Thursday, March 29, 2007

Seville Orange Marmalade with Bay Leaves and Chiles

Here it is! (my first marmalade, and my first online self-portrait)

I came dangerously close to not cooking my headily fragrant Seville orange. I had never made marmalade or any kind of preserves, and I wasn’t ready to bite into a whole new area of cookery, especially not one that involved straining anything through muslin, but then I read this comment from Lindy:

We never see Seville oranges in Pittsburgh. I am jealous, jealous, jealous.

In case you missed my answer:

First, don't be jealous; Pittsburgh is the only place I ever saw a vegetable called Jew's mallow, so that's pretty cool.
Second, this is for you. I was thinking I am so busy, and the holidays are so soon, and my writing project is so massive, that maybe it was enough just to get a few pots of orangeade out of Senora Sevilla, but having read your comment just a few minutes ago, I said, if they can't find Seville oranges in Pittsburgh, I just HAVE to make marmalade, so I fished my now thrice-poached orange out of the icebox, hacked it to gobbeties, mixed it with an equal weight of sugar (7 ounces) and cooked it with two bay leaves and three mild chile peppers. I am boiling the jar as I type these words.

And so I was. I stayed up much too late so I could try it as soon as the marmalade was cool enough to taste. This is a complex, wonderfully satisfying marmalade. I made a small quantity, which will be completely engulfed by the end of this week, but if you are planning to keep your marmalade for a while, do take the time to find out how to sterilize the jars correctly. My lid never made that pop, which I understand is the sound of properly made preserves. The chiles I used are very mild decorative peppers, mountain-grown in Colorado by my cherished friend Shmuel, to whom great thanks.

Seville Orange Marmalade with Bay Leaves and Chiles

1 Seville orange (7 ounces)

Sugar equal in weight to the orange

2 bay leaves

3 mild chiles (optional)

pinch salt

Cut the orange in quarters and boil it in three waters. Drink the orange water with or without sugar and/or spirits. Cut up the orange and remove the seeds and the coarsest bits of membrane at the very center. Grind half of the fruit, and chop or slice the rest. Combine the cut and ground orange in a stainless steel saucepan with sugar, salt, bay leaves and chiles. Cook until the color deepens to a darkish amber (I did not check the cooking time). Pour into a sterile jar, and boil the jar.

Enjoy on toast with tea, or in the tea, a la Russe.

Be sure to see Kalyn's roundup of this Weekend's Herb Blogging.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

לאַנד פֿון לאַטקעס

איך האָב לאַנג געמײַנט אַז דאָס װאָרט „לאַטקע“ איז אַ דימינוטיװ פֿון „לאַטע“ און מיר הײסן די געשמאַקינקע מאכלים אַזױ צוליב דעם װאָס זײ זעען אױס װי קלײנע לאַטקעלעך. הײַנט אָבער, האָב איך געלערנט אין זײער אַן אינטערעסאַנטן אַרטיקל פֿון לעזלי טשײמבערלין װעגן אידעאָלאָגיעס פֿון עסן אין רוסלאַנד אַז אַ מאָל איז געװען אַן אַלט רוסיש װאָרט לאַדקאַ, אָדער לאַטקאַ, Ладка) אָדער (Латка װאָס מײנט סקאָװראָדע, אָדער פֿענדל. צי װאָלט דאָס געװען אַ מחתּן אונדזער לאַטקע? אױף ענגליש הײסן אַ סך מאכלים נאָך די כּלים אין װאָס מע קאָכט זײ אָפּ (מאַרמײַט, קאַסעראָל, טערין אואַ"װ) אפֿשר אױף ייִדיש אױך. דאָס װאָרט „לאַטקע“ אָבער, איז רעלאַטיװ אַלט, איז עס מסתּמא נישט פֿון רוסיש. אַ צופֿאַל?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Seville Oranges in the Enchanted Queendom

This happens every time you go to Queens. Someone will just walk up and hand you a rare and exquisite fruit you have been trying to find for years. Maybe we call this place Queens because it is where all the most deeply-felt wishes of our inner princesses are answered.

I was not feeling entirely my usual fabulous self yesterday and would have skived off my class, if I hadn’t been the teacher, but I’m glad I made the trip. In the Sunflower International grocery store on Queens Boulevard, Mr. Mizrahi noticed I was sneezing and coughing and said “here, take one of these. Put a slice in your tea or hot water.” Oh my, oh my. I had in my hands a lumpy, thick-skinned, powerfully fragrant Seville orange, or bitter orange (Citrus Aurantium). I had long hoped to get hold of one of these. Because they have thicker, bumpier skin, more pits, and a deeper, fuller flavor and aroma than edible varieties of orange, I am tempted to say that this thing is like the esrik of the orange world, you know, esrik is to lemon as khushkhash (the Yiddish word for Seville Orange) is to orange.

