Wednesday, March 5, 2014
Tomato season seems very far away. But there are still ways to enjoy mozzarella salads.
Beetroot is a wonderful cold season partner for creamy buffalo mozzarella, or burrata. It is also extremely good for us.
I give thin slices of beet a quick-pickle for about half an hour, drain them, and layer them with the slices of white cheese. The acid of the vinegar is a foil for the mellow mozzarella, and the result is surprisingly addictive.
In the salad above I've added hardy sorrel leaves and the first leaves of mustard sprouts.
This is very similar to the recipe I use in the March chapter of 66 Square Feet - A Delicious Life, which is dedicated to using the thinnings of cool weather greens.
The quantities are deeply flexible, but for two:
1 medium-sized beet, peeled and quite thinly sliced
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
Mustard or pea shoots (optional)
Good extra virgin olive oil
For the quick pickle:
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup good vinegar (I use white wine, sherry or apple cider vinegar, depending on my mood)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
In a small bowl, stir the sugar and salt into the water and vinegar. When they have dissolved, add the beet slices. After about half an hour remove the slices and pat them dry.
Slice the mozzarella and alternate on a serving plate with the beet slices. If you have young green shoots, scatter them over the top. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, a good cracking of black pepper, and drizzle with the olive oil.
Monday, March 3, 2014
...because one forgets. This can be a very, very good drink.
Margaritas are mostly a cold weather cocktail, for me. Perhaps it's the sour citrus, a sub-tropical winter fruit. Perhaps it's because I know that if you sat me outside in August and plied me with these things I'd never want to stand up again.
We are in a new neighbourhood, so we buy new Tequila. In this case, Puerta Negra Reposado (pale gold and "rested" after two months in oak) from the Eritrean liquor store on Lenox. The Cointreau in the Tiffany's decanter moved with us from Brooklyn.
And the lemmings (squeal, squeal! as you squeeze them), are from Fine Fare, also on Lenox. Organic - a good surprise.
So there it all is. You could use Triple Sec. Less expensive. But since we drink these infrequently, the Cointreau is a good investment. You could use other Tequila. Don't ever, ever use sour mix.
My mind changes often regarding the ratio of liquors and juice. Every time I seem to state with utter authority that THIS is it. All I can say is that it has seemed so, at the time: mostly Tequila (this was a dangerous summer iteration, on Fire Island), equal parts (last February), or as follows, the more moderate version, as drunk recently:
3 parts Tequila
2 parts Cointreau
1 part lemon or lime juice
Shake up. Pour into coupes. I rubbed ours with lemon and dipped the edges in salt. I always regret that, vaguely.
Awfully good with spicy, long-cooked Cinco de Mayo pig. But for that we will have to wait.
Monday, February 24, 2014
I made a rabbit terrine.
It is a hybrid of Patricia Wells' recipe in Bistro Cooking and Richard Olney's in Simple French Food. Haha. Simple. He was a funny man.
I messed with the seasonings, as usual - cognac, local juniper, lots of thyme and a heavy hand with the salt and pepper. And I added, at Olney's suggestion, a paste of breadcrumbs and garlic.
So if you'd like to make this terrine soon, buy both books - you won't be sorry - throw them in a blender and see what comes out. Exercise your judgement.
But when I have made it again, and tested my meddling, I'll post this recipe. Promise. It's wonderful.
The terrine cooked in a low oven in a bain marie. Hot water bath. Then it was weighed down with one jar of grape jam, a can of beans and a bottle of artichoke hearts, with dry black beans as ballast. This compressed it a little and also pressed the meat layer below the fat that melted from the smoked bacon lining the terrine container. I've made a similar recipe before, for a dinner a long time ago, and, like an idiot, I did not write that one down. It was very good. At least this time I took notes. I have a little black book of untranscribed recipes...
Here is a slice served with moskonfyt (MAWS-con-fate) - a jam made on the West Coat of South Africa from grapes, usually hanepoot (Muscat d'Alexandrie). This jar came from Oep ve Koep, Kobus van der Merwe's mom's shop in Paternoster, attached to his wonderful restaurant of the same name.
Otherwise, we wait. For the promised - or threatened snow. I am very excited. If you have a warm bed to sleep in, and a roof over your head, snow is very beautiful. I'll never grow tired of its magic.
Thursday, January 30, 2014
My relationship with gnocchi used to be based upon suspicion. I still expect leaden pellets in restaurants. Only Al di La's malfatti were perfect and still stand at the apex of gnocchi lightness. And then I learned about gnudi. Thank you, dear reader. More ricotta. Less lead.
