Friday, June 29, 2012

Getting Ready for the Fourth

“Nothing can equal the Rejoicings in the Cities, Towns, and Villages thro’out the States on the late fourth of July in Celebration of the Declaration of Independence and the Birth of the new Constitution.”
-Francis Hopkinson in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, July 17, 1788

Getting Ready for the 4th

The Fourth of July is approaching which for most people means cookouts. (Nowadays the rejoicings are for having a day off). Here are a group of recipes to consider for your 4th.

Brioche Buns
“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”

Consider for a moment, France’s support of our revolution. Then consider that perhaps a small way to remember this is to make a batch of brioche rolls for your hamburgers. Marie Antoinette, you will recall, reportedly said about the poor, “Let them eat cake,” but what she really said was “Let them eat brioche.” This was an “in” joke among the aristocracy who, it seemed, laughed their heads off in amusement at their clever bon mot until they actually did lose their heads; it was “funny” because brioche is enriched with plenty of butter and eggs, something that the poor could never afford.
This isn’t really a “true” brioche because it doesn’t have as many eggs or as much butter as you would encounter in a traditional brioche recipe. This is a  yeast dough enriched with egg and butter. It’s easy to put together if you have a stand mixer. Like all brioche, it must be refrigerated overnight before it’s formed into rolls.
While we’re on the subject of yeast dough, let’s put to rest once and for all a couple of incorrect facts that have followed bread making for a long time. You will see that I use “rapid rise” or “quick rise” yeast. This type of yeast has 25% more living yeast cells than “active dry” yeast. (There are 300 times more living yeast cells than in an equal amount of compressed yeast, too). So make the switch to this type of yeast. (Even though it’s called “rapid rise” or “quick rise,” you want a good slow, preferably cold, rise when you make bread. Faster is not better in this case).  A “rapid rise” type yeast dissolves faster and will proof in cold (even ice cold) water, which explains why the recipe doesn’t call for ‘warm” water. While this recipe includes sugar, it is not to feed the yeast, but to slightly sweetens the dough. Yeast cannot process sucrose, so the idea that you need sugar to help the yeast “proof” is a misnomer. Besides, there is plenty of food for the yeast in the flour.

For a whole wheat variation, substitute 3 cups whole wheat flour for the high gluten flour.

Light Brioche Buns
Makes eight 4 ounce rolls

1 cup water
3 Tablespoons milk
½ Tablespoon “rapid rise” yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar

3 cups high-gluten (bread) flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 Tablespoon (1 ½ teaspoons) salt
1 egg
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Egg wash- one egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

1. Pour the water and the milk into the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the yeast and sugar and mix to combine. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add the flours and salt to the bowl and begin mixing the dough. After about a minute of mixing, add the egg and mix until a ball of dough forms. Add the butter and mix until the butter is combined into the dough. This will take about five minutes. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl (no kneading is necessary) and place it into a greased bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight.
3. The next day, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and empty the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into eight portions; if you have a scale, weigh each portion to 4 ounces. Roll each piece into a small ball. Place all of the balls onto a pan that has been greased and dusted with cornmeal. Cover with a clean towel and let the dough balls rise until doubled in size, about one hour.
4. After the rolls have doubled in size, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Press each dough ball flat with your hand so that each roll is about 4” across. The buns will rise in the oven but they won’t spread out. This flattening will help make them wide enough for your burgers. Brush each roll with the egg glaze.
5. Place the rolls into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, rotate the tray and continue baking for another 8 minutes, until the buns are golden brown. Remove the buns from the oven and let cool completely. The brioche buns can be made in advance and frozen until needed. If you are freezing them, place the buns into a freezer bag. Defrost as needed.

Hot Dog Chili

For our Memorial Day celebration, one of my brothers brought some German wieners from Deitrich’s Meats in Krumsville.  He knows many places to find unique foods in the outflung reaches near to where he lives.   I decided to make some hot dog chili. (He put together a mustard-based hot dog relish). I decided to ditch the ground beef and use chorizo sausage instead. It made a great, if not un-traditional, hot dog chili.