Hot Khushkhashade (Seville Orangeade)

Cut up one Seville orange. Place the whole thing, peel, pulp, and pits, in a stainless steel saucepan and add water to cover (about four cups), two tablespoons sugar or honey, and a pinch of salt. Simmer for five minutes. Adjust sweetness to taste. Strain and drink as is, or with a bit of spirits. It’s good for what ails yez.

Now I should really make marmalade, but I am clueless and short on time. Who has a sure-fire recipe that uses one slightly-poached Seville orange? Maybe Sweetnicks has—she will be posting the roundup of healing potations for the week.

כושכאַש, ביטערע מאַראַמץ
Citrus Aurantium, bitter orange

Citrus Sinensis, orange, sweet orange

Monday, March 26, 2007

Hemp and Walnut Kneydlekh (Wheat-Free Matzo Balls)

The biggest difference in preparation between these guys and regular matzo balls is that you will make the batter just a tiny bit stiffer—matzo will continue to absorb moisture as the batter sits, but nuts do not. You could probably make this with all walnuts or all hemp seeds. I will be trying some other nut-combinations once the holiday begins. These kneydlekh are different from matzo balls, but they are satisfyingly toothy nonetheless. I will certainly be making them again, and I eat wheat all the time.
Hemp and Walnut Kneydlekh (Wheat-Free Matzo Balls)
(This recipe appeared in Yiddish here, along with a recipe for miso-ginger broth, which will be showing up in English sometime after Passover)
2 eggs
½ cup (2 ounces) lightly toasted walnuts
½ cup (2 ounces) lightly toasted hemp seeds
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter or coconut oil
salt, pepper, and paprika
Grind the walnuts to a fine meal. Grind the hemp seeds just to break them up very slightly, or leave them whole. Mix the nuts and seeds together. The resule should have the approximate consistency of Streit’s Matzo meal.
Beat the eggs, and season lavishly. Add oil or butter and the nut and seed mixture. Refrigerate the batter a few hours or overnight.
Bring a pot of enthusiastically salted water to a boil. Lower the heat so that it is simmering gently. Form the batter into balls and carefully lower the balls into the water. Cook for about forty minutes. Serve with soup.
Are hemp seeds kitniot?
Some folks say yes. Others say no. And then some say both yes and no. If you find in favor of hemp seed use for Passover, you still have to examine them thoroughly three times. I am pretty excited to be undertaking this task for the first time.
This year, Hungry Hungry Hippo Girl knocked my socks off when she told me about the process by which she examines rice for Passover. You put the rice on a platter, and then, with a fingertip, push the rice, one grain at a time, across to the other side. Then you do it again. And again. Now, this sounds difficult, physically exhausting, and really time-consuming. In other words, I couldn’t wait to try it. The idea of this process (so utterly about food, so completely Jewish) intrigued me so much that I almost wished I used kitniot. Now, with hemp seeds, I have a chance to indulge in two khumres that would normally cancel each other out. You think I am kidding, but I am not.
What on earth am I talking about? The best explanation is Attila’s landmark post on the 4 stages of kitniot.



Friday, March 23, 2007

Roses of Brooklyn (Passover Rosewater Extract)

Wednesday I went to the Holon supermarket on King’s Highway in Brooklyn, where I found some teeny-tiny little ½-ounce jars of kosher-for-Passover rose water extract and orange flower water extract. The grocer explained that I should use just a drop of extract in a recipe that would call for a tablespoon of rose water. I have been hoping to find something like this for years. If I were to assess the effectiveness of my shopping trips on an ounce-per-mile basis, then today’s trip would be a very inefficient trip indeed. On a coolness-per-mile basis, however, I think I did pretty well.

I first learned about Holon and the other grocery stores on King’s Highway from Ilana Goldberg’s amazing and very funny short movie Makolet. If your library has a copy and you have twenty-four minutes, you don’t want to miss what may be my very favorite food movie in the world.

I am planning to use orange flower water extract in an orange almond cake, and the rose in a carrot and pistachio halva.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Frieda's Kitchen

Painting of Frieda's Kitchen by Danielle Friedman

This stirring and evocative painting is by my wonderful niece.

Here are four food paintings.

And here is Frieda. I will add an English translation to the comments section.

Something Out of Nothing II: Bottom of the Bag Langues de Chat

Langues de cheval is more like it—these are much larger and thicker than classic langues de chat should be, but the flavor is just right and they are a perfect canvas for chocolate filling.

Every year at about this time I try to use up my last bits of flour and other ingredients in an improvised bread or pastry. It’s sometimes hard to sense the perfect moment to empty the bags—if you act too soon you can be caught without a tablespoon of flour for your roux; if you wait too long, well, you really don’t want to wait too long. Since I had already cooked all my macaroni this year, I didn’t anticipate needing any roux in the next two weeks.

