Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Hard Nut: Black Walnut Tart




If you go out walking in the early fall, you may come across round, green-husked black walnuts lying on the ground.  The nutmeat hidden inside may not be as well known as the English walnut but the black walnut’s distinctive flavor has its own enthusiasts.  If you have a black walnut tree in your back yard, you may already harvest your own, which can be messy, tricky and a bit of work. One of my sisters-in-law, inspired by the supply of black walnuts in her backyard tried harvesting them but she found it to be too much work for the reward.
They are a hard nut to crack.
This recipe was inspired by a black walnut pie I once had at a local diner. It has the basic pecan pie-style filling but with the addition of molasses to complement the dark, rich flavor of the black walnut. Black walnuts can be hard to find but there are several companies that process and package them. Diamond Walnuts of California and  Hammons Products of Missouri are two companies who save us from the inevitable mess of shelling them.
Black walnuts do have a distinctive flavor some people don’t like. This may be that they have eaten them raw, in the same way you would eat English walnuts. They are best roasted, or baked as part of a sweet treat.
Or maybe they just don’t care for them. Like jazz and Mozart, they can be an acquired taste.

Because of the rich nature of this dessert, I have made it as a tart, but it can be made as a 9” pie.

Black Walnut Pie or Tart
For one 9“ pie or tart
You will need pie dough for a 9“ pie or pate sablee or a 9” tart.
There will be a little leftover filling if making a tart.

3 eggs
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup molasses
1 cup corn syrup, light or dark
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
pinch of salt
1 ½ cups black walnut pieces

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out the pie dough and fit it into the pie pan/ tart ring. With a fork, lightly prick the bottom and sides of the shell. Refrigerate or freeze the shell for 20 minutes.
2. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, molasses, corn syrup, vanilla, melted butter, and salt until smooth. Set aside.
3. Remove the pie shell from the refrigerator/freezer and place it onto a baking tray. Line the shell with a piece of aluminum foil and fill it with dried beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake the shell for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Carefully remove the piece of foil filled with the pie weights. Place the shell back into the oven for an additional 5 minutes of baking. Remove the partially baked shell from the oven and set aside to cool.
4. After the shell has cooled, spread the black walnuts on the bottom of the pie shell. Fill the shell with the completed filling mixture. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the filling has set. Remove the pie/tart from the oven and let cool.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pumpkin Pie


(Listening: Elliot Carter *: String Quartets Nos. 1 & 4)


Growing up, there was an unwritten rule: pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and mince pie on Christmas. Or is that two rules?  There also was “elbows off the table!” but that’s not about pie unless you’re eating it with your elbows on the table.
This is the recipe my mother used for years and the tradition continues. I don’t know where she found it (back of a can of pumpkin puree?) but it’s the pumpkin pie we grew up on. Some recipes use half and half or cream or evaporated milk or a different spice blend  (nutmeg and mace, the dried outer covering of the nutmeg seed, are commonly used). If you grew up on a specific recipe you tend to honor it on the holidays.
There is one ingredient that doesn't appear in the original recipe and that’s cornstarch. Pumpkin pie has a tendency to crack. Cornstarch prevents surface cracking in custard pies.
This year I used puree from a sugar pumpkin I found at the store but feel free to be less “Martha-like” and open a can of pumpkin puree. We always did.

Pumpkin Pie
For one 9” pie
You will also need crust for one 9” pie

1 ¼ cups pumpkin puree
1 cup milk
2 eggs                                                              
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon cornstarch

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out the crust to 1/8th inch thickness and fit it into the pie plate. Trim and  crimp the edges and refrigerate the shell while you make the filling.
2. Place the pumpkin puree into a bowl along with the milk, eggs, and sugars. Whisk until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until combined.
3. When the oven is hot, remove the pie shell and place it onto a baking pan. Fill the pie shell with the filling. Place the pie into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the filling has set. Remove pie from oven and let cool before serving.



* 1908 - 2012  Rest in Peace

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sour Cream Apple Pie


                                                   “Jackie, have you ever made a pie before?”
                                          “I don’t cook much. I plan on getting by on my looks.”*

           
This recipe requires a little advance prep but the small amount of work makes the final assembly easier. Slightly precooking the apples assures everything bakes evenly.

Sour Cream Apple Pie with Walnut Struesel
For one 9” pie
You will need one recipe of pie dough for a 9” pie


2 ½ pounds apples, your choice
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Walnut Struesel
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 ½ ounces) chopped walnuts
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature


1. Peel and core the apples. Cut the apples into ½” slices. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat; if you don’t have a large enough pan, you can cook the apples in batches. When the pan it hot, add the butter; after the butter has melted add the apples to the pan; sprinkle the apples with sugar and stir. Pour the apple cider into the pan. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the apples, stirring occasionally until they just begin to soften, about 5 minutes or so. Remove the apples from the heat. Strain the apples, reserving the juice. Set apples aside to cool. Place the cornstarch into a bowl; whisk in the reserved apple cider until smooth. Pour this mixture back into the sauté pan. Place the pan over medium heat and while stirring, bring it to a boil at which point it will thicken. Transfer the thickened cider to a container. Let cool. When the apples and the cider are cool, store each separately in the refrigerator until needed. This can be done 1 to 2 days in advance of baking.