I warned Vince NOT to expect lightness on my first - or even tenth - attempt. And yet: light these were, the first time, and in every subsequent iteration. Thanks to my friend Bevan Christie, yet again - his was the recipe. Instead of gorgonzola sauce, though, I chose butter and sage. It's a blue cheese thing. Makes me itch.
I have used fresh and frozen spinach for these gnudi - fresh is softer, less watery and less fibrous. Excess moisture in the spinach or ricotta is the enemy of good texture
Instead of making small pellets, I make larger ones, about an inch-and-a-half.
As each pops up I scoop it with a perforated ladle directly onto a warm serving plate.
...pour over the sauce over the top, sprinkle parmesan, and we eat.
Gnudi Verde - for Two Humans
8 oz/225 gr cooked spinach, squeezed dry (about 2lbs/1kg fresh)
1 cup ricotta (drained if not firm)
½ cup coarse dried bread crumbs
½ cup finely, freshly grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Black pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour for dusting and rolling
Cook spinach after washing, putting it in a pot with lid and no extra water. It will wilt and reduce radically in volume. When tender, run under cold water and squeeze as dry as possible. If possible, wring it out in a clean cloth, getting every drop of water out. Chop it.
Mix spinach, ricotta, breadcrumbs, egg, parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, thoroughly and then refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Scoop into rough balls using two teaspoons. Rest the balls on a flour-dusted board, making them in batches of 8 or so. Roll softly between your palms or on the board into logs about an inch and a half long and half an inch wide. I dent each log gently along its length with a finger. Put each finished log onto a plate, also dusted lightly with flour. Once you have used all your mixture, cover and refrigerate for 10 minutes or more.
In a large pot or pots, boil salted water and drop the gnocchi in one at a time till there are about twelve on the bottom of the pot. Keep the water simmering. When the gnudi rise to the surface remove (gently) at once to a warm plate and keep warm while the others cook.
Make the quick sauce while the gnudi are cooking.
Sage Butter Sauce
3 Tablespoons butter
Handful of sage leaves - say, 12 leaves
1 gentle squeeze of fresh lemon juice, less than a tablespoon
Salt and pepper
Melt butter, add sage, cook gently (you may allow it to turn barely brown), squeeze the lemon, add salt and pepper. Cook till the sage is crisp. Pour over plated gnocchi, sprinkle parmesan at once and eat at once.
Monday, January 20, 2014
When we lived in Cobble Hill we ate at Frankie's in neighbouring Carroll Gardens, several times. I liked the food very much. The impossible, unnecessary noise, I hated. It was an insult to the food, because it made conversation impossible. For me, sitting down to eat is as much about the conversation as the food. What goes into the mouth can inspire what comes out.
There are recipes for Frankie's meatballs all over the web, and this is very much based on their published version, with a few tweaks. I use less bread, parmesan rather than pecorino, currants rather than raisins, fewer eggs, and I roast the meatballs at high heat (450'F), rather than very low (325'). High heat gives them a nice crust.
Meatballs (for two, and then some)
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 lb organic ground beef
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves,finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
1/4 cup Spanish pine nuts
1/4 cup currants
1 large eggs
Soak the breadcrumbs in milk, then squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. Put the soggy crumbs in a bowl, and add the ground beef. Season with black pepper and the salt. Mix the crumbs and meat together thoroughly, using a fork. Add the garlic, parsley, cheese, nuts and currants. Mix again.
Heat the oven to 450'F/220'C.
Now roll the mixture into golf-sized balls. Golf makes me fall asleep. It helps to have a bowl of water handy while you are rolling - keep wetting your palms with a little: it prevents sticking.
Place the meatballs on an oiled baking sheet and slide into the oven. Take the tray out after 10 minutes and flip each meatball. Slide back in.
While they are roasting I make a quick tomato sauce:
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 can of good tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
Heat the olive oil in a large pan and saute the garlic till translucent. Do not allow to brown. Add the tomatoes, crushing them in the pan till they are in pieces. Or chop first! Why didn't I think of that?
Add the sugar. Stir. Cook over medium-high heat for 20 minutes, bubbling. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary, as well as pepper. If you have the time, allow to cool for 10 minutes then puree till smooth. Return to pan and keep warm. Otherwise serve it rough and ready...
Add the meatballs to the pan with the sauce and cook at a low simmer for 5 minutes.
