Friday, June 27, 2008

Pistachio Decortication

It is almost shabes. My folks will be coming for dinner in less than an hour. The last way I should have spent the last forty-five minutes is decorticating half a cup of pistachios, but just look at them! It really makes a difference, in color and flavor. And I had to. I just had no choice.

To Decorticate Pistachios

Place pistachios in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow them to rest about five minutes, and drain. Use your fingers to squeeze and rub off the skins.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Port Wine and Strawberry Buttercream

Well, bless my soul! It seems that antioxidant rich foods are more inclined to yield up their goodness when accompanied by fats! Can anyone out there claim to be the least little bit surprised? I bet Sweetnicks is not surprised.

How fortunate for me, since I recently made this port wine chocolate cake, which had a wonderful flavor (even when made with Kedem port rather than the recommended Californian selection, I admit with some reluctance). I had extra yolks and strawberries that week, and I made this port wine and strawberry buttercream, about which I am really very excited. Other delights of the garden are to be found at Weekend Herb Blogging, this week back home at Kalyn's Kitchen.

Port Wine and Strawberry Buttercream

6 yolks (1/2 cup)

3 tablespoons port

10 ounces sugar (1 1/3 cup)

1 pound sweet butter, at room temperature

Pureed strawberries (as many as you might have—I had about a cup, lightly sugared)

If you have a mixer, put the yolks, wine, and sugar in the mixer bowl, but do not put the bowl on the mixer yet (or just put them in a regular bowl). Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, and using the mixer’s whip attachment, beat the yolks until they are foamy and quite hot. Now move the bowl onto the mixer (or away from the heat), and beat until they have come to room temperature and formed a dense foam. Beat in the butter a grape-sized piece at a time. Now remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the pureed strawberries.

Spread or pipe onto cakes or cupcakes. You should have enough to fill and cover an eight or nine-inch two-layer cake, two tortes, or two dozen cupcakes. There will even be enough to have a bit right off your fingers. I mean, antioxidants and all. You know?


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New-Moon Radishes ראש־חודש־רעטעכלעך

אױף ייִדיש זאָגט מען „ אַז עס גײט די סדרה קרח, קומט אױף׃ קאַרשן, רעטעך, כרײן” די ראשי־תּיבֿות פֿון די דרײַ געװיקסן זענען „קרח“. אין דער װאָך, כאָטש, איז דער אַגריקולטורעלן לוח דאָ אין ניו יאָרק דער זעלבער װי אין דער אַלטער הײם.
רױטע רעטעכלעך הײסן אױף ייִדיש „ראש־חודש רעטעכלעך“ צוליב דעם װאָס זײ קומען אױף אין דרײַסיק טעג אָדער װײניקער. די אָ רעטעכער װערן דערמאָנט אין דער באַרימטער אָנבײַסן סצענע אין „דער קונצנמאַכער פֿון לובלין“ פֿון באַשעװיסן׃
אין דער צײַט װען יאַשאַ האָט זיך געפּאָרעט אין הױף, איז אסתּר אױפֿגעשטאַנען און צוגעגרײט אָנבײַסן׃ אַ פֿלאַם־פּלעצל מיט פּוטער און צװאָרעך, יונגע ציבעלע, ראש־חודש־רעטעכלעך, אַ זיסע אוגערקע, און קאַװע, װאָס זי אַלײן האָט געמאָלן אין אַ קאַװע־מילעכל און פֿאַרבריט אין דער מילך.
אַ, טעם גן־עדן! איך װאָלט זײער געװאָלט אַמאָל צוגרײטן דעם אָנבײַסן, מערצעשעם. איך װאָלט אױך באַמערקן אַז מע טאָר ניט גלױבן אַלע אױסגעריסענע רכילות װעגן ייִדישע עסן אין דער אַלטע הײם. געגעסן האָט מען אַ סכערלײ גרינסן.
זך עץ האָט נאָך נישט אָפּגעבאַקן קײן פֿלאַם־פּלעצל, קאָנט עץ זיך באַגײן דערװײַל מיט רעטעך קאַנאַפּײען.
קאַנאַפּײען מיט רעטעכער אױף אָנבײַסן
דינע רעפֿטלעך פֿון ראַזעװע ברױט
כּשר זאַלץ
צװאָרעך אָדער שמירקעז
דינע רעפֿטלעך ראש־חודש־רעטעכלעך
שמירט'ץ אָן דאָס ברױט מיט פּוטער און באַשיט'ץ מיט זאַלץ. שמירט'ץ מיט קעז, און לײגט'ץ צו די רעטעכלעך.

