September 27, 2012 § 2 Comments
This bouquet is for my mother. It’s aka shiso (a.k.a. red perilla) from my very own garden, for which she gave me the seeds as a birthday present! The flavor is hard to describe – like a cross between anise and basil, sort of fresh-tasting in the same way as daikon radish, and not really like anything else. This summer we have been sprinkling the leaves on Korean food. The plants are also beautiful on their own, but it’s started getting cooler here and they were all going to seed, so it was time for a shiso harvest.
There are a ton of shiso recipes if you search around on the internet (I wish I had tried this shiso gazpacho recipe!) but one thing I came across over and over again was shiso leaf and shiso flower tempura. Apparently I have a thing for eating flowers (and drinking them). I decided to preserve the shiso leaves for the winter by making shiso pesto (just a little canola oil and the leaves in a food processor, no pine nuts or parmesan!) and give the flowers pride of place in my first ever effort at making tempura.
Tempura with Shiso Flowers
From Mark Bittman’s tempura recipe. This is enough for sizable portions for at least four people… sadly tempura doesn’t make very good leftovers, so consider a half recipe.
lots of vegetables – I had string beans, butternut squash, eggplant, shishito peppers, and the shiso flowers
1.5 cups of flour plus 1 cup of flour
3 egg yolks
2 cups ice cold water
a neutral oil, enough to fill your pan an inch or so
- Get all your vegetables prepared before you do anything else. Slice the squash and eggplant 1/4 inch thick.
- Mix the egg yolks and 1.5 cups flour. Put the 1 cup flour in a separate bowl. Add the ice water to the egg-and-flour mixture just before you’re ready to fry. Mix lightly – the batter will be thin and still lumpy.
- Heat the oil in a high-walled pan (I used my dutch oven, although it does seem to have stained the inside some so non-enameled cast iron might be better) to 350 degrees.
- Dredge each vegetable piece in flour then in the batter.
- Fry until the flour has very lightly deepened in color, only a few minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Keep rechecking the oil temperature periodically as the food can cool it quickly.
- Serve as soon as possible with tempura dipping sauce (still fiddling with this recipe, but I used a combination of water, soy sauce, Chinese rice wine vinegar, sherry, sugar, and ginger, briefly boiled).
So yummy! The light herbal flavor of the shiso flowers is a really nice contrast with the oily batter. I’m still working on refining this recipe to just the way I like my tempura – I’ll try it with rice flour next time – but it was an awfully good start.
What would you do with shiso?
September 21, 2012 § 1 Comment
Squash – oops, that was a watermelon!
Just a quick recipe-less post because you can find this recipe all over the web and the Ball books and I made no changes. But it turns out five habanero peppers is exactly the right amount for Habanero Gold pepper jelly!
September 19, 2012 § 5 Comments
Peppers. Vinegar. Salt.
If you are from Louisiana, you have strong feelings about hot sauce. Lester is from Louisiana. While the outside world may think that Tabasco is the king of hot sauce because of its strong brand familiarity and market presence around the country, we personally (and many others from around New Orleans) find it too vinegary and prefer the stronger pepper taste and decreased sourness of Crystal. Look at the label: Crystal lists “aged cayenne peppers, distilled vinegar, salt.” That’s it. In that order. That means the peppers outweigh the vinegar. In Tabasco, vinegar comes first. So on this family’s table, you are going to find a bottle of Crystal every time. Or would, if they sold Crystal up here… That’s the problem with a Southern boy falling in love with a wannabe-New-Englander, and I owe him forever for dragging him up here and away from the land of crawfish boils. So when the CSA offered up some gorgeous hot peppers (“take as many as you like”), I set out to create something that even if it isn’t the same taste of home, is at least a hot sauce just the way we like it.