Ingredients needing to move were: thirteen ounces of all-purpose flour, six ounces of egg whites, and about two cups each dark chocolate and orange buttercream. It seemed that the two buttercreams sandwiched between langues de chat-type cookies would be just the thing—sort of a rustic orange Milano.

The proportion of flour to egg whites I used here is higher than it would be in the classic recipe, so the dough is thicker and the cookies harder, but that’s just fine—all the better for dunking in some strong tea or coffee. These cookies are quite sweet, but, you know, strong tea or coffee. Really, they are so nicely crisp and dry that the sweetness, while intense, is not at all cloying. It is easiest to make these with a pastry bag and a metal tip, but you could shape them by hand if needed.

Bottom of the Bag Langues de Chat

8 ounces (two sticks) butter, at room temperature

13 ounces confectioners’ sugar

6 ounces egg whites (whites from about six large eggs)

2 teaspoons pure bourbon vanilla extract

13 ounces flour

Beat the butter until it is pale and creamy. You can do this by hand or in a mixer. Sift the powdered sugar over the butter and beat it in at a low speed. Add the eggs in four additions, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla if you are using it. A bit of grated citrus zest is nice if you’ve got some. Now sift the flour over the batter and beat it in well.

Heat the oven to 400F (200C, Mark 6). Line baking pans or cookie-sheets with baking parchment. If you have no baking parchment, just use the pans. Do not use waxed paper for this recipe. Place a plain ½-inch metal tip in a pastry bag and fill the bag with batter. Pipe 3-inch ribbons of batter onto prepared cookie sheets, leaving plenty of space for the cookies to spread as they bake. Bake each sheet of cookies for nine minutes, or until they are just barely brown around the edges. Enjoy the cookies as is, or fill them with buttercream, or plain chocolate, or jam. In spite of your best efforts to make them all the same size and shape, you will get a diverse population, but you can match each half with its most suitable mate. This recipe made sixty-two gigantic langues de chat for thirty-one two-ounce sandwiches.

Last year’s bottom-of-the-bag recipe

Lindy’s Something Out of Nothing roundup

What kind of cookie are you? Quiz from the Pepperidge Farm website. I am a Chessman, it seems, because I want to wear fuzzy slippers and go to an Ethiopian restaurant. I am skeptical about the accuracy of this quiz.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

ראש־חודש ניסן

ראש־חודש ניסן, װערן די װײַבער אױסגעריסן
On the first of the month of Nisn, the womenfolks get into quite a tizzy(because of the frenzied pace of preparations for Passover, now just two weeks away)

אַ גוטן חודש אַלע אין מױל אַרײַן!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Alice Arndt’s Seasoning Savvy

For this week’s herb blogging, I want just to excerpt some flavorful bits from the wonderful Alice Arndt’s Seasoning Savvy: How to Cook with Herbs, Spices and Flavorings. This exhaustively-researched book is densely packed information historical, botanical, and culinary for the most curious herb-enthusiasts.

On coconut:
Try coconut chips! In the
Caribbean, this easy-to make, satisfying snack food is a favorite with drinks. With a vegetable peeler or a food-processor, slice a piece of coconut meat, with or without the brown skin, into very thin strips, making them as long as possible. Bake the strips in a single layer [Oh, that sounds perfect for peysekh!]

On dill:
Dill is one of those generous plants that that supply us with both seed and leaf as seasonings, but when a recipe calls for just plain “dill,” you can be quite sure it means the leaves. The feathery leaves are also called “dillweed”—a libelous label for a refined flavor.

On rose water:
Rose water is intended to put a dish over the top in elegance and refined sensuality. Many Indian and Middle Eastern desserts are finished with a half teaspoon of rose water, and sugar syrup is frequently scented with this culinary perfume. Rose water is a popular flavor for lokum, the candy also called Turkish delight. The classic Persian combination od rose water and saffron is so luscious that it’s almost embarrassing.

On marigold:
Don’t stint with marigold petals in rice dishes: a quarter cup of chopped petals for each cup of rice is generally not excessive [I had no idea].

You will also want to have a look at Arndt’s magnum opus, Culinary Biographies.

Alice was herself so luscious that she was almost embarrassing, but she would somehow always put you at your ease.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Real Time Oven Instruction Music

In this movie, Sir Elton John composes a song in real time for an oven-instruction leaflet. The song is not about matzo, but you’ll want to see it even so. And, now that I think of it, it is entirely relevant to this season, when one can only be described as “jumping in at the deep end” with one’s oven. Hat tip to The Amateur Gourmet for uncovering this gem.