Hot Dog Chili

1 pound chorizo sausage (the raw variety)
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
½ cup diced red bell pepper
diced jalapeno pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon chile New Mexico powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika (pimenton)
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup crushed tomatoes
½ cup water
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
salt and ground black pepper
olive oil for cooking

1. Remove the casings from the chorizo sausages; discard the casings and set the sausage meat aside. Place a medium-sized sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, swirl in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the chorizo and break it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks. When the chorizo is browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside. Drain all but two tablespoons of the oil from the pan.
2. Return the pan to the heat. Add the chopped onion and both types of pepper; sweat the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. Add all of the spices; stir and let the spices toast until fragrant. Add the tomato paste, stir it into the vegetables and let it toast for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, water and brown sugar and stir to combine. Simmer the chili over low heat until thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes. Store the completed chili in a container and reheat when needed.

“Baked” Beans
The day I made this it was far too hot to turn on the oven so I made this on the stove. I cheated and used canned beans. If you want to go the route of using dried beans, that’s fine. Baked beans often have bacon but there’s none in here. That’s not for any high moral reason. We had eaten the bacon for breakfast. You can add it to yours; sauté two or three strips of diced bacon with the vegetables until crisp. For the smoky flavor of baked beans that you usually get from bacon, I used Spanish (sweet) smoked paprika, or pimenton. The beans can be made in advance and reheated when needed. Like many things, the flavor improves as it sits in the fridge.

“Not Baked” Beans

Two 15 ounce cans black beans
½ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup ketchup
1 Tablespoon molasses
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
salt and ground black pepper
2 cups water
olive oil, for cooking

1.  Drain the black beans in a colander and rinse them. Set aside. Place a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, swirl in two tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and sweat them for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until the onion softens. Add the black beans to the pot along with the remaining ingredients. Stir together and bring the beans to a simmer. Reduce heat and gently simmer the beans until thickened, about 30  minutes. Stir from time to time during cooking to prevent the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Remove the beans from the heat and let cool. Store the beans in the refrigerator until needed and reheat before serving.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Wild Striped Bass with Chanterelle Mushrooms

“--and you Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?”*

Pan Seared Striped Bass with Chanterelle Mushrooms               
Sautéed beet greens and roasted new potatoes

I ran into a good friend while shopping at the farmers market. She was deciding on which mushrooms to buy for a future dinner; I was looking for some chanterelles. She told me a story about when she and her husband lived in Eugene, Oregon. Her father, who is a poet of considerable note, was visiting and they took him along for their weekly trip to Saturday Market, Eugene’s farmers market. While they looked at the produce, he pulled out his notebook and began scribbling. While my friends saw the possibilities for dinner, he saw poems.
I am a cook, not a poet, but I understand the connection. You go to the market to look for ideas in order to answer the daily question, “What’s for dinner tonight?”  (It’s a question I am still asked by my daughters). You draw inspiration from what you see.  A cook looks at ingredients and asks, “How will I put these things together for a meal?” For a poet, it’s a question of how do those inspirations get put together as words on paper. While assembled in different ways, the end results get shared and we both hope they are appreciated for the gifts they are. They both nourish different aspects of our hunger. They are fleeting moments.

This week I found wild striped bass at the store and set about preparing it with ingredients from the farmers market. I had chanterelle mushrooms, beet greens (which were leftover from a bunch of beets) and some red bliss potatoes. The potatoes require the longest cooking time. The beet greens and the mushrooms will cook in about 8 to 10 minutes. Cook the fish for 10 minutes an inch for each inch of thickness for well done. You could substitute any green for the beet greens-spinach, kale, etc. The technique for cooking them is the same but you will have to adjust the cooking time. If you can’t find striped bass, you could substitute with red snapper fillets or even tilapia.
Wild striped bass, or rockfish, is a seasonal treat. The recovery of wild striped bass is a lesson of mutual cooperation. Always prized as a sport fish as well as for it’s great eating, the striped bass population had  dwindled due to two factors, the pollution of their spawning grounds in the Hudson River and the over fishing of the depleted supply of fish. The pollution was addressed by cleaning the Hudson. The over fishing was addressed by the fishermen themselves who placed a self-imposed ban on fishing for striped bass until their numbers increased. Today, the striped bass is back, with sport fisherman still observing catch limits to insure that there will be more of this great fish in the future for all to enjoy.