Peppers Come First Hot Sauce
based on Emeril’s recipe but even more simplified, and scaled up to 4.5 cups of hot sauce.
about a pound of hot peppers of your choice, stemmed and (optional) seeded and membranes removed, chopped into 1/4″ slices – I wound up with 8.7 ounces cherry, 3.7 ounces ancho, 2.45 ounces red jalapeno, and one single habanero (I chickened out)
1-1/4 teaspoon salt
1.5 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 cups water
12 ounces distilled white vinegar
Combine the peppers, garlic, onions, salt and oil in a non-reactive saucepan over high heat. Saute for 3 minutes. Add the water and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until peppers are very soft and almost all of the liquid has evaporated. (Note: this should be done in a very well-ventilated area!) Remove from the heat and allow to steep until mixture comes to room temperature. In a food processor, puree the mixture for 15 seconds, or until smooth. With the food processor running, add the vinegar through the feed tube in a steady stream.
Taste and season with more salt, if necessary. (This will depend on the heat level of the peppers you use as well as the brand of vinegar used.) Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and then transfer to a sterilized pint jar or bottle and secure with an airtight lid. Refrigerate. Let age at least 2 weeks before using. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
September 19, 2012 § 3 Comments
Where did the summer go? Somehow it’s week 13 of the CSA, and everyone is going back to school, and this afternoon I actually put on a sweater and made a mug of tea. I don’t like it. (Well, I love tea, but it’s the principle of the thing.) So I am holding on to summer as long as I can, and I hereby declare it is not fall… it’s harvest season.
Peach Sage Jam
scaled-down (three half-pint yield) and adapted from the Peach Rosemary Jam recipe from Mes Confitures, courtesy of the Star Tribune
3 pounds peaches = 2.25 pounds peeled and pitted –> 2 pounds total, 1.5 pounds peeled and pitted
4 cups sugar –> 2 2/3 cups
2 T lemon juice –> 1 T plus 1 t
a large sprig of sage
- Wash and peel the peaches… Supposedly you can score the peels, dip them in boiling water for a minute, then in cold water, and then they “slide right off.” I wimped out and used my vegetable peeler, which was just fine for this few peaches.
- Chop the peaches into 1/4 inch cubes.
- Bring the peaches, lemon juice, and sugar just to a simmer over medium heat.
- Pour into a ceramic or glass bowl, and add the sage sprig.
- Macerate for four hours at room temperature or till tomorrow in the fridge.
- Drain and reserve the liquid from the solids. Bring the liquid to a boil then continue boiling until a candy thermometer registers 221 degrees. It will thicken and the color will deepen. Skim intermittently.
- Add back the solids (I took out the sage at this point, but keep it in longer for even stronger flavor.) Bring back to a boil for about five minutes, and then start testing the set using the chilled plate test (a channel dragged through a cooled drop of jam should not run back together).
- Ladle into jars with 1/4 inch headspace. Process for 10 minutes.
Peachy Simple Syrup
And because I can’t let a good thing go to waste, I used the leftover peach peels and pits to make a peachy simple syrup – apparently industrious canners used them for peach peel and pit jelly back in the day. I did it pretty much the same way I made my sage flower simple syrup (which is half way to sage flower jelly).
- Take all those beautiful peels (and less-beautiful pits) and add water to cover.
- Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
- Add a splash of lemon juice – maybe about half a teaspoon of lemon juice per cup of water (this is very approximate).
- Let steep for about half an hour.
- Strain through a strainer, cheesecloth, teabag, or whatever you’ve got. Squeeze to get all the juices out.
- Measure out your volume of water, and add an equal volume of sugar. Heat until the sugar dissolves.
- Keep in the fridge, or water bath process for 10 minutes. It’s that simple!