2. Roll the pie dough to 1/8” thickness and fit it into the pie pan. Trim and crimp the edge. Using a fork, lightly prick the bottom and sides of the crust. Refrigerate or freeze the pie shell for at least 30 minutes.

When you are ready to bake the pie:
3. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the pie pan from the refrigerator or freezer. Place the pan on a baking tray. Line the inside of the pie shell with a piece of aluminum foil. Fill the foil with either dried beans, rice or pie weights. Place the pie pan into the oven a bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove the pie pan from the oven, carefully remove the foil and the pie weights and return the pie shell to the oven for an additional 5 minutes of baking. Remove pie shell from the oven and let cool.

4. To make the streusel topping, combine all of the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix to combine the dry ingredients. Cut the butter into small pieces, add them to the bowl and mix until crumbs form. This can also be done by hand using a fork or pastry blender. Set crumb mixture aside.

5. Mix the apples with the reserved juices and set aside. In a second bowl, mix together the sour cream, egg, and vanilla until smooth.
6. When the pie shell is cool, spread the apples into the bottom of the partially baked pie shell. Spread the sour cream mixture over the apples. Top the pie with the streusel mixture. Place the pie into the oven and bake for 45 minutes. Remove pie from the oven and let cool before serving.




*from “That 70’s Show”, dialogue between Kitty Foreman (Debra Jo Rupp) and Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis).

Friday, October 26, 2012

Roast Chicken, the Aftermath, Part 2: Chicken and Dumplings


            “and we’ll all have chicken and dumplings
                                         when she comes, when she comes*…”

listening: Joni Mitchell: Night Ride Home




While I was writing this I saw that one of the TV shopping channels was selling chicken and dumplings. You get four 2 pound bags for $52.46, which works out to $6.50/pound for something you can toss together with leftovers and a couple of fresh ingredients. So if you want to skip this, you can log on and order your chicken and dumpling kits.
Still here? Good. This is classic comfort food that can be personalized to your taste. Down south, I understand that the base is creamier than this one. Feel free to add some light or heavy cream to the chicken and vegetables if you wish. Peas are a classic addition, except in our house where my wife views peas suspiciously as a result of childhood “pea trauma.” Despite being egged on by my daughters to use them, I substitute shelled edamame. They’re not a classic addition to chicken and dumplings but they are just as good and they keep everyone happy. And since my wife loves pearl onions, they are tossed in, too. You can pick and choose which vegetables to use.
You could use vegetable stock, skip the chicken and have a vegetarian option.
If you lived down south, you would have a variety of biscuit flours to choose from when making dumplings. As a Yankee, I found the combination of all-purpose and cake flours makes a softer textured dumpling. The dumpling recipe could also be used for biscuits or, with added sugar, shortcakes. You could add thyme to the dumplings, or chopped parsley, chives, or even chopped celery leaves. On a recent night I used cornmeal in the dumpling. That variation is below.

This is a meal that can be increased to serve more people but is simple enough to make for two.

For two servings:
(and this is two servings, plus seconds, mind you).
Olive oil, for cooking
3 cups chicken stock                                                            
1 carrot, sliced
½ rib celery, sliced
¼ c chopped onion
salt and ground black pepper
1 cup chicken, from leftovers
additional options: ½ cup pearl onions, ½ cup peas or edamame

Dumplings, for two
½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup cake flour (plain, not self-rising)
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons shortening
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)
½ cup buttermilk (or ½ cup milk mixed with ½ teaspoon white vinegar)

1. Place a medium-sized wide pot over medium heat. Swirl in 1 to 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the carrots, celery, and onion and sweat the vegetables for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock. Cover and simmer over low heat to soften the vegetables for about five minutes.
2. Prepare the dumplings by mixing all of the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut in the shortening until small lumps of dough form. Add the herbs, if using.  Mix in the buttermilk/soured milk, stirring until the dough comes together. Set aside.
3. Add the shredded chicken and additional vegetables to the pot. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Bring the pot to a simmer and drop rounded spoonfuls of the dumpling dough into the pot. You should get six dumplings. Cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook covered for 15 minutes. After fifteen minutes, turn off the heat and crack the lid to cool the chicken and dumplings before serving. Ladle the chicken, vegetables, and broth into bowls and divide the dumplings between the servings.

Cornmeal dumpling variation:
Substitute ½ cup cornmeal for the ½ cup cake flour and omit the thyme leaves.