A dinner inspired by the appearance of wild striped bass

Pan Seared Striped Bass with Chanterelle Mushrooms
Sautéed beet greens and roasted new potatoes

For two servings:
Two 4 to 6 ounce fillets striped bass

The potatoes:
6 to 8 small red bliss potatoes                                                      
1 to 2 cloves garlic, sliced
olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
several sprigs of fresh thyme

The mushrooms:
4 ounces chanterelle mushrooms
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
½ cup white wine                                                                            
unsalted butter and olive oil for cooking
salt and ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon cold unsalted butter, to finish the sauce (optional)

The beets greens:
1 bunch beet greens
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
water and olive oil, for cooking
salt and ground black pepper
juice of ½ lemon

1. Start by roasting the potatoes. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Wash the potatoes under cold water. Depending on their size, cut the potatoes in half or leave them whole if they are small. Place the potatoes on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle the potatoes with olive oil, season with salt and ground black pepper; scatter the garlic over the potatoes and place the thyme around the potatoes. Place the foil with the potatoes onto a baking sheet. Roast the potatoes for 15 minutes; remove from the oven and stir the potatoes. Return them to the oven for an additional 10 minutes roasting until they are tender; a knife inserted into the potato should pierce the flesh easily. Either remove the potatoes from the oven or turn the oven off and let the potatoes stay warm in the oven.

2. Clean the chanterelles with a soft brush or paper towel. Either slice the mushrooms in half, lengthwise or tear them in half. Place a small sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, swirl in a tablespoon olive oil and a tablespoon of butter. Add the minced shallot and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and ground black pepper; add additional olive oil if the pan looks dry.  Cook the mushrooms for 4 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the white wine and continue cooking the mushrooms, reducing the wine by half. Set pan aside until fish is ready.

3. Chop the beet greens into 1” pieces. Rinse the beet greens under cold water and drain in a colander. Into Pour ½ cup water a large sauté pan. Lightly salt the water. Cover the pan and place the pan over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add the beet greens. Cover and let the beet greens wilt. Uncover and stir occasionally. Cook the beet greens over medium heat until tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Taste the greens for tenderness. Keep any leftover water in the pan. Swirl a tablespoon of olive oil into the pan; add the garlic, stir and cook the green for 1 to 2 minutes more, until the water has evaporated. If the pan seems too dry, add extra olive oil. When the greens are tender, remove from heat, cover and keep warm.

4. To cook the striped bass, place a medium sauté pan over high heat. Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper.
When the pan is hot, swirl on 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil. Place the fillets flesh side down into the pan and sear for 3 to 4 minutes, until golden brown. Turn the striped bass fillets over, reduce the heat and continue cooking for 5 or 6 minutes more, until the fish is cooked to the desired degree of doneness.  (If you don’t want to eat the crispy skin, it will peel off easily).

5. Before serving, reheat the beet greens and add the lemon juice and stir. Reheat the chanterelles. When hot, swirl in one tablespoon cold butter. Divide the potatoes into two portions between two plates. Place the beet greens onto the plates. Top each with a striped bass fillet. Spoon the mushrooms and their juices over the fish. Serve and enjoy.