Hmm… peachy simple syrup, Amaretto, and vanilla seltzer, anyone? That is officially called “The Science Nerd” because I came up with it when I remembered that they actually use compounds derived from peach or cherry pits to make natural almond flavoring… This one is just a Peachy Martini:
(Sorry about the blurry picture – and that was pre-martini! – but I had to show off my “new” cocktail set: set of probably-’70s cocktail glasses I adopted from my parents’ basement, and an early 1950s shaker I was obsessing about on eBay)
Anybody out there made peach peel and pit jelly? Anybody not even bother to peel their peaches and live to tell the tale? Anybody with more jamming experience than me know how to keep the fruit from floating to the top?
September 19, 2012 § 3 Comments
So I’ve totally fallen off the posting wagon, thanks in part to a lovely vacation plus two weddings, day trips with friends, beer brewing as you already know, oh and also work. I certainly can’t complain (and the two CSA boxes I missed went to good homes). But I have a backlog of partially documented projects, so time to get back on track!
the haul: I can’t remember the specifics for the last couple of weeks, but we’ve been seeing
One of my favorite people in the world is my high school adviser, who was the French teacher so everyone knew her just as “Madame” and I can never call her anything else. She is vivacious, opinionated, and is the sort of person who will back you up 100% in whatever you do while she worries about you behind your back, for your own sake. Within five minutes of meeting Lester, she told me to marry him. So I did, and she officiated.
She sent me this recipe “from a real farm wife” when I told her I had started canning. Disclaimer: it is an older recipe, so I cannot say that this is a USDA-approved canning project. I have been trying and trying to find a similar one that is updated but no luck, so please let me know if you have seen something similar in a newer reference. I don’t have any reason to have specific concerns about it and I had to try it anyway, and if you are worried about the shelf stability you could always keep it in the fridge.
[Update: see the discussion about this at Harvest Forum. It looks like this is most likely a safe recipe, woohoo!]
Madame’s Tomato Chutney
scaled down as shown (made about two half-pints) but otherwise unchanged
6 lbs tomatoes –> 18 oz
3 lbs tart apples –> 9 oz
2 lbs yellow onions –> 6 oz
2 lbs sugar –> 6 oz
1 qt cider vinegar –> 3/4 cup or 6 fluid oz
1/2 c salt –> 1.5 tbsp
1 Tablespoon black pepper –> pinch
1 tsp cinnamon (or adjust to your taste) –> pinch
- Core but do not peel the tomatoes and apples. Coarsely chop the tomatoes, apples, and onions. The original says “grind everything using the coarse blade on the grinder.” I used my mandoline on the large julienne setting with an extra chop at the end.
- Mix all ingredients and cook until soft, blended, and thick. The original recipe says to cook for ninety minutes. To speed up the process, I started out cooking them in my pressure cooker on the high setting for fifteen minutes, then simmering uncovered for another thirty minutes, but this is definitely optional.
- Hot water bath process for fifteen minutes. (The original recipe didn’t say how to process the jars, but this seemed ballpark for other chutneys and jams.)
This was killer on a cheese plate with gouda, or on toast with cream cheese (one of my favorite ways to highlight jams) as shown below. Also pictured: Cambozola, a creamy blue, with sage jelly (like this but with leaves instead of blossoms). Highly recommended.
Anyone seen this recipe before? Try it and tell me what you think!
August 14, 2012 § 5 Comments
The haul – wow!
Finally, it was time. Ratatouille time.
Well, first it was buying a mandoline time. Because this wasn’t just going to be any ratatouille. (“Ratatouille? But it’s a peasant dish!”) This food blog is fancy. And this ratatouille is really, really fancy. This is French Laundry’s Thomas Keller reinvents Michel Guérard reinvents haute cuisine fancy. By way of Pixar, of course. Is there anyone who has ever set foot in a kitchen who wasn’t inspired by the movie Ratatouille? And when the ingredients all came into season, it was time to get a mandoline. I bought the Swissmar Börner V-1001 V-Slicer, mainly because of the positive reviews for its safety guard and the fact that it could be rinsed off rather than disassembled to wash the blades separately.