*A meal so good they had to mention it in “She’ll be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain.” Whoever “she” was.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Roast Chicken: The Aftermath, part 1



listening: J.S.Bach : the Unaccompanied Cello Suitesperformed by YoYo Ma

Part One: Making Chicken Stock


The next step with your roast chicken is to turn it into stock. You can do this with a left- over store-bought roast chicken, too.  Don’t waste.
First, strip off any remaining chicken. Don’t forget the bottom of the chicken; there are morsels under there. Store the chicken in an airtight plastic bag in the refrigerator or freeze it if you don’t think you’ll use the leftovers right away.
There are two types of stock you can make, regular or dark chicken stock.
For regular chicken stock, place the carcass and bones into a stockpot or any other pot large enough to hold the chicken, vegetables, and water. Toss in 3 or 4 carrots cut into pieces, a medium onion, unpeeled, (the skins add color to the stock) and quartered and 2 or 3 ribs of celery, cut into large pieces. Fill the pot with about 12 cups cold water. Toss in 8 to 8 black peppercorns and ½ teaspoon salt. Salt used to be excluded in making stock, the thinking being that as the stock cooks and reduces, the stock might get too salty. A little salt helps to bring out the flavors and such a small amount doesn’t make for a salty end product. You can also toss in a couple of bay leaves, whole parsley sprigs or some fresh thyme. These are extras. Bring the stock up to a boil then reduce the heat so the stock gently simmers. Boiling the stock will result in a cloudy stock. Skim off any foam that may rise to the surface of the pot. Cook until the stock has reduced by half. Let cool and strain. Discard the solids, reserving the stock for future use.  Store the stock in containers in the refrigerator if you plan to use with in the next few days, or freeze it until needed.

Making dark chicken stock requires the extra step of roasting the carcass and vegetables. To make dark chicken stock, strip the carcass as directed above. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place the chicken carcass and bones into a pan along with the vegetables. Drizzle the vegetables with 2 or 3 Tablespoons olive oil. Place pan in the oven and roast until everything is nicely browned, about 1 hour. Remove pan from oven and let cool for a couple of minutes. Empty the contents of the pan into the stockpot. Place the roasting pan onto the stove, add about 1 cup of water. Heat the pan and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Pour this into the stockpot. Add an additional 10 to 11 cups of cold water. Toss in the peppercorns, salt, and herbs, if using. Bring the stock to a boil then reduce the heat so the stock gently simmers. Skim off any foam that may rise to the surface of the pot. Cook until the stock has reduced by half. Let cool and strain out the solids, reserving the stock for future use, either in the refrigerator or freezer.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Roast Chicken


                                                       “Say!
                            Everyone’s talking ‘bout chicken:
                                    Chicken’s a popular bird;
                        Anywhere you go, you’re bound to find,
                            A chicken ain’t nothin’ but a bird.” *


 (listening: Marcin Wasilewski Trio: Faithful



A roast chicken is a beautiful meal, perhaps one of the most requested when we’re all together. Carved and brought to the table with its roasted vegetables, the juices bound together into a gravy or sauce, it’s an excuse for mashed potatoes (never enough) and while you're at it, don’t forget the crispy skin on the side for my oldest daughter who discovered its pleasures early in her life.

Years ago after one of my brothers moved into his first apartment he called home to ask, “How hot do you cook a chicken?” Back then, 325 degrees was roasting temperature for a chicken.  Today, 450 degrees is the norm.

Roasting a chicken requires little actual work; the oven does it all. You just have to monitor it as the cooking progresses to make certain that nothing is roasting too much, you know, burning. Having said that, I have never experienced any such problems save for a stray vegetable or two. If you see any problems, reduce the heat.

Whole chickens come in various sizes. For this recipe I used a chicken that weighed almost five pounds so your cooking time may be different. Always check the temperature of your chicken with an instant read thermometer. Place the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, without touching bone. The temperature should reach 160 degrees before it’s removed from the oven.  As the chicken rests, it will continue cooking and reach at least 165 degrees, the required ending cooking temperature. Whenever I roast a chicken, I always look for it’s leftover potential-the chicken stock and the meals made with the leftover chicken. I also roast the chicken on a bed of vegetables which are part of the meal, equally as good as the chicken. While this recipe reflects the amount of vegetables for two people, it’s easy enough to extra more when cooking for more people. And don’t be limited by the choice of vegetables, either.

You could skip the mashed potatoes (why would you?) and roast peeled quartered potatoes along with the chicken.

                                    You can boil it, roast it, broil it
                                         Cook it in a pan or a pot
                              Eat it with potatoes, rice, or tomatoes,
                              A chicken’s still what you got, boy! “*

 Roast Chicken:

One roasting chicken
For two people, I used:
3 carrots
1 large onion
6 to 8 cloves garlic
2 parsnips
several sprigs of fresh thyme and fresh rosemary
an additional carrot and onion half for the cavity of the chicken
salt and ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 & ½ cups chicken broth (you can use canned broth)
white wine, optional
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Cut the carrots crosswise in half, then cut the pieces lengthwise into equally thick pieces, about 3” in length. Peel the onion. Leaving the root end on cut the onion in half lengthwise and cut the halves into two or three lengthwise pieces. Peel the garlic cloves and keep whole. Peel the parsnips and cut them similar to the carrots.

3. Place all of the vegetables into the bottom of a roasting pan. Season the vegetables with some salt (about 1 teaspoon) and ground black pepper. Scatter the herbs among the vegetables. Drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil over the vegetables. Set aside.