*from  A Supermarket in California by Alan Ginsberg

Blueberry and Black Raspberry Pie

My Blueberry Nights: Blueberry and Black Raspberry Pie

One advantage to shopping at a farmer’s market is finding things that aren’t available in the grocery store. This week’s find was black raspberries. Originally native to the east coast, commercial black raspberry cultivation takes place on the west coast, mostly in Oregon.  Black raspberry plants yield less fruit than the red raspberry. They are also prone to Raspberry Mosaic disease (hear that Margaret?) so they are costly to grow on a large scale but it might mean that one of the farmers at your local market just might have some.

We’ve entered blueberry season. Last week, I made a blueberry crumb pie so I decided on a slight variation, mixing the black raspberries I found with some blueberries. Think of this as a great way to get your antioxidants. The end result is delicious; when cooked, the black raspberries have an amazing flavor, even when mixed with blueberries. We held back on seconds, but not too long.

This recipe is for a 9“ pie. I made it with a top crust, but you could cover the pie with a crumb topping.

Blueberry/Black Raspberry Pie
For one 9” pie
Needed: a double recipe of pie dough for a top crust pie.

1 pint blueberries (2 cups)
1 pint black raspberries (2 cups)
½ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons lemon juice

1. Rinse the blueberries and black raspberries under cold water. Pick over the blueberries; remove and discard any stems that may still be attached to the berries. Place the blueberries and black raspberries into a bowl. Add the sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice, and stir to combine. Set aside.

2. Heat oven to 450 degrees.

3. Roll out the pie dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1/8th inch. Be sure to roll the crust in one direction, turning the dough as you work, using additional flour as needed. Fit the crust into the pie plate. Lift and place the dough; don’t stretch the dough. Refrigerate or freeze the pie shell for 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Remove the pie shell from the refrigerator/freezer. Fill the shell with the berries, scraping out any of the sugar/cornstarch mixture that may have sunk to the bottom of the bowl. If using a top crust, roll it out a place it over the fruit. Seal the edges and trim any excess dough. Crimp the outer edge of the crust. Cut a steam hole into the center of the top of the pie. (If using a crumb topping, spread the crumb mixture evenly over the fruit.) Place the pie onto a baking pan. Place the pie into the oven and bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for 50 minutes, until the filling is bubbling. Remove pie from the oven and let cool before serving.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese

No one is half way when it comes to beets; you either like them or you don’t. Beets may be a generational thing, a food that your mother or grandmother ate but one for which you can’t muster much enthusiasm.  But that doesn’t explain why they appear on the menus of so many “hipster” dining joints (insert name here).  (Also trending in these hipster hideouts is brussel sprouts as an appetizer/ first course. Brussel sprouts as an appetizer?) ( I know, they’re cheap and they make money).

We humans appear to have evolved to be “hard wired” to prefer sweet, which would include beets, but why is there an aversion to them? In the wine world, there is a term for the relationship that  geography, geology, and climate make on wine grapes and how that influences the taste and nose of the wine. It’s called terroir.  (I worked with a sommelier who used to say, “You pay for that dirt.”) I know that no one would talk about the terroir of a beet, but is the very earthy taste of beets part of the aversion? I don’t know. I’m not here to change anyone’s mind. I came around to beets but I am alone in this in my family.

These were made with a bunch of baby red beets, which makes a serving for two. (The bunch had seven baby beets).

Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese
For two servings

One bunch of baby red beets
Olive oil, salt and ground black pepper and several sprigs fresh thyme for roasting the beets

The dressing:
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon honey
salt and  ground black pepper

3 to 4 Tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Cut off the beets greens; save for use as a side vegetable. Rinse the beets under cold water. Cut off the spindly end of the beet. Place the beets in one layer onto a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle the beets with a tablespoon or two of olive oil; season with salt and ground black pepper. Add the thyme to the beets. Wrap the foil around the beets and place the package onto a baking sheet. Place the beets into the oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until tender; the point of a knife should easily pierce the beets. (If you are roasting larger beets, they will take longer to cook). When the beets have cooked, remove them from the oven and let cool completely. Clean the beets by trimming off the stem end of the beets and peeling the skin from the beets. (This part could stain your hands so use rubber gloves if you wish). Slice or dice the beets, depending on their size; I cut the beets into quarters or sixths, depending on their size. Set the beets aside.

