Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cilantro chicken

Endless chicken dishes, in this house. We eat little red meat at home - partly a budget thing, partly an availability thing. There is no organic or grassfed raise beef nearby. We can find humanely raised poultry.

So here's a one-dish wonder. Strong flavours. Don't be afraid of the anchovies, they add salty complexity. There is nothing fishy about this and they will be undetectable to anchovy-haters.

Serves Four, or two hungry persons, with leftovers

4 thighs
4 drumsticks
1 head garlic, cloves all chopped finely
1 bunch cilantro (coriander), well washed, stems chopped finely
6 anchovy fillets, chopped finely
Zest of 1/2 a lime
2 large limes' juice (approx. 3-4 Tbsps)
1 Tbsp Halaby pepper (also called Aleppo red pepepr, otherwise use dried or fresh chiles)

Heat oven to 450'F/220'C.

Here's the fun part: Whop each piece of chicken in half with a big kitchen knife or cleaver. Pick out any small bone shards (the harder you whop the fewer there'll be. Really. Lift the knife above your head and aim well. Visualize the knife where you want it to land...Whop!).

You can skip that step if you're in no mood for fun. But the idea is that the more exposed surfaces you have, the more flavour sticks to them.

Put the chicken pieces in a large bowl.

Add the chopped garlic, cilantro stems, anchovies, the lime juice, the zest and the pepper. Toss very well.

Transfer to a roasting dish or skillet with low sides (it should accommodate the chicken pieces in a single layer with a little space between each).

Roast for 1 hour to 1 hr 25-ish, depending on how brown the bits become. Turn the pieces after about 40 minutes. If the liquid in the pan is drying add a splash of water every now and then. You want delectable stickiness when done, not soup.

While the chicken is cooking chop the cilantro leaves very finely. Pu the leaves in a small bowl and add the juice of a lime, a large pinch of salt, a teaspoon of sugar and stir very well. Serve this as fresh green sauce.

I served this with some steamed couscous.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Fast tomato soup

The first bitter day of winter is the first day of 2015. I made soup yesterday to take on a winter picnic, but we ended up eating fried clams, instead, sitting in a car pointing at a freezing New England beach. So we ate the soup today, for lunch.

This is quicksoup, cheapsoup, cheatsoup, and it is goodsoup. It is excellent New Year's Resolution soup, being thrifty, nourishing, satisfying and comforting. Take care of yourself, your family, your soul and your heart. All in one soup!

Use canned tomatoes. That is what winter is for. The fewer ingredients on the label the better. Hopefully just "tomatoes." The Splendid Table has a helpful list of good U.S. brands. Then again, I use Sclafani, which scored high on The Daily Meal.

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large can - 1 lb 12 oz (28 oz/793grams) - tomatoes
1 teaspoon hot dried pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup water or broth

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and garlic, stirring a little every few minutes. Cook for 5-plus minutes until they begin to take some colour, but do not brown.

Add the contents of the tomato can. Rinse the can with broth or water and pour that in, too. Stir, and break up the tomatoes gently with a wooden spoon (watch out for projectile seed-spitting). Allow the liquid to begin bubbling. When it does, turn it low enough to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the onions are quite tender. Taste, and add the sugar, and the salt. Add the hot pepper. Taste again. Cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool enough to blend the soup smooth in your favourite appliance. Return the soup to your saucepan, bring to a gentle simmer once more, taste again and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

That is it. Your soup is ready. Best served with strands of sharp cheddar and a twist of black pepper, or floating islands of toast and goats cheese.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mushrooms à la Grecque

This is one of my mother's favourite things to make for a lunch under the tree. It tastes even better the following day, so is perfect make-ahead food. In theory, leftovers could be sliced for pasta sauce (with some fresh butter, wine and cream), or added to cold weather stews. But there won't be any leftovers. There never are.

When I know that I am going to be baking a sourdough loaf, I think of these mushrooms The bread and pan juices are a perfect match and make a wonderful meal.

Mushrooms à la Grecque – serves two

What defines à la Grecque? Lemon juice, olive oil, fennel and coriander. The acid and oil emulsify at the last moment.

You can use any sort of mushroom, really, though button mushrooms are easiest. If you use larger oyster mushrooms, hen of the woods, or portabellos, slice them, first (quite thickly).

Don't get too hung up on the measurements. Add more mushrooms if you like. When you've made it once you'll have the hang of it, and can take it from there.

1 cup water
1 cup of white wine
2 fennel fronds, with stalk
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, or about four seedheads of fennel
1 celery stalk
2 whole cloves of garlic in their skins
20 black peppercorns
20 coriander seeds, toasted
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon sugar
1 lb fresh button or small portabello mushrooms, de-stalked
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice (about 2 teaspoons)
Salt to taste

Use a wide saucepan that will accommodate the mushrooms in a single layer. Combine the water, wine, fennel fronds, fennel seeds or heads, celery, garlic, peppercorns, coriander, bay leaves and sugar in the saucepan. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the button mushrooms, topside down, and lower heat to medium-high. As they cook they exude a lot of liquid: when the caps start to fill with mushroom juices (about 10 - 12 minutes), flip them. Cook another 12-15 minutes or until a tested mushroom is tender.