And see Sir Elton singing with the muppets here. I think I just remember seeing the original broadcast of this as a very wee bairn.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

מוזיק װעגן מצה

מוזיק װעגן מצה
Matzo music

מעבֿר דעם מדבר
Crossing the wilderness

אַ ליד װעגן מצה
A song about matzo

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Far From Môm

Last week The Girl of the Limberlost and I enjoyed some wonderfully puckery, tamarind-infused hot and sour soup at the Lan Café on east 6th Street. I am very excited about this soup, and normally I would be carrying on about the okra (soup with okra! Hot diggity!), but another vegetable neither one of us had ever seen before stole the show. The crescent-shaped slices had a crisp-tender, webby, honeycomb-like texture, and pale green skin.

TGOTL thought it might be a variety of eggplant, and I was imagining it might be in the gourd family. Our waiter told us the vegetable is called “Môm” (sounds like “mome,” as in “mome raths”), and he very kindly agreed to bring one out from the kitchen, after much urgent beseeching on my part (you see, I do this all for you, my heart’s cherished readers). It turns out to be the leaf-stalk, or petiole, of a very large plant, a couple of feet long, and about two inches wide with a crescent-shaped cross-section.The Multilingual Multiscript Plant Name Database yielded two likely suspects, both in the taro family: Môn bạc hà or khoai môn. The discussion here is helpful. I am amazed to learn this is the decorative plant known in English as elephant’s ear. We’ve got some right here in Washington Square.

Plant Names in Yiddish by Mordkhe Schaechter identifies the Yiddish word for this plant as kolokasye. This blog could not exist without this book.

Colocasia/ elephant’s ear

Here’s a wonderful recipe for canh chua da hou (Buddhist sour soup) that seems just exactly right.

Sweetnicks will guide you toward other unexpected delights of the plant world.

All photos in this post are from Google--I am hoping to be reunited with my camera soon.

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Here's a movie of the other kind of elephant ears.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

די צײַט לוִיפֿט

Burekaboy has a thoughtful take on cleaning up for peysekh, the joyous holiday moving towards us as inexorably as Goldfinger’s laser device towards James Bond’s central axis. Watch this space for this year’s Survival Guide, coming soon.

װען ניט פּסח, װאָלטן די שליאָכעס אַװעקגעשװוּמען.

Were it not for Passover, the untidy would be overwhelmed.

װען נישט דער ליבער פּסח, װאָלטן מיר קײן מאָל נישט פֿון דער בלאָטע אַרױס.

If not for our beloved Passover, we would never crawl out of the mud.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Salam Salami

In this performance, a young man sings about how he is repeatedly frustrated in his attempts to enjoy a sandwich in peace. The components of the sandwich in question are hummus and salami. That sounded dreadful to me, and I thought the ingredients may have been chosen for the sake of the assonance, but I am told this combination is fairly popular in Israel. These unexpected hybrids are likely to emerge at culinary crossroads; sometimes they are better than anything from either of the “parent” cuisines.

I notice the Hebrew word for sandwich turns out to be "sandwich."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

White Poppy Seed Filling for Homentashn

Well, you are probably not planning to make homentashn in the immediate future, but you can keep this filling in mind for next year, or you can use it to fill something like a poppy seed strudl, or you could mix it into some muffin batter. I admit I made white poppy seed filling the first time only because I thought it would be so cool that no one else made them, or could guess what they are, but I have become very fond of the particular mildly bitter flavor of white poppy seeds, and I just can’t keep them to myself. White poppy seeds are a bit smaller and softer than the blue-black variety, so you can feel free to use them without grinding them first.

I first came across white poppy seeds in Indian cookery. You can use them in sweets like this White poppy seed halwa or mysore gasagase payasa (Poppy seed porridge), or combine them with spiced potatoes for this breathtaking aloo posto.

White Poppy Seed Filling for Homentashn

7 ounces (200 g, about 1 ½ cups) white poppy seeds

1 cup whole milk

½ cup white raisins

½ cup honey

3 white or green cardamom pods

a bit of grated orange and lemon zest

Grind the poppy seeds in a spice-grinder, or a coffee mill, or, if you are the coolest human being on earth, in one of those adorable little hand-turned poppy seed grinders. If you don’t have any kind of grinder, just use the poppy seeds whole. Cook the seeds in a saucepan along with the milk, honey, raisins, cardamom and citrus zest (I had to do without citrus zest this year, and it was still very good). Cook, stirring for several minutes, and set aside to cool and rest overnight.

Remember how many cardamom pods you added and take all of them out before filling the homentashn.

Something interesting happened this year. I had exactly, but exactly, the right amount of dough and filling. I think that may have happened once before in my life, and I have made a lot of homentashn. Oh, wait. Now I am vaguely recalling that this is not supposed top be a good omen at all. Something like we always need to have something left over so we don’t die.

See Sweetnicks for more antioxidant-rich treats, to keep us alive in spite of our folkloric incompetence.

Are poppy seeds kitniyes (kitniot)? The web consensus seems to be “no, but. Or maybe yes.”

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