2.  Prepare the vinaigrette for the beets. Place the oils, vinegar, honey salt and pepper into a small bowl and whisk until combined. Add the beets and stir. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

3. To serve, stir half of the crumbled goat cheese into the beets. Place a few lettuce leaves onto two plates; divide the beets between the two plates. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoons goat cheese over the two salads and serve.

Gazpacho of Green Vegetables

Inspired by the market: Gazpacho of Green Vegetables

Everything for this recipe came from this past Saturday’s trip to the local farmer’s market. There were cucumbers, zucchini, onions, and basil. I had garlic scapes leftover from last week’s trip. This was pretty much improvised based on my experience of making gazpacho but since tomatoes aren’t yet in season I chose a few green vegetables and treated them in the style of gazpacho- raw, pureed and spiked with vinegar and olive oil.

When you shop at a farmer’s market, you can’t weigh the produce you pick, so be flexible. Your amounts needn’t be exactly the same as mine. I included them only because most people expect to see measurements given in a recipe. Follow the basic outline, taste and adjust the seasonings as you go.

If you don’t have garlic scapes, use garlic. If you don’t like a strong, raw garlic flavor, sauté the garlic in a little olive oil first. If you don’t want a strong onion flavor, put the chopped onions into a strainer and rinse them under cold water.

When tomatoes arrive, I’ll pass on a more traditional-style tomato-based gazpacho recipe.

Green Vegetable Gazpacho                                
Makes about 6 cups soup

2  cucumbers, one peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and sliced into 1” pieces
Leave the skin on the second cucumber, slice it lengthwise, remove the seeds and cut into 1” pieces; this
will make about 2 cups cucumber
2 cups zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1” pieces
2 Tablespoons chopped garlic scapes (or 1 Tablespoon chopped garlic)
½ cup diced onion
14 to 16 leaves fresh basil
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1½ cups water (1 cup to puree the peeled cucumber, ½ cup for the other vegetables)
¼ cup red wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar
salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1. Place the peeled cucumber and 1 cup  water into a blender; puree until smooth. Pour this into a bowl and set aside. Place all of the remaining ingredients into the blender (or a food processor) and puree until smooth; don’t expect a completely smooth consistency. If necessary, you can process the soup in batches. Pour the contents of the blender into the bowl with the pureed cucumber and stir together. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer the soup to a container and chill. Taste again before serving. Serve the soup very cold.

The soup can be garnished in many ways. Use croutons, or some crab meat or cooked chopped shrimp. Swirl a little extra virgin olive oil over the soup, or garnish with chopped basil leaves, or some diced cucumber. Top with some crème fraiche, sour cream or perhaps a little quark.  You get the idea; there is no correct way.

Risotto with English Peas and Morels

                             “There is a season, turn, turn, turn,”

Before they are all gone: Risotto with English Peas and Morels
(Listening: Linde Consort- “Altenglische Consortmusik”)

When you shop at a farmer’s market you are made aware of the shortness of the season for different vegetables. Last week, one farm had English peas, but this week they were replaced by snow peas. But another farm brought their just picked their peas. Morels are still appearing, but for how much longer?

Time to make this risotto.

If you are using fresh peas, save the pods and turn them into a broth to use in the risotto. Rinse the pods and place them into a medium-sized saucepan. Add a piece of onion and some chopped celery; exact quantities aren’t important, more a matter of what you have in your refrigerator. Fill the pot with 5 to 6 cups of cold water and season with ¼ teaspoon salt. Place the pan onto the stove and simmer the broth until reduced by half. Strain the broth, pressing on the vegetables to extract any extra juices. Discard the vegetables and reserve the broth for the risotto.
For this recipe, I decided to cook the morels separately; you can stir them into the risotto at end or use them to  garnish the risotto.
I mentioned before in another recipe that I use a timer set for 18 minutes when I make risotto. Here is where using a timer comes in handy. When there are five minutes remaining, add the peas. No guess work needed in figuring out when 5 minutes remain.
And as I often do with risotto, I left most of the cooking to my youngest daughter.