4, Remove the chicken from its wrapper. Remove the giblets inside the cavity and drain any liquid inside. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Remove any excess fat from the cavity. To make carving easier you may choose to remove the wishbone; if it breaks while you are removing it be careful since the bone pieces will be sharp. (You can consult a video demonstration by Jacques Pepin to see how to remove the wishbone).  Season inside the chicken with some salt and ground black pepper; place the additional vegetables and additional herbs into the chicken cavity. Truss the chicken with a length of cotton twine or alternately, tie the legs together. Place the chicken into the roasting pan over the vegetables. Season the chicken with salt (1 to 2 teaspoons) and ground black pepper. Drizzle the chicken with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place the chicken into the oven. After the chicken has roasted for about 20 minutes, check to see that there is some liquid (rendered chicken fat) in the pan to help the vegetables roast; if the pan appears dry, add about ¼ cup chicken broth or some wine. Continue monitoring the progress of the chicken every 20 to 30 minutes, adding additional broth if necessary.

5. Roast the chicken until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 160 degrees and the juices run clear. The chicken I used was almost 5 pounds and took 1 hour and 20 minutes to cook.

6. Remove the finished chicken from the oven. Transfer the chicken to a plate, cover with a piece of aluminum foil; let rest the chicken rest for 15 to 20 minutes before carving. If the vegetables aren’t tender, you can lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and return the roasting pan with vegetables for additional cooking.
Transfer the roasted vegetables to a serving dish; cover and keep warm.  Place the roasting pan onto the stove. Over medium-high heat, scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove roasting pan from the heat and strain the liquid into a saucepan. Spoon off any fat on the top of the cooking liquid and discard. Add an additional ½ cup broth to the liquid in the saucepan. In a small bowl, mix 2 Tablespoons cornstarch with remaining chicken broth; mix until smooth.  Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove pan from the heat and whisk in some of the cornstarch mixture. Place pan back over heat and whisk as it comes to a boil and thickens. If the sauce needs additional thickening, off the heat whisk in some more of the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil again. If sauce has thickened too much, thin it with some more stock or water. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

6. Carve the breast meat from the chicken and place onto a warm platter. Remove the legs and place onto the platter, if serving. Serve with the roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, and the sauce.



*”A Chicken Ain’t Nothin’ But a Bird” by Cab Calloway



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Apple Walnut Tart


        “Thy breath is like the steame of apple-pyes”*


“As American as apple pie” is what we say now but there were no apple trees when the first settlers arrived. There were crab apple trees but it was up to the settlers to bring along their favorite fruits and plant them. What also held up the apple was a lack of  bees for pollination so early yields were slight. Fast forward (very fast forward) to 1905 and the publication of The Nomenclature of the Apple  with its listing of  17,000 apple varieties found in 19th Century America. Oh, the steely determination of Americans!

This type of filling is often my “go to” recipe because it works well for almost any fruit. I usually make it with almonds but here I wanted something that would complement the apples.
You will need to toast the walnuts and let them cool before you use them. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the walnuts into a small pan and roast them for 10 to 12 minutes until fragrant. Remove the walnuts from the oven and let cool completely.

Just as walnuts pair with apples, if you wanted to do a variation using pears, hazelnuts would make a good pairing.

Apple Walnut Tart                                                                   
For one 9“ tart
You will need one recipe pate sablee

3 apples (your choice)
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ounces (½  cup) unsalted walnuts, toasted
¼ cup sugar
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon maple syrup, optional
1 teaspoon confectioners sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Roll out the pate sablee and fit it into the tart pan. Using a fork, lightly prick the bottom and sides of the tart shell. Refrigerate or freeze the tart shell for 20 minutes.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove tart pan from the refrigerator or freezer and place it onto a baking tray. Line the shell with a piece of aluminum foil and fill the foil with dry beans, rice, or pie weights. Bake the tart shell for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven; carefully remove the aluminum foil and pie weights. Return the tart pan to the oven and bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Remove partially baked tart shell from the oven and let it cool before continuing. (Keep the oven on for the final baking).
3. To make the walnut butter filling, place the walnuts and the sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is as fine as you can make it. Place the butter into the bowl of a mixer and mix the butter with the sugar/ walnut mixture until combined. Mix in the egg and flour until blended. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and maple syrup until combined. (This can also be mixed by hand with a wooden spoon). Set filling aside.
3. Peel, core and slice the apples into 1/4“ thick pieces. Spread the walnut butter filling into tart pan. Arrange the apple slices in the filling forming concentric circles around the tart pan. Return the completed tart to the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling has set and is golden brown. Remove the tart from the oven and let cool. Before serving, mix the confectioner’s sugar with the cinnamon and lightly sift it over the tart.






*from, “Arcadia,” by Robert Greene, 1558-1592, Elizabethan dramatist. This is probably the first mention of apple pie in literature. Greene was also outspoken of his jealousy toward that Shakespeare fellow, too. Greene moved to London after his marriage failed and it was there that his reputation as a playwright increased and according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, his life was “a feverish alternation of labor and debauchery.”
As for apple pie, it was eventually banned in 1644 by Oliver Cromwell, declaring it a “form of pleasure for pagans.”