A Yiddish saying about this week’s portion reminds us “Az es geyt di sedre koyrekh, kumt oyf: karshn, retekh, khreyn” “When the week of Korakh comes around, cherries, radishes, and horseradish come up.” The initials of the three seasonal products form an acronym for “Korakh.” this week, at least, the agricultural calendar of New York is in sync with that of Eastern Europe.
In Yiddish red radishes are called “roysh-khoydesh retkhlekh,” or “new-moon radishes,” not because they have anything to do with the new moon, but because they seem to spring up so soon (less than a full moon cycle) after being planted.
These radishes appear memorably in the famous breakfast scene in The Magician of Lublin by Isaac Bashevis Singer, which begins at just this time of year:
While Yasha was busy in the courtyard, Esther got up and made breakfast: a griddle-pletzl with farmer cheese, spring onions, new-moon radishes, a sweet cucumber, and coffee she had ground herself in the coffee mill and seethed in milk.
(A pletzl is a flatbread similar to focaccia). I would love to try to reproduce this gorgeous breakfast sometime. It is worth noting that contrary to dreary and slanderous stereotypes, seasonal vegetables in great variety were central to the diet of Jews in Eastern Europe.
If you haven’t got around to baking a griddle-pletzl just yet, these colorful breakfast canapés will tide you over.
Radish Canapes for Breakfast
Thin slices from a whole-grain baguette
Sweet butter
Kosher salt
Cream cheese or farmer cheese
Red, pink, or purple radishes, sliced thin
Butter the bread, sprinkle with salt, spread with cheese, and arrange radishes on top.
Other antioxidant-rich tastes from old world and new are to be found at Sweetnicks.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Intriguing Street Names of New York Part III

Vegan Jambalaya

Well, my visit to New Orleans was very productive and great fun. It was hot, but not nearly as hot as I feared it might be. Thanks to some very unusual meteorological anomaly, it was actually hotter in New York than in New Orleans the week I was away. I ran into Paul Prudhomme in front of his restaurant. We met seventeen years ago at the Fancy Food Show in New York (“Chocolate Lady!” he shouted, “Where’s the chocolate?”). He didn’t remember, of course, and he has slimmed down so radically I almost didn’t recognize him either. I do hope he is enjoying the best health.

This recipe was a bit of a seat of the pants improvisation to make something inspired by my Louisiana sojourn and use as many of this week’s greens from my CSA as possible. It falls somewhere on the spectrum between Jambalaya and tsholnt (chulent). I bet you didn’t know such a spectrum even existed. I will be trying variations to bring this recipe a little closer to something recognizably Cajun, perhaps adding celery and green peppers, but this first attempt turned out to be so delicious I need to record it anyway. This is wonderful the day it is made, and a little better every day after that as long as you have some. If you want to divide the recipe in half to make a more manageable amount, that should be fine. Other herbal hybrids are to be found at Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Joanna at Joanna’s Food.

Vegan Jambalaya

1 pound (about 2 cups) Camellia brand red beans (or other red beans)

3 bay leaves

10 peppercorns

1 tablespoon kosher salt

5 garlic scapes, cut into 1-inch lengths, or tops of green onion

olive oil (be very liberal)

2 large onions, diced

1 28-ounce can of tomatoes (I used Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes), crushed

1 pound oyster mushrooms, broken up

radish or Japanese turnip greens from 1 or 2 bunches of radishes or Japanese turnips (6 to 12 ounces chopped leaves),

1 bunch mustard greens (about 6 ounces chopped leaves)

1 pound (about 2 cups) brown popcorn rice

a bit more salt

1 ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1 or more teaspoons Cajun spice mix from Kitchen Witch or other seasoning

Crystal brand Louisiana hot sauce

Soak the beans overnight. Drain them and put them in a pot or slow-cooker with salt, bay leaves, garlic scapes, peppercorns, and water to cover. Cook to a satiny creaminess. This took about two and a half hours for me.