When the mushrooms are cooked, and the pan juices are reduced by half, taste, and add salt. Still over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and the lemon juice. This will cause the sauce to emulsify. Taste again. The result should be salty-sweet-sour in equal proportions.

Turn the mushrooms and their sauce into a shallow bowl and serve at once, with bread for mopping (or a spoon, for the Paleo-people). They are very good the next day, too, at room temperature.

This recipe appeared in Issue 42 of Gardenista, as part of a story about fennel.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Maitake pâté

Maitake pâté (R)

Thinking of ideas for low-fuss treats I could take to the WNYC studios for an interview about maitake (aka hen of the woods - Grifola frondosa), recently, pâté seemed a good idea; travels so well in jars.

Pâté is something I grew up with. It was a normal part of our eating lives. My mother's chicken liver pâté made frequent appearances at dinner parties and picnics, and later it became deeply complicated with mousse-y terrines whose fat content was staggering.

This mushroom pâté may as well be called a spread. Cos...ya spreads it. It was surprisingly complex in flavour. A fall mushroom and a fall drink (cider) seemed to go well together, and the addition of a little lemon juice prevented the result from being cloying.

(I've made it subsequently with sherry, which works perfectly.)

Maitake pâté - makes 3-4 small jars

Yes, you may substitute other mushrooms.

3 Tbsp butter, plus another 3 Tbsps, melted
4 cups maitake, broken or sliced into chunks and very well cleaned
1 large shallot, sliced thinly
3 bay leaves
4 juniper berries
1/2 cup cream
1/3 cup hard apple cider (or 1/4 cup medium cream sherry)
Squeeze of lemon juice

Saute the shallots and maitake in 3 Tbsps of butter over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, until they start to lightly brown. Cover, and lower the heat. Cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring from time to time - this will draw out their moisture.

Remove the lid, add the bay, the juniper, and the cider or sherry. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir well to scare up brown bits.

Allow the liquid to cook off completely, then add the cream and stir well again. Lower the heat to medium.Cook gently for another 5 minutes. Add the squeeze of lemon. Taste, and season quite highly with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves and juniper, and blend to a rough paste in a food processor. Add the last 3 Tbsp of melted butter with your last whizz.

Pack in jars and refrigerate up to three days (unscientific guess) or freeze till needed.

Serve at room temperature, to spread on good brown bread or crackers.

Here's the interview, on Last Chance Foods:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Roasted tomato Caprese

I have not even sunk my teeth yet into tomato season, because real tomatoes are very hard to find in Harlem, (as they are in any supermarketed neighborhood). I miss the Borough Hall Farmers Market, just a ten minute walk away from where we used to live in Brooklyn. And the days of our rooftop, all-day-sun tomatoes seem long gone, too. They were wonderful. Last year this time we just coming to grips with having to move.

The local supermarkets - and Wholefoods! - stock Canadian tomatoes, Mexican tomatoes, Floridian...sure. But I want a fat heirloom, grown across the river, or upstate. I have a date with the Union Square Farmers Market this Wednesday. 

But here is an idea for some small tomatoes, somewhere in size between cherry and a red golf ball. 

This is very simple to make but it makes even hothouse specials taste good, with a distinct sweetness.

You can use buffalo mozzarella or fresh mozzarella, but I love the collapsing creaminess of burrata. It drifts into the sweet tomato juice and this chance-meeting sauce cries for a crust of bread (rubbed with garlic, perhaps) to be dipped into it..

Roasted Tomato Caprese with Burrata - substantial for two, dainty for four

2 tsps olive oil
8 small tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 round of burrata, drained
6-8 leaves of basil

In a pan, over medium heat, warm the 2 tsps of olive oil. Add the whole tomatoes, season with a pinch of salt and some black pepper, and put a lid over the pan. After a minute or so, shake the pan, to stop them from sticking.

Lower the heat to medium-low and cook gently for 10 - 15 minutes, shaking occasionally, until their juices are oozing, the skin is crinkled, and the tomatoes collapsed but still entire. Put aside to cool.

When tepid, arrange the tomatoes evenly on a pretty plate. Take the burrata and carefully pull chunks off it, and dab them around the plate, over the tomatoes. Season with a tiny amount of salt and more black pepper, and a drizzle of very good olive oil ( we use Wolfgang's, or the Koringberg oil from our friends Johan and Peter - we are lucky!).

Tear up the basil leaves and toss over the top.

There. Done. Eat.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Salade Niçoise

I can never give quantities. The only stipulation is good tuna canned in good olive oil.

Blanched green beans are also a Niçoise staple, for me, and I love the floppy bowls of Boston lettuce leaves. Just-hard boiled eggs and chunks of boiled potato are good (to suck up the vinaigrette), and as part of that vinaigrette, I include about 1/3 cup very finely chopped red onion (leave it to macerate in the vinegar before adding salt, sugar, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil - in that order). Cherry tomatoes cut in half, oil-cured black olives are never a bad idea. Strips of raw red pepper, and coils of green garlic scapes, cooked till tender, would be nice.