Jumpin' Punkins! Sugar Pumpkins




Sugar pumpkins, often labeled as pie pumpkins, are appearing now. Sugar pumpkins are a smaller variety of pumpkin with a slightly denser and somewhat sweeter flesh than the larger jack o’ lantern type. Sugar pumpkins are the variety used for pumpkin pie filling. Smaller in size, they weigh between 4 to 5 ½ pounds each. After roasting, they will yield enough flesh for several purposes: risotto, soup, and of course, pies.
The hardest part of using them is cutting the pumpkin down into quarters and removing the seeds, but if you have carved pumpkins you will be familiar with the procedure.
Heat oven to 400 degrees, Cut the top off the pumpkin as if you were carving a jack-o-lantern. Carefully cut down the length of the pumpkin, cutting the pumpkin into quarters; neatness and precision do not count. Place the pumpkin quarters skin side up onto a baking pan lined with aluminum foil. Tent the pumpkin pieces with another piece of foil and bake the pumpkin for an hour, or longer, depending on the size of the pumpkin. When you can easily pierce the flesh of the pumpkin with the point of a knife, remove the pumpkin from the oven and let col. When cool, separate the flesh from the skin, discard the skin and store the flesh in plastic containers or large food storage bags. If you are not planning on using all of the pumpkin soon, freeze it until needed.

The risotto or soup recipes could be made with roasted butternut squash or roasted kobocha squash.
And yes, there will be pumpkin pie.



Pumpkin Risotto with Fried Sage and Toasted Pepitas

For the purpose of this recipe, this has been scaled to two portions. For each additional serving, use 1/3 cup arborio rice, ½ cup pumpkin, and additional broth
Even though I have made risotto for a long time, I still set a timer (for 18 minutes after the wine is added) and cook the risotto while eyeing the timer.

2/3 cup Arborio rice
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth                
2 Tablespoons minced shallot
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup reserved pumpkin, mashed
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil, for cooking
salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 fresh sage leaves
2 Tablespoons toasted unsalted pepita seeds


1. Place the broth into a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Keep it at a low simmer as you cook the risotto.
2. Place a second saucepan for the risotto over medium heat. When hot, swirl in 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the shallots and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes; adjust heat if necessary. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the olive oil.
Pour in the white wine and stir. Stir until the wine is almost absorbed. Ladle about ¼ cup of the hot broth into the rice. Now begins the process of stirring the rice and adding the broth, about ¼ cup at a time. Adjust the heat to keep the risotto at a gentle simmer. Add broth when the liquid is almost absorbed into the rice; stir throughout at this point of the cooking.
3. Continue cooking the risotto by adding more broth as needed. After about 10 minutes cooking time, you won’t need to stir constantly but watch that there is enough broth in the pot and the risotto isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.
4. After about 13 minutes, add the pumpkin. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes.  Taste the risotto. The rice should be firm but it shouldn’t have any undercooked crunch to it. If it does, continue cooking for a few more minutes.
5. When the risotto is al dente, remove risotto from heat. Stir in 2 to 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter. Add the Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper. Cover and set pan aside.
6. Place a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add about ¼” oil, such as canola oil to the pan. Add the sage leaves and fry until crisp. Remove the leaves and drain them on paper towels.
7. Check the risotto.  Add a little extra broth if you like your risotto a little loose. Crumble half of the sage leaves over the risotto and stir them in. Portion the risotto into two bowls. Drizzle each with a little extra virgin olive oil, additional grated Parmesan, the remaining fried sage leaves and pepitas.





Curried Pumpkin Soup
This pumpkin soup has a Caribbean accent with coconut milk and curry powder. You could omit the coconut milk and use light cream or half and half in its place.

½ medium onion, chopped
2 to 3 stalks celery, chopped
2 to 3 carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)       
3 cups reserved roasted pumpkin
olive oil, for cooking
6 cups cold water
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
One 15 ounce can coconut milk
1 to ½ teaspoons curry powder  (to taste)

1. Place a 2 Quart pot over medium heat. Swirl in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion, celery, and carrot. Stir and sweat the vegetables for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the pumpkin, water, salt, pepper, and stir. Bring the soup to a simmer. Cover the pot and continue cooking on a low simmer until all of the vegetables are soft, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let cool. Puree the soup in batches in either a blender or food processor until smooth. Return the soup to the pot. Add the coconut milk and curry powder; whisk to combine. Adjust for salt and pepper. Heat and serve.



Here are two versions of Jumpin’ Punkins, one from Duke Ellington, the second from Cecil Taylor.(!)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asLA20jtnRc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oVWJI1Dfh4



Wednesday, October 3, 2012

B.C.P.: Banana Cream Pie, with or without


“And the only reason I’m singing you this song now is cause you might know somebody in a similar situation, or you might be in a similar situation….”*

Food textures can be a problem for some people; youngest daughter has one with mushrooms for example. Prior to one of our pie nights, a friend announced that she had a texture problem with bananas, not a problem with banana flavor, just the texture of the fruit.
No problem.  Make individual tartlets, put the banana flavor into the pastry cream, keep one tart plain and fold the banana pieces into the other tarts.
If you are making individual 4 ½ “ tarts, adjust the pastry cream recipe to 3 tablespoons of corn starch. If you are making a 9” tart, use 4 tablespoons of cornstarch. You could also use a graham cracker crumb crust baked in a 9” pie pan.