Friends, this is the recipe that almost broke me, even with a few shortcuts. I can happily cook for hours on end (or de-spine tiny cucumbers, for that matter). This is the recipe that, after I got the dish into the oven an hour after I intended to, made me throw all the leftover ingredients into a pot and just leave it there to simmer while I muttered. And the stovetop version was good. It was a tasty, happy peasant dish, and it was good enough. But the fancy version redeemed itself and opened even my eyes – me, a self-proclaimed foodie and someone who values perseverance and attention to detail in the kitchen – to the possibilities of food that goes beyond good enough. The combination of slowly roasting/steaming the vegetables in a flavorful sauce base then browning them at the end brings out all their best qualities.
And then I made a few simplifications that I don’t think compromise the quality and make this maybe not an easy-weekday-night-dinner dish, but at least a doable-dinner-party-knockout. It takes time, but you can make most of it ahead and do the last step the day of. Oh and here’s the thing: they are vegetables, and they don’t have to look perfect. The recipe quantities don’t even have to be exact, so add a little extra tomato if you’re lucky enough to be up to your ears in them from the garden. Because of the technique of this version of the recipe, it will still be really, really good. Read on.
Confit Byaldi, a.k.a. Ratatouille Ratatouille
adapted from Thomas Keller
for one 9×13″ baking dish, or two 8″ round baking dishes (Pyrex, ceramic, enameled cast iron) – serves 6-8
for a double recipe of the piperade because these are semi-standard jar sizes:
- one 15oz jar roasted bell peppers, drained and coarsely chopped
- one pound tomatoes, coarsely chopped, or one 15oz can diced tomatoes
- one small to medium onion, coarsely chopped or sliced 1/2 inch thick
- one teaspoon chopped garlic, 2-3 cloves
- sprig of thyme
- bay leaf
- salt to taste
- 2 T olive oil
The piperade is the base on which this dish is built. Saute the onions and garlic in the oil till soft but not brown, 5-10 minutes. Add the tomatoes along with the herbs and simmer until they are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Add the peppers and simmer for another few minutes. Puree the piperade with an immersion blender, or carefully spoon it into a blender or food processor. It will still be quite thick. Salt to taste. Spread a thin layer over the bottom of your baking dish. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.
While the piperade is simmering, start slicing your veggies. I highly recommend a mandoline, or a ninja-chef. My first try I used the thin setting which is about 1/16 inch (shown in the first picture). The second try I used the thick setting which is closer to 1/4 inch, and I highly recommend the thicker setting so as not to drive yourself crazy. It’s easy to get pretty stacks if your vegetables are all about the same diameter, but if not: they’re just vegetables.
- two small to medium zucchini
- two small to medium yellow squash
- two Japanese (thin) eggplants, or one regular (thick) eggplant
- about four tomatoes
Place a line of alternating veggies, overlapping by about 1/4 inch. You can slide the stack together with one hand and place veggies with the other to keep it from sliding down into the pan. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt. This picture is version two with the thicker slices. So much easier.
Cover the pan tightly with foil (or with a precisely cut layer of parchment paper if you are trying to recreate the movie exactly). Bake at 300 for two hours. Yep, two hours. Go read a book. Then uncover and bake for another 15 minutes or so, until most of the liquid has evaporated but the veggies aren’t browned. Let it cool, then cover it and stick it into the fridge until tomorrow.
Uncover, and place under the broiler for about 15 minutes until just browned. Sprinkle lightly with a mixture of olive oil and balsamic (not much – maybe a tablespoon of each). Serve to your amazed friends. Add the leftovers to pasta and omelets. Smile because it’s the summertime and you are eating vegetables.
How good was it? Good enough to take me back to my childhood in the French countryside…and I didn’t even have a childhood in the French countryside. (One of the most beautiful movie scenes ever, by the way. I love Pixar so much.)
What do you think? Worth the effort?
August 5, 2012 § 8 Comments
the first eggplants – ratatouille time!