Freshly toasted sourdough, rubbed with a clove of garlic, off to once, and you're set. Add icy white wine and the world is a good place for a while.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Elderflower cordial

I love elderflower cordial. Till now, I have had to buy it. But this June I walked into a grove of elderbushes in bloom and struck white umbel nirvana. I picked till I was drunk.

And here is a recipe that made me very happy. The many cordial recipes I researched were very similar, though some use even more sugar, and about half called for citric acid. I decided to rely on the acid in the lemons, alone.

One batch (I made two)

6 oz / or approx. 30 elderflower umbels (weighed after the flowers are stripped from the green stalks)
1lb sugar/450 grams sugar
1.5 liters /52 fluid oz/6 cups water
1/2 cup (about 3-4 lemons-worth) fresh lemon juice
Zest of 4 lemons, peeled in strips, without pith

Don't wash the flowers. Instead, shake them upside down over a cloth to evict any small insects. Strip the tiny white flowers from the green stems, using your fingers. Discard as much green as possible. Weigh the flowers and pack them lightly into a large mason jar (I use a 1.5 liter capacity jar). Dump the sugar on top of them, and add the lemon juice.

Bring the water to a boil with the lemon zest. Cool a little and pour gradually into the mason jar, stirring with a long clean spoon to dissolve the sugar. Fill to the top (include the zest), and screw the lid on lightly.

Leave the jar at room temperature for 4 days. While the mixture is sitting out, open the jar's lid once a day to allow any accumulated gas from natural fermentation to escape. Or, don't screw the lid on tightly to begin with, and allow gas to escape that way. Once strained and refrigerated any fermentation will slow way down. Whatever you do, don't just walk away from a sealed jar and forget about it, or you will have an elderflower detonation on your hands...

After Day 4, strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Bottle, and keep in the fridge.

To drink, dilute with sparkling water, add to a gin and tonic, or to shaken cocktails (like this one, with vermouth, or this one, with hyssop, or this one, with mint and gin), or simply splash into a glass of prosecco or Champagne.

Good luck not finishing this in a week, flat.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Field garlic butter

Field garlic (Allium vineale) is one of the earliest plants to appear in local woodlands, fields, lawns and city lots, after winter. It looks a lot like chives. The leaves are hollow, and they smell strongly of garlic.

This is an invasive weed, meaning, it out-competes native flora.

If you have field garlic growing nearby in a clean spot, it is a very good fresh herb and a wonderful, aromatic vegetable, with all the best attributes of shallots, scallions and garlic.

When I collect field garlic I look for a spot where the ground is quite soft, and not too rocky; woodlands with all their accumulated leaf litter, are perfect. Compact soil makes field garlic impossible to pull, unless you have a trowel. I also look for the fattest leaves, which belong to the larger, more mature bulbs, underground. I grasp all the leaves in a clump, grip hard, and pull. Then I knock the bunch against the ground or a log to dislodge as much debris as possible, and finally choose my fat bulbs from amongst the very small grassy ones.

Do not be tempted to take the whole bunch with you. When you get home you will have lost the drive to sort out each and every little garlic bulb and you will go bonkers and wonder whose idea it was to go foraging, anyway. Spend a little extra time in the field to do your sorting

And you are doing the environment a big, fat favour.

At home, wash the field garlic in at least two changes of water, in the (clean!) kitchen sink or a very large bowl. Strip off any loose skins from the bulbs, and discard any dead leaves. Dry well. If the stem-like part between bulb and leaves is tough, discard it, otherwise chop finely with the leaves.

Field garlic butter

A compound butter is any butter that has been encouraged to take on the flavour of something else. Truffles, say. But we don't have any truffles. We have field garlic. And here is a wonderful way to preserve its aroma for months. I made this butter last year for the first time using ramp leaves (more sustainable than harvesting the whole ramp, in sensitive spots, and very delicious).

(Yes, you may substitute chives. Add another cupful of chives to stand in for the field garlic bulbs.)

4 sticks/440 gr unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups chopped field garlic greens (clean, and very dry)
1/2 cup cleaned field garlic bulbs

Cut the butter into chunks and drop into the bowl of a food processor. Add the chopped greens and the field garlic bulbs. Pulse until well mixed, pausing every now and then to scrape down the sides.

If you don't have a food processor, chop all the field garlic very finely. Mix the butter with the field garlic in a large bowl, with a wooden spoon.

Pack the compounded butter into small, sterilized jars and freeze, or use within one week. Keep cold.

How to use field garlic butter? Well, any way you would use ramp butter. Or:

Melted, and poured over a poached egg, on good sourdough toast
Slathered over hot, baked potatoes
Whipped into egg yolks for deviled eggs
Stirred into hot tagliatelle, with a squeeze of lemon and a grating of bottarga
Dabbed onto a rested steak, hot off the grill


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