For one 9“ tart, or six 4 ½” tartlets     
You will need one recipe chocolate pate sablee

2 eggs
2 egg yolks
½ cup sugar
3 or 4 Tablespoons cornstarch (see note above)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8th teaspoon salt
2 cups milk (see recipe)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3 or 4  bananas
1 pint heavy cream
1 Tablespoon sugar
chocolate shavings, for decoration (optional)

1. To make the pastry cream, place the eggs and egg yolks into a bowl and whisk together. Add the sugar and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Whisk in the cornstarch, vanilla, and salt until combined. Set bowl aside.

2. Break one of the bananas and place it into a blender. Add enough milk to raise the level to two cups. Blend until smooth. Pour the banana-flavored milk into a medium-sized saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat. When the milk is hot, slowly whisk the milk into the pastry cream mixture until smooth. Pour the pastry cream mixture back into the saucepan and cook the pastry cream over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens; whisk throughout. Remove thickened pastry cream from the heat; whisk in the butter. Put the pastry cream into a bowl or container. Cover the pastry cream with a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the pastry cream. Chill the pastry until cold. This can be made a day in advance and kept refrigerated until needed.

2. Roll the chocolate pate sablee and fit it into a 9” tart pan or individual tartlet pans. Using a fork, lightly prick the bottom and sides of the tart shell. Refrigerate or freeze the tart shell until needed.

3. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator or freezer. Place the tart shell onto a baking tray. If you are making individual tartlets, you can place them onto a baking tray and bake them as is, for 15 to 20 minutes.  If you are making a 9” tart, line the tart shell with a sheet of aluminum foil. Fill the foil with either dry beans, rice or pie weights. Place the tart shell into the oven and bake the tart shell for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes remove the tart shell from the oven and carefully remove the foil with the pie weights. Return the tart shell to the oven and bake for an additional 10 to 12 minutes until tart shell is fully bakes. Remove the tart shell form the oven and let cool completely.

$. To assemble the tart(s), remove the chilled pastry cream from the refrigerator and place it into a bowl. Whisk the pastry cream until smooth. Peel and slice the bananas and fold the bananas into the pastry cream. Spread the banana cream into the tart shell (or divide it between the individual shells). Whip the cream with the sugar until stiff.  Pipe or spread the whipped cream over the tart(s). Decorate with shaved chocolate. Serve.



And while you can’t get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant anymore, you can easily accommodate any friends with special request, if you might be in a similar situation, of course.

*from Alice’s Restaurant, by Arlo Guthrie

Apple Pie



Dr. Doctr.,
I have asked Mrs. Cochran and Mrs. Livingston to dine with me to-morrow; but am I not honor bound to apprize them of their fare?
Of late he (the cook) has had the surprising sagacity to discover, that apples will make pyes; *



A recent trip to the farmer’s market revealed the sad truth. Autumn is approaching which means it time for apple pie. When I made clear my intentions, the woman at the booth steered me toward their just-picked Cortland apples (“Not to tell you what to do,” she said, practically apologizing, yet I have found it’s best to trust the farmers). The Cortland is an 1898 crossbreed developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York. It was named after nearby Cortland County. (My daughters will tell you that driving through Cortland County is one of my favorite places on the trip to their university). It’s hard to believe that there was a time when grocery stores carried only a few varieties of apple (Macintosh, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith) but that’s not the case anymore.
Every region has local apple varieties you can find at farmers markets or at pick-your-own orchards. If you make apple pie, you may have your own favorite variety (or varieties) that you prefer. My wife, the red headed food co-pilot, likes Granny Smith so I often make pies with them but I am all for trying different varieties and tasting the differences between them.

Apple Pie: one 9” pie
You will need pie dough for a double crust pie

2 ½  pounds apples, peeled, cored and sliced into ½ “ slices
½ cup sugar (white or light brown)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
(a 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice or 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg could also be added)
juice of half a lemon
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

1. Place the sliced apples into a bowl.  Add the sugar, spices, and lemon juice; mix to distribute evenly over the apple slices. Set bowl aside for at least 30 minutes.
2. Roll the pie dough to an 1/8th inch thickness and fit it into the pie pan. Refrigerate until needed
2. Heat oven to 450 degrees. After the 30 minutes, there should be some juices in the bottom of the bowl. Add the cornstarch and mix until the cornstarch is dissolved.
3. If you haven’t rolled out the top crust, roll it out. Spread the apples evenly into the prepared bottom crust; pour the juices over the apples. Dot the top of the pie with small bits of the butter. Wet the edge of the bottom crust with the egg wash. Place the top crust over the apples, pressing to seal it to the edge of the bottom crust; trim away any excess crust. Seal and crimp the edges of the pie. Make a small steam hole in the center of the top crust. Brush the crust with egg wash. Decorate the top crust with any of the leftover dough if you wish. Sprinkle sugar over the top.  Place the pie onto baking pan and place the pie into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for an hour, until the filling is bubbling (Listen!). You can also test to see if the pie is done by sliding a toothpick into the steam hole to see how easily it slides through the apples. Remove from oven and let cool.



*excerpt from a letter dated 16 August 1779  from George Washington to Dr. John Cochran, Surgeon-General, from The Writings of George Washington Vol. VIII (1779-1780), collected and edited by W.C. Ford, 1890.