Meanwhile heat oil in a deep kettle, and cook the onions. Break up the oyster mushrooms. Leave the caps whole, and dice the stems. Add mushrooms to the onions and cook until deeply fragrant. Add the rice, greens, and tomatoes, and crumble in the seasonings. Stir and cook for a few minutes and add 2 quarts of water. Continue cooking, stirring now and then, until the rice is almost done. You may need to add more water. I am afraid I did not keep track this time of how much water was needed. Add the beans and their liquor and cook slowly until perfect.


Friday, June 20, 2008

How on Earth Do I Wash all these Greens?

The rich, loamy soil of Columbia County nourishes some of the best produce in the eastern United States, and a great many of us are becoming personally acquainted with this miraculous dirt. We appreciate it, of course, but at some point we need to wash it off.

Washing greens is not as difficult as it seems. Fill your sink or a large pot with cool water, submerge greens and swoosh them around with your hands. Lift the vegetables out of the water. Do not pour them through a strainer, or you will merely deposit the sand and bugs you just washed off back on the greens. Repeat once or twice as needed.
When I bring home a big CSA pickup full of sandy greens, I set up a whole assembly line of a few pots, then a colander, and finally the spinner. Briefly: first bunch of greens into first vessel, swish swish; first bunch of greens into second vessel, second bunch of greens into first vessel, and so on. Dry your greens in a spinner, pat them with clean towels, and refrigerate. You can place a square of paper towel in the bags with the greens to absorb excess moisture and keep them fresh longer

De-bugging one’s vegetables is a challenge in any kosher kitchen, and a number of home cooks are reasonably concerned that using organic produce might expose us to more insects and a more difficult examination process. In fact, the opposite is true. According to mashgikhim with extensive bug-checking experience, non-organic greens are not in fact less infested than organic greens; they are merely infested with smaller, more tenacious predators that have become resistant to the toxins. The good news for those who keep kosher, or are vegetarian, or simply want to limit their consumption of insects because of the gross-out factor, is that organic vegetables, along with all their other virtues, provide the safest and easiest way to eat bug-free. Wash your vegetables, examine them, and enjoy in good health.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Reining in the Academics

The latest issue of PPC has a review of The Restaurants Book by Michele Field, reproduced in its entirety below.

T h e Re s t a u r a n t s B o o k : Ethnographies of Where We Eat
David Beriss and David Sutton, editors
Berg | 2007 | 240pp | £17.99

An uneven collection of 13 essays which in various ways ask whether restaurants are not the bulwark between us and the creeping standardization of food. The word ‘ethnographies’ shouldn’t scare you, as despite all the writers being American academics most have been reined in. Sutton’s ‘anthropological meditation on tipping’ spills over the reins – but is almost amusing when discussing why men tip women. MF

I am grateful, as always, to the editors for reining me in. You know that isn’t easy.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

אַן אױסגעבענקטע שעה

אַ גאַנץ יאָר קוק איך אַרױס אױפֿן ערשטן טאָג פֿון אונדזער אַגריקולטורעלן קאָלעקטיװ. לײענט װײַטער װעגן דעם אױף פֿײסבוק, חזון, און יושרדיקע עסן.

למה תשקלו־כסף בלוא־לחם ויִגיעכם בלוא לשׂבֿעה? (ישעיה 55:2)

פֿאַר װאָס זאָלט עץ אױספּאַטערן געלט װען נישט פֿאַר עסן, און ענקער אַרבעט אױף דעם װאָס זעטיקט ענק נישט?

Why would you spend money on that which is not food, and your labor on that which does not satisfy you? (Isaiah 55:2)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Incipient Jambalaya (of the Vegan Persuasion)

Just about everyone in New Orleans emphasized the need for Camellia brand red beans to make red beans and rice or Jambalaya. Jessica Harris explains "they get creamy just right." The beans are soaking and I will hope to report soon. Popcorn rice is a variety of basmati rice developed in Louisiana and particularly suited to the delta soil. It is named for its popcorn-like aroma.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Apricot Confection with Pistachios

These are from Mansoura Middle Eastern Bakery, 515 King's Highway Brooklyn. The apricot paste is face-scrunchingly sour and centrifugal with fruitiness. The blanched pistachios are very fresh and vivid. The sweetness and sourness of this candy somehow stay completely separate, not melding into any recognizable sweet-and-sour combination. A real Steeplechase ride for the palate.

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