses coming from anywhere except the British sugar islands in the Caribbean. But there was such widespread evasion of this tariff that it was lowered in 1764.

Molasses remained the most popular sweetener through the nineteenth century. Used to sweeten drinks, as well as for confections, molasses was also used to flavor meat, especially pork and ham. By the 1830’s, a bride’s popularity was measured by the number of layers of molasses stack cake guests brought her. Until the early 1900’s, molasses vied with sugar and maple syrup as the sweetener of choice. It was only after World War I, when sugar prices plummeted, that molasses and maple syrup took a back seat to sugar as popular sweeteners."

Sulphures and Unsulphured molasses is readily available in your supermarket or online at ShopNatural.

Lavender rice

lavender

The following is re-published with the kind permission of Splendid Palate (c)2005.

September 30th, 2005
An experiment… Lavender rice to accompany French cuisine

When at home I really enjoy experimenting with French cuisine… especially ’simple French cuisine’ as I like to call it. Dishes that are very flavorful, use terrific ingredients but basically take little time or effort to prepare (all the real work is done by the ingredients in the oven). My specialty is ‘Easy Provencal Chicken’… more to come on this recipe at a later date as it’s being reserved for Splendid Palate’s newsletter. When I made it recently I had further inspiration to create a perfect complement… lavender rice. The recipe is far from perfected, though I would encourage some experimenting as the initial results were quite nice (although a bit mild in lavender taste). Here is what I recommend starting with:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup organic lavender buds
1 cup basmati rice
1 TBSP butter
1 TSP olive oilfleur de sel (salt to taste)
2 cups water

In a tall 3-4 QT sauce pan combine the rice and olive oil. Mix so that the rice is coated. Turn the heat on med and briefly saute the rice. Add 2 cups of water and turn heat to med-high. Utilizing muslin herb bag(s) or an extra large tea infuser add the organic lavender buds (lavender should not be mixed in directly with the rice as they will need to be removed prior to serving). NOTE: if muslin or infusers are not available, cheese cloth that is tightly tied off will also work. Bring the rice to a boil. Stir often, being sure to stir the lavender around so that it is contact with all sections of the pot. Reduce the heat to medium, cover. Be sure to check heat and stir often. Ideally the rice should be slow cooked, so that the lavender has a chance to infuse the rice. Once the water is near reduced and rice thickened, remove the lavender. Finish cooking the rice, once complete add in the butter and mix until melted. Finally add fleur de sel to taste. NOTE: I generally like to bake the rice at the end prior to adding the butter and salt for a half hour or so in a covered dish.

The finished product may look a little grey-blue and should have very nice, subtle notes of lavender. This rice makes a wonderful accompaniment to poultry and fish. The amount of lavender needed to get the right level of taste will take a bit of trial and error. This quantity (1/2 cup) does produce a nice result. Enjoy.

Visit SplendidPalate for other recipes and gourmet products.

Chocolate Connoisseur: For Everyone with a Passion for Chocolate

Written by a chocolate addict, a guide to everything to do with chocolate, and just published:

Chocolate Connoisseur: For Everyone with a Passion for Chocolate

by Doutre-Roussel, Chloe
Hardcover - 216 pages Published: February 2006
Black and White Photographs and Illustrations
ISBN: 1585424889
Tarcher Publishers
Chocolate Connoisseur

*Learn how to tell the difference between “good” chocolate and “bad” chocolate
* Discover wonderful new brands to savor and enjoy
* Marry your favorite brands to your mood and time of day
* Learn to taste chocolate like a connoisseur

Packed with history, myths, amazing stories, recipes, tasting notes for the world’s finest chocolates, and “chocolate philosophy,” this charming book will inspire you to become a connoisseur.

Available in bookstores and from Jessica’s Biscuit.

Steak tartare

Steak tartare is a meat dish made from finely chopped, or ground raw beef. It is often served with onions and seasonings, and sometimes with raw egg. In the past, any restaurant that served hamburgers had the ability to prepare steak tartare even if it was not specifically mentioned on the menu.