Thursday, September 20, 2012

Risotto with Arugula and Blisted Cherry Tomatoes




I saw a sign at the grocery store that read, “Go from cook to chef with my cherry tomatoes.” Oh, if only it was that easy.
I picked the cherry tomatoes at a local organic farm where I could wander into the field and pick them right off the vines: tiny yellow ones, heirloom Cherokees, sweet small orange ones. As a bonus there is the smell given off by the leaves of the tomato plants as you reach in for your treasures. Heady stuff.
For the purpose of this recipe, I have scaled it to two portions. For larger portions, figure 1/3 cup Arborio rice,  4 ounces cherry tomatoes, extra arugula  and additional broth per person.
Once again, I will call upon the services of my youngest daughter/risotto whiz before we lose her to her last year of college. It’s been a good summer for us. We have been very lucky.
Even though I have made risotto for a long time, I still set a timer (for 18 minutes after the wine is added) and cook the risotto while eyeing the timer.

Risotto with Arugula and Blistered Tomatoes

2/3 cup Arborio rice
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons minced shallot
½ cup dry white wine
8 ounces “blistered” cherry tomatoes (recipe below)
2 handfuls baby arugula
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil, for cooking
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. To make the blistered tomatoes: Heat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse the cherry tomatoes under cold water. Toss the tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes onto a baking tray. Scatter a few sprigs of fresh thyme over the tomatoes. Roast the tomatoes for 15 minutes, until they take on some color and have begun to split. Remove from oven and let cool while making the risotto.

                                 










2. Place the broth into a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a simmer. Keep it at a low simmer as you cook the risotto.
3. Place a second saucepan for the risotto over medium heat. When hot, swirl in 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Add the shallots and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes; adjust heat if necessary. Add the rice and stir to coat it in the olive oil.
Pour in the white wine and stir. Stir until the wine is almost absorbed. Ladle about ¼ cup of the hot broth into the rice. Now begins the process of stirring the rice and adding the broth, about ¼ cup at a time. Adjust the heat to keep the risotto at a gentle simmer. Add broth when the liquid is almost absorbed into the rice; stir throughout at this point of the cooking.
4. Continue cooking the risotto by adding more broth as needed. After about 10 minutes cooking time, you won’t need to stir constantly but watch that there is enough broth in the pot and that the risotto isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. Season the risotto with a little salt. After about 18 minutes, taste the risotto. The rice should be firm but it shouldn’t have any undercooked crunch to it. If it does, continue cooking for a few more minutes.
6. When the risotto is al dente, remove risotto from heat. Stir in the blistered tomatoes, their juices and the arugula. Add the butter, Parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper and stir. Cover the pot and set it aside for two minutes. After two minutes, check the risotto. Add a little extra broth if you like your risotto a little loose. Taste and adjust seasoning. Portion the risotto into two bowls. Drizzle each with a little extra virgin olive oil and additional grated Parmesan cheese. Yes, we’re going to miss her around here.



Chocolate Walnut Pie



(Listening: David Murray Octet : Octet Plays Coltrane *

We missed the farmers market. We were away, taking our youngest daughter back to college for her senior year. As the season winds down, our favorite fruits will soon disappear so the questions about future pies arise. Granted, we can keep enjoying the same pie but that makes for dull reading.
Something with nuts?”
It was my wife, my red haired food co-pilot who suggested a walnut pie, a chocolate walnut pie.

This will also work as a 9” tart. It has a little too much filling for a 9” tart, so if you want to use up the filling you could make a 10” tart. You will need additional walnuts, too. Instead of regular sablee, try it with chocolate sablee (recipe follows). For a tart, you will want to blind bake the shell first.
This is based on the traditional pecan pie filling, except it has melted chocolate and a touch of cornstarch added. It could be made with pecans or even macadamia nuts.
The recipe calls for chopped walnuts. You can use whole walnuts but it is easier to cut the pie if the walnuts are chopped. Sometimes you have to sacrifice your style for convenience.

Chocolate Walnut Pie
For one 9” pie

3 eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/8th teaspoon salt
2 ounces (4 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
6 ounces walnuts, chopped


1. Roll out the pie dough and fit it into the pie pan. Trim the excess and crimp the dough around the edge. Refrigerate or freeze while you prepare the filling. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, corn syrup and salt. Whisk to combine. Whisk in the melted butter and set aside.
3. Place a second bowl over gently simmering water. Add the chocolate to the bowl. When ½ of the chocolate has melted, stir the chocolate until the chocolate is smooth. With the chocolate still over the warm water, whisk the filling into the chocolate and blend until smooth. Whisk in the cornstarch and set aside.
4. Remove the prepared pie pan from the refrigerator or freezer and place it on a baking pan. Place the walnuts into the pie shell. Pour the chocolate mixture into the pie shell; the walnuts will float to the top of the filling. Place the baking pan with the pie into the oven. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 50 minutes, or until the filling is set. Remove pie from the oven and let cool before serving.




Chocolate Pate Sablee
Since this dough is basically a  cookie dough, it can be mixed by hand with a wooden spoon

¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 egg yolk
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cups cake flour

1. Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder. Mix until incorporated: scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula from time to time. Add the egg yolk, salt, and baking powder and mix together. Add the cake flour and mix until combined. Remove the dough from the bowl; knead into a ball if necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least four hours before using.