Risotto with English Peas and Morels                                                      
For two servings:
¼ pound morel mushrooms
1 teaspoon minced shallot
a few sprigs fresh thyme

2/3 cup Arborio rice
3 cups pea broth (or chicken or vegetable broth)
2 Tablespoons minced shallot
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup peas
2  Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 to 3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
olive oil, for cooking
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Clean the morel mushrooms; trim off the bottom of the stems. Slice the morels in half or quarters, depending on their size. Place a small sauté pan over medium heat. When pan is hot, swirl in about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the shallots and sweat for 30 seconds. Add the morels and the thyme sprigs to the pan; season with salt and ground black pepper. Cook the morels for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender. Set aside.

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. (If using a timer, start it now). 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.                                      

5. When 5 minutes cooking time remain, add the peas to the risotto. With the peas in the risotto, you may have to add a larger amount of stock to cover the rice and peas. Season the risotto with a little salt.

6. 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.

7. When the risotto is al dente, remove risotto from heat. Stir in 2 to 3 tablespoons butter. Add the 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. Stir in the morels or hold them for garnish. Portion the risotto into two bowls. Garnish with the morels. Drizzle each serving with a little extra virgin olive oil and additional grated Parmesan.

               When I was studying music, I played lute in an Renaissance music ensemble, wearing red tights, no less.  There are photos which my daughters won't let me live down.          

Blueberry Crumb Pie

Blueberry Crumb Pie
(Listening to- Clogs: “Lantern”)

The history of the cultivated blueberry is tied to the daughter of a cranberry farmer. Elizabeth Coleman White is one of the two people responsible for the cultivated blueberry. White, a self-taught scientist, was the daughter of cranberry farmers in New Jersey.  In 1911, she read a USDA report written by Dr. Frederick Coville detailing his work on cross breeding wild blueberries. Coville was carrying out his work on his farm in New Hampshire. After reading Coville’s paper, White invited Coville to continue his research at her family’s farm in Whitesbog. Together they worked for five years, finding wild bushes in the Pine Barrens and offering cash rewards to other farmers who successfully propagated blueberries of a certain size.  In 1916, White and Coville presented their first crop of blueberries.
With blueberries arriving, it’s time for pie. Blueberry is one of the easiest.

“What kind of pie this going to be, a pie with a top crust or with a crumb top?”
I took this to be a not-so-subtle hint from youngest daughter.
“Uhhh.. a crumb top?” I ventured.
Right guess.
“Can we make ice cream, too?”

Blueberry Crumb Pie                                                        
For one 9“ pie
Needed: One recipe pie dough for a 9” pie

2 pints blueberries (4 cups)
½ cup sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Crumb Topping
1 cup  all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ cup oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ pound (one stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1. Roll out the pie dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of  1/8th inch. Be sure to roll the crust in one direction, turning the dough as you work, using additional flour as needed. Fit the crust into the pie plate. Lift and place the dough; do not stretch it in place. Trim the edge then crimp the edge of the dough. Refrigerate or freeze the pie shell.

2. Rinse the blueberries under cold water. Pick over the berries, remove and discard any stems that may still be attached to the berries. Place the blueberries into a bowl. Add the sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice, and stir to combine. Set aside.

3. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

4.  To make the crumb topping, place all of the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix the ingredients together. Add the butter and mix until the mixture comes together and forms medium-sized crumbs. Set aside. (Alternately, this can be done by hand using a fork or a pastry blender).

5. Remove the pie shell from the refrigerator/freezer. Fill the shell with the berries, scraping out any of the sugar/cornstarch mixture that may have sunk to the bottom of the bowl. Top the pie with the crumb mixture. Place the pie onto a baking pan and place the pie into the oven. Bake the pie for 50 to 60 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling. Remove pie from oven. Let cool before serving. Don’t forget the ice cream. There will be ice cream recipes in the weeks to come, too.