Health concerns have decreased the popularity of this meat dish because of the danger of contamination by bacteria and other organisms. Cooking until the chopped meat is no longer pink is a sure way of killing almost all undesired organisms, but it is contrary to the preparation of this food item.

The basis of the name is the legend that Tatars did not have time to cook and thus ate their meat raw while remaining mounted on horses. Steak tartare is now regarded as a gourmet dish. From Wikipedia.

See recipe for Steak Tartare on this blog.

Steak Tartare recipe

STEAK TARTARE

STEAK TARTARE

INGREDIENTS

1 lb. filet mignon or top sirloin, freshly ground, med. grind
2 tbsp. yellow ballpark mustard
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 c. finely chopped onion
3 tbsp. capers, drained
4-5 dashes hot pepper sauce, or to taste
Seasoned salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tbsp. cognac (opt.)

Don’t use any other grade of beef.

PREPARATION

Mix together all ingredients lightly to avoid packing the meat too much. Mound steak tartare on chilled plates and serve immediately with thinly sliced pumpernickel or toasted French bread. Serves 3 to 4. Total prep time: 10 minutes.

From Cooks.com.

Capers

Capers
caper flowers
1. A Caper (Capparis spinosa) is a shrub from the Mediterranean region. It is best known for its edible buds and fruit which are usually consumed pickled.

The pickled or salted caper bud (also called caper) is often used as a seasoning or garnish. Capers are a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine. The grown fruit of the caper shrub is also available, prepared similarly to the buds, as caper berries.

The berries, when ready to pick, are a dark olive green and about the size of a kernel of maize. They are picked and then pickled in a vinegar and salt solution.

Capers are often enjoyed in cold smoked salmon or cured salmon dishes, salad, pizza, pasta and sauces.

It was used in ancient Greece as a carminative (A carminative, also known as carminativum (plural: carminativa), is a medicinal drug with antispasmodic activity that is used against cramps of the digestive tract in combination with flatulence. They are often mixtures of essential oils and herbal spices with a tradition in folk medicine for this use.). The caper-berry is mentioned in the Bible in the book of Ecclesiastes as “avionah” according to modern interpretation of the word.

2. Raw, capers are unpromising, insipid things. Fortunately, it was discovered thousands of years ago that pickling transforms them, resulting in the salty-sour pungency and unique aroma that has won the caper such an important place at the Mediterranean table.

The quality of capers is inversely related to their size; the smaller, the better. The best, sold as nonpareilles or surfines, have an extra intensity and cost to match. During harvest, special care must be taken to pick the buds early in the day before they have a chance to bloom – blooming gives you a beautiful white and violet-colored flower but no caper. If you let the flower fruit, you end up with a berry the size of a small olive. These berries, called caperberries, also need to be cured in brine and are best treated like cornichons or any other pickle. You’ll often find them on antipasti plates. From Wikipedia.

One final tip: capers will keep indefinitely so long as they remain submerged in their own brine. So take care to leave the brine behind when spooning capers from their jar. If they’re not submerged, use them up faster, but don’t top off the jar with vinegar - it’ll make them spoil faster. From FoodNetwork.

See elsewhere on this blog for Mustard Butter with Basil and Capers recipe.

Mustard Butter with Basil and Capers

Mustard Butter with Basil and Capers

from FoodNetwork:

INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 teaspoons drained capers
1 large garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse-grained mustard
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

DIRECTIONS

Mince capers and garlic and mash with salt. In a bowl stir together garlic-caper paste with remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Chill mustard butter 10 minutes. Using waxed paper as an aid, shape mustard butter into a 6-inch log and wrap. Chill butter until firm, at least 1 hour, and up to 3 days. Butter may be frozen, wrapped well in plastic wrap, 1 month. Slice mustard butter as needed.

Capers can be purchased at your local supermarket on online at iGourmet, Kosher.com, and LaTienda.