*This album was released back in 2000. Murray, whose work leans to the left of the jazz mainstream, visited a number of Coltrane classics and arranged them for octet. There is great, joyous playing throughout this recording. Coltrane’s ground breaking solo from his 1960 recording of “Giant Steps” is orchestrated for the ensemble. The CD is still available from Justin Time Records. 
Also released about the same time was Joe Lovano’s 52nd Street Themes, a recording of arrangements of tunes associated with 52nd Street in NYC (Tadd Dameron, Monk, Billy Strayhorn, along with some originals). This was the music that would eventually lead to Miles, Sonny Rollins, Coltrane and others. This video features the nonet with the late, great Dennis Irwin on bass, who played on over 500 recordings. 
                                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXOu5cF77_0


Editorial oops! There is a slight mistake in the cornmeal crisp topping recipe for the peach and blueberry pie. While it works perfectly as is, you can double the butter (use an entire stick/ or 1/4
pound unsalted butter) for larger crumbs.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chimichurri




Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce for grilled meats, but it works well with anything grilled. Great also as a pregrill marinade, it is a combination of fresh herbs, usually parsley and cilantro, plus garlic, onion, olive oil and vinegar. It is grassy, herbaceous, and tangy.
There is no one correct way to make chimichurri. I used flat leaf parsley, cilantro, and since I had it outside I also used fresh marjoram, for its floral and lemony accent. You could use fresh oregano. I know some use sage or rosemary. I use a combination of red wine vinegar and fresh lemon juice, along with a little red onion, garlic, and jalapeno. This is a sauce that you can customize to your taste.
The herbs are chopped together but instead of chopping them on a cutting board and leaving some of their flavor behind on the cutting board, I pulse everything together in a food processor and add the oil and acids by hand. A simple seasoning with salt and pepper and you’re ready. Fire up the grill!

Chimichurri
1 cup flat leaf parsley
1 cup cilantro
3 to 4 Tablespoons fresh marjoram leaves
1 or 2 cloves garlic, lightly chopped
¼ cup red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped.
Juice of ½ lemon
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1. Combine the herbs, garlic, red onion and jalapeno in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped. Remove the herb mixture to a bowl. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and whisk to combine. Cover and set aside until needed.



Grilled New York Strip Steak with Chimichurri
                         

"This is just to say" : A Plum Tart for the Poet's Daughter



We were short one person on our recent pie night. Our friend was away on his silent retreat, which his wife informed us might have been silent but far from austere. She came alone (unless you count the copy of Mother Angelica’s biography she smuggled into the house, much to the glee of our youngest daughter) and we had a plum tart, remembering William Carlos Williams’s poem. An appropriate dessert for the daughter of a poet, I thought.
The almond butter filling is based on a recipe from Spago Desserts, by Mary Bergin and Judy Gethers. The filling works for just about any fruit, especially stone fruits (cherries, apricots, plums, nectarines) and even non-stoners, like blueberries. (“Dude!”) Make the filling, spread it into a blind baked tart shell, top with the fruit and bake.
If you can’t find almond flour (or if it’s too pricey), grind 4 ounces of slivered almonds with the sugar in a food processor until the almonds are as finely ground as you can make them and proceed with the recipe.

Plum Tart with Brown Butter and Almond Filling      
For one 9” tart
You will need one recipe pate sablee, which is available on a prior post.

1 quart plums (you will need about 8 plums or so, depending on their size)
1 cup almond flour (4 ounces)
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract                                                   
¼ pound (one stick) unsalted butter

1. Roll out the pate sablee dough and fit it into a 9” tart pan, trimming off excess dough at the edge of the pan. Lightly prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork. Refrigerate or freeze the tart shell for at least 20 minutes before baking.

2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator or freezer. Place the pan on a baking pan. Fit the tart shell with a piece of aluminum foil and fill the foil with pie weights (dry beans and/or rice work just as well and they can be reused). Place the baking pan with the tart shell into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Carefully remove the aluminum foil and the pie weights; return the tart shell to the oven for an additional 5 to 7 minutes of baking. Remove the partially baked tart shell from the oven and set it aside to cool.

3. While the tart shell is cooling, prepare the fruit. Cut the plums lengthwise, exposing the pit. Remove the pits, discard them, and set the halved plums aside. Prepare the tart filling.  Begin by browning the butter. Cut the butter into pieces. Place the butter into a sauté pan and place the pan over medium heat. As the butter melts, a fine filigree of foam will rise to the surface and then disappear. Stir occasionally as the butter continues cooking. A foam of small white bubbles will appear on the surface of the melted butter. This is about the time the butter will begin to brown. Stir and watch; when the butter turns a nutty brown color, remove it from the heat and let it cool.

4. Place the almond flour, sugar, and salt into a medium-sized mixing bowl and stir together. Add the eggs and vanilla and stir to combine. Add the brown butter and stir until the butter is incorporated into the mix. Spread the filling into the tart shell. Arrange the plum halves, cut side up around the tart shell, pressing them gently into the filling. When the tart is filled, return the tart to the oven and bake for 45 minutes, until the filling has set and has turned a golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Dust the tart lightly with confectioner’s sugar and serve.



             This is just to say we have eaten the plum tart. Sorry about the paraphrase, WCW.