It was one of those weeks work-wise, and we had some fun too that took us out of the house at mealtime. There is not much I like better than fresh summer corn on the cob, yet somehow we managed to still have neglected ears all boiled and foil-wrapped in the fridge waiting for some love at the end of the week.
Thank goodness for this recipe (see also this recipe) and a cast iron skillet. I adapted things a little bit to avoid turning on the broiler and to fit what I had pepper-wise. This recipe also didn’t call for fresh cilantro, which is good because my first sowing of seedlings totally evaporated into thin air and my second sowing of seedlings is still cilantro-babies.
(Pan) Roasted Corn Salsa
adapted from Marisa McClellan’s
3 half-pints plus a little extra
- four ears of corn, or about 1.5 cups of kernels
- 2 cups chopped tomatoes – I halved or quartered all my ripe Sungold cherry tomatoes from the garden and a couple miscellaneous Tumbling Tigers and New Yorkers
- 1/2 cup chopped white onion
- 1 diced jalapeño*
- 3/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp chili flakes
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, ground or crushed
- 3/4 cup cider vinegar
- 2 T lime juice
- 1/3 cup sugar (or less, to taste*)
I had already boiled my corn, but you could start from raw. Stand the cobs up on a cutting board or in a shallow pan, with a corn cob holder on the top end if you have it. Cut the kernels from the cobs with a sharp knife – serrated worked well for me. Roast them in a dry skillet for a few minutes, stirring only every couple of minutes, until the kernels are browned on a few sides. Then you just mix in all the rest of the ingredients (in another pan, not your cast iron skillet), bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, and water bath process for 15 minutes with 1/2 inch headspace.
The salsa turned out beautiful and tangy. *It was too sweet for my taste so I would reduce the sugar next time, and it wasn’t super spicy but my little pepper plant had only put out the one jalapeño so far. Huevos rancheros!
And then our next box came and we got more corn. And I was too tired after a long day at work to fire up the grill. And then my work schedule got even worse, so those new ears sat on the counter… and sat… and sat… until they were looking a little dry and shrively. Oh, the shame. I figured I could at least try to plump up those kernels again, even if they would never be as good as they once were. Maybe I’ll boil them…
Roasted Corn and Shrimp Chowder
adapted from Mark Bittman
six to eight servings
- six ears of corn, plus I pulled out the four leftover cobs I had in the freezer from the salsa
- 4 T butter, oil, or a mix
- 1/2 an onion
- 4 T flour
- 1 pint cream
- about 2 tsp Cajun spice mix – purchased, or make your own with help from everyone’s favorite New-Englander-turned-Southerner – bam!
- 1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled – optional
Cut the kernels off and roast them as above. Meanwhile, cover the cobs with water in a large stockpot and bring it to a boil. Boil for about thirty minutes, then let it sit until you are ready to make the rest of the soup. Sweat the onions in the butter in a large pot until they are soft. Add the flour and stir constantly for a few minutes to take the raw edge off, then add the cream and the corncob stock minus the cobs (I had about six cups but use however much you have, you can always adjust later). Add the Cajun spice mix – I used about 2 tsp of mine, but taste as you go to get the right spiciness and saltiness. Bring the soup to a boil, and add the roasted corn kernels, stirring to make sure the flour is fully dissolved. The soup will thicken a bit, and it will boil up easily because of the cream. Bring it back down to a simmer and let it simmer for as little as 10 minutes or as long as you want to get it to the thickness you like – this is where you can let some of the water boil off if your stock was thin, but mine worked just fine as is. Add the shrimp just before serving and cook just until pink.
This New Orleans variation on a classic corn chowder was right up our alleys (Lester is a Southern gentleman, after all, but New England is home now) and made up for neglected corn. I am sure it would be extra amazing with fresh ears, or even frozen. And yes you can make it healthier and even vegetarian or vegan by nixing the shrimp and the cream but sometimes when it’s summer produce season you have to celebrate.
What do you do with past-its-prime corn?