Before the end of blueberry season, freeze one or two pints of blueberries on a baking sheet, then store them air tight in a freezer bag.  This fall, when fresh cranberries arrive, I’ll pass along a recipe for blueberry/cranberry pie, celebrating the collaboration of a cranberry grower’s daughter and the blueberry.

Eating what you make is such dirty work and luckily we have two friend who meet us to help out on what has been called Wednesday Pie Nights. This week, they brought us a gift of Rhuby, a spirit from Philadelphia's Art in the Age. Admittedly, if I came across this in the store, I might pass it by but our friends tried their "Snap." Rhuby is made with rhubarb and other botanicals. It is surprisingly good, similar to a dessert wine in its complex flavor, but not as syrupy sweet.

Clogs is a musical project of National's guitarist Bryce Dessner. It is a quartet of Yale musician friends: Padma Newsome (violin, viola), Rachael Elliott (bassoon), and percussionist Thomas Kozumplik.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Brewpubs and Pub Grub

                                                “Yes, baby, I’ve  been drinkin’ " *

Of Brewpubs and Pub Grub: Lamb Burgers with Tomato Chutney &
Cumin Dusted Sweet Potato Oven Fries
(listening: Bonnie Raitt  “Slipstream”)

Philadelphia, like most cities, was a city of beer. At one time there were 700 breweries throughout the city. Today, while there aren’t as many breweries in Philadelphia as before, thanks to craft beer brewing over the past two decades, once again Philadelphia is a city of great beer. From Dock Street, the first microbrewery in Philadelphia to Yards Brewing and numerous brew/pubs (Nodding Head, Triumph, Earth and Bread Brewery) you don’t need to go far for great beer.
The micro brew revolution has spread out to the suburbs, where breweries and brewpubs such as Victory, Sly Fox, and Iron Hill have garnered national reputations. More continue to spring up as experienced home brewers take a chance on their own ventures. Round Guys Brewing Co. in Lansdale is now selling their beers several days a week. In Perkasie, Good Will Brewing brews and sells its draft beers locally. After a considerable wait, Ambler’s Forest & Main recently opened their doors. This June 23rd will mark the third annual Beer Tasting Festival in Lansdale, with a (literally) mind numbing 75 breweries participating and pouring.
Clearly we have quickly reached the point where there is more beer than we can possibly drink. How better to celebrate all of this beer than with a little brewpub-style food?  Let’s put the beef on hold and grill lamb burgers.  And we’ll replace the ketchup with some tangy tomato chutney and add some sweet potato oven fries on the side.

Lamb burgers on sea salt rolls from Alice Bakery

Lamb Burgers with Tomato Chutney
For two servings:
10 or 12 ounces ground lamb
salt & ground black pepper
burger rolls

1. Form the ground lamb into two patties; season with salt and pepper. Grill the lamb burgers to desired degree of doneness. Remove from the grill; toast the rolls then place the burgers onto rolls and top with some of the chutney.

Tomato Chutney
1 medium onion, chopped
1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped (about 1 Tablespoon)
red pepper flakes or diced jalapenos, to taste
One 28 ounce can tomatoes
¼  cup white vinegar
¼ cup light brown sugar
One  3” cinnamon stick
Grated zest of 2 limes
Salt and ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons oil, for cooking

1. Place a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. When hot, swirl in the oil. Add the onions and sauté until to soften; do not brown. After 2 to 3 minutes, season the onions with a little salt. Add the garlic and hot peppers; stir and cook until fragrant.
2.Cut the stem end off of the tomatoes and crush them. Add the crushed tomatoes, along with the juice from the can into the pan. Add the brown sugar, vinegar, and lime zest and stir to dissolve sugar.; season with ground black pepper. Simmer the chutney until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally as the chutney cooks. When the chutney has reduced