Serve nestled in sauce and topped with some more passing thunder showers of cheese.
Here's the Frankie's cookbook, if you'd like more of the food, and none of the noise.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
Such a simple drink. You need crème de cassis (I like Gabriel Boudier), and dry white wine. I keep the cassis in the fridge once it's opened. The syrupy sugar content might preserve it, out, but it's about 20% alcohol by volume, so could spoil. It's not the kind of thing one polishes off overnight. Mine lasts months.
A slosh of the cassis into a glass. The strength is up to you. Top with cold white wine. I add slices of lemon or lime, or, in this case, yuzu - a very perfumed citrus.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I forget to make cornbread, despite how nice this one is. Then Thanksgiving happens and I remember. And I ask myself again why I don't bake it more often.
This year, we will be in South Africa, and I will miss this holiday meal that I have come to love, very much. The day after the Cape Town book release and three days before my mother's birthday shindig (the real reason we are going to Cape Town), I'm not sure that any of us will have it in us to rustle up a Thanksgiving vibe, in high summer in the Cape. But never say never.
This recipe was to have been included in the book, but fell to the cutting room floor when we realized, as Salieri did about Mozart, that there were "too many notes!" Not that I am a Mozart. But the book could have been twice as fat. Easy. And then twice the price. Hence. No cornbread (but the ginger ale pig made it! The best ham in the world - look in the November chapter.)
The addition of fluffy egg whites in this version of cornbread makes it a very light and soft loaf, and nothing like the cornbread bricks I have known...It is the perfect vehicle for slices of leftover ham.
1 stick (110gr) of butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 cup flour
1 cup cornflour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
1 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 400'F/200'C. Butter a bread pan.
In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar and add the egg yolks. Stir well. Add a little flour if the mixture separates and beat again. In another, extra clean bowl, beat the egg whites till gentle peaks form, and set aside. To the creamed butter add the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in the milk and add the cornmeal. Fold in half the egg whites, incorporating them gently, and then add the second half, mixing quite gently until the mixture is well integrated but not beaten flat.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
It is best served with nothing but sweet butter. But it does love that topping of thinly sliced ham.
Make two. This goes fast.
Monday, November 18, 2013
One pot wonder. Back in the day. Sunday lunch scents. Long table, all the army boys and Ouma and Auntie Kathleen with her blue hair and Auntie Irma-who-drove-an-ambulance-in-the-blitz and Father Clack from church. The old, big chipped yellow enamel roasting pot, the only one big enough to hold my mother's rusk mix on rusk-making days, lid off, steam, the thin slices of very well-cooked meat, soft vegetables soaked in its juice.
I have made it perhaps three times since, and most recently liked it very much, indeed.
For Four, with leftovers (or For Two, with even more leftovers)
Note: the cooking time here is really for about 20 minutes per pound of beef, and it was perfect, but this is for beef that has been aged appropriately by a good butcher. If you'd rather have fall-apart tender pot-roast, up that timing to 40 minutes per pound of beef, and cook at 350'F/180'C. If you do this, lift the lid every hour to check the moisture levels and keep them around an inch at the bottom of the pot.
1 Tablespoon oil, your choice (for me it's either coconut or olive, increasingly the former)
1 3.5lb - 4lb piece grass fed chuck roast
1 cup red wine
3 ribs celery, strings pulled
2 large carrots, scraped and cut into fat batons
2 shallots, peeled and halved
5 scallions, trimmed
3 cloves of garlic, skinned but whole
2 large potatoes
1 bunch parsley
4 stalks thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt and real black pepper
1/3 cup cream
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 squeeze lemon juice
Heat the oven to 400'F/200'C. In a large and heavy pot heat the oil over high heat and brown the chuck on each side - about 2-3 minutes per side, with no poking and fiddling about. Just leave it there. Add the vegetables and herbs, arranging them around the meat, and pour the wine over them. Add 1 cup of water. Sprinkle salt and pepper across the top.
Put the lid on and slide the pot into the oven, where it should remain unmolested for one-and-a-half hours. Then remove the pot from the oven, lift the meat out and onto a board or platter, and return the pot to the stove over medium heat. When the juices are bubbling, add the cream and the mustard, stirring. Add the lemon juice, and stir again. Taste, and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
Carve the meat into medium slices and serve with the sauce and the vegetables nestled alongside.
(If you have access to fresh horseradish, now would be a good time to eat it, rasped on a microplane into a fine and damp cloud with a white, rooty kick.)