Posted in Food, Recipes

Hmmm. Dinner. Yes, Dinner

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Back from the farmers market with a tasty haul. Lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers, fresh mozzarella and a chicken breast I’ll season and broil for the top. I’ll also toss in the spinach I picked up last week, which is still fresh and crisp.

I also picked up some beans with their greens. Any ideas for what I could do with them?

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Ah, summer!

Posted in Food, Recipes, Summer

Today’s Two-For-One

Cook me, baby!

Spent today cooking, cooking, cooking. There must be something I’m trying to get out of my system. Either that, or the huge loads of vegetables we typically collect in the summer are making me feel guilty. Don’t waste that! It’s fresh. It was plucked out of the ground just this morning. You’ve got a freezer, right? Get those pots out, girl.

I took care of two items cluttering my fridge and counters this afternoon. Our neighbors/condo co-owners belong to an organic farm share and kindly shared a huge bag of fresh beets. They’re not fond of beets, but they thrill me to my Polish core. Beet soup. Beet salads. Grated beets. You name it, I love it. I whipped up a humongous batch of  Rydzynski family beet soup, straight out of my grandmother’s kitchen and passed on to me via my dad. Every family probably has a grandmother like this: about 4 feet tall, hair in a bun, black orthopedic shoes and a pot of something on the stove (or in the oven) morning, noon and night. When we were kids we were ritually led to her ancient kitchen, seated onto uncomfortable kitchen chairs and given a plate of something home made to eat. Woe to the kid who didn’t finish it. Hey – people starved to death in the old country. They sure as hell weren’t going to do that here.

I’ll eventually share the recipe. In its current shape it’s a bit hard to decode and I want to play around with the proportions, particularly those of sugar to vinegar. Sweet-sour soups are an Eastern European thing, and they’re really good.

Can you spell borscht?

I also made my second batch of tomato sauce, this time from Marcella Hazan‘s The Classic Italian Cookbook (a real classic. Get it!). She has three fresh-tomato sauces that are absolutely out of this world. They are simply called Tomato Sauce I, Tomato Sauce II and Tomato Sauce III. They vary in the amount of time the tomatoes are cooked. Tomato Sauce I, which I made this afternoon, is the longest-cooking recipe. It’s a simple procedure involving plum tomatoes, olive oil, salt and smidgens of onion, carrot, celery and sugar. I use this sauce to accompany gnocci if I’m having it plain. It also pairs extraordinarily well with chicken. Give it a try yourself and see what you think:

Tomato Sauce I

2 pounds, fresh, ripe plum tomatoes (remove seeds and skin beforehand if you don’t have a food mill)
1/2 cup good quality olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/3 cup finely chopped carrot
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
1 – 2 tsp salt, to taste (I use 1 tsp)
1/4 tsp granulated sugar

Wash tomatoes in cold water. Core and slice in half, lengthwise. Simmer in a covered saucepan for 10 minutes. Remove cover and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours more.

Puree the tomatoes through a food mill (if you have one), to remove the seeds and skin. Meanwhile, wash out the pot you were using and add the olive oil. Add the onion and saute until just translucent, not brown. Add carrot and celery and saute for just another minute.

Add the pureed tomato, the salt and the sugar. Cook at a gentle simmer, uncovered or partially covered, for another 20 minutes. Stir from time to time to prevent sticking.

If you try any of the sauces I’ve mentioned, please do let me know. I’d be curious to know what you think of them.

Posted in Food, Recipes, Seasons, Summer

Wednesday’s Cooking Class

In my next life I’ll be tomato sauce

I picked up a honkin’ big parcel of plum tomatoes (seconds, so they were cheap!) at our local farm stand a few days ago and have been gradually transforming them into a variety of different sauces. I made marinara sauce a few days ago, one of my favorite recipes that, oddly, calls for no basil but plenty of garlic and oregano and about a cup of chopped mushrooms. The resulting sauce is light and extremely flavorful. It stands best on its own, over pasta with a main meat course served separately.

I found the recipe years ago somewhere out on the internet. I think it may have been posted on a usenet site, back in the days of 2400 baud modems. I had a Mac Plus back then and felt so very up to date with it!

The old modem and computer are long gone, but I’ve been making this pasta sauce ever since. Give it a try and see what you think.

Marinara Sauce

Use fresh tomatoes, in season, for this recipe

2 tbs olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 large cloves garlic, chopped
8 medium, very ripe, tomatoes (peel and seed if desired. I usually don’t bother)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 tsp dried oregano
2/3 cup tomato paste
1/4 tsp black pepper, or to taste
1 tsp salt, or to taste

Heat oil in large frying pan or stock pot. Saute onion and garlic. Stir frequently and let cook until the onions are translucent. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer at low heat for at least one hour, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. The sauce will improve with additional cooking.

Posted in Uncategorized

Italian Chocolate-Almond Torte

Yum!

I joined my husband for a Passover seder last night, amidst the rising flood-waters. Got a chance to see my two nephews, along with my Albany-based brother and sister-in-law. We had a wonderful evening and a wonderful meal. I was placed in charge of desserts and brought this flour-less Italian Chocolate-Almond Torte. I whipped some cream to go along with it, and cut up some strawberries and let them macerate in a tiny amount of sugar.

Imagine this torte with a dollop of whipped cream and a hearty spoonful of strawberries. Magnifico!

Ingredients

  • Butter or shortening, for the pan
  • 1 cup (5 oz) unblanched or blanched whole or chopped almonds
  • 7 oz unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup sugar, divided in half
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 7 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder (for dusting)
  • 1 cup heavy cream, beaten to soft peaks

Directions

  1. Position an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan with removable base. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper cut to fit. Butter the pan, or apply shortening.
  2. In a food processor, combine the almonds, chocolate, 1/2 cup of the sugar and the salt. Pulse until the almonds and chocolate are finely chopped but not pulverized or powdered.
  3. In an electric mixer beat the eff whites with cream of tartar until they form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and conbtinue beating until the whites are stiff but not dry.
  4. With a large metal spoon, fold 1/3 of the nut-chocolate mixture into the whites. Then fold in half the remaining mixture, then the remaining mixture.
  5. Spread the batter in the pan and smooth the top. bake the torte for 25-30 minutes, or until it rises and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean or with a little melted chocolate. Set on a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes
  6. Unlatch the spring and lift off the band. Use a wide metal spatula to slide the cake onto a platter, carefully removing the parchment paper. Let the cake cool completely.
  7. Dust with cocoa and serve with whipped cream

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Posted in Uncategorized

The Colors of Fall

New England is a colorful place in the fall, even in the kitchen. I made up a batch of green tomato mincemeat, an absolutely fabulous meat-free mincemeat recipe that's sweet, tart and rich all at the same time. The recipe calls for dried cherries, so there's a wonderful aftertaste of these as well. It's everything you'd expect in a mincemeat and is second-to-none, particularly if you make the pie with a home made crust.

Green Tomato Mincemeat

Ingredients 

  • 3 lbs green tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 lbs tart apples, coarsely chopped, with skin
  • 3 1/3 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 10 oz currants
  • 6 oz dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chopped, crystallized ginger
  • 2 oranges, cut into slices, seeded
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp ground mace
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 juniper berries, cracked (optional)

Directions 

  1. Place the tomatoes in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and blanch for 4 – 5 minutes. Drain.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients. Mix well and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  3. Let the mincemeat cool. Remove the orange slices and cinnamon sticks and transfer to a covered container. Store in refrigerator for up to one week, or freeze for several months.
  4. Recipe from "Great Good Food: Luscious Lower-Fat Cooking," by Julee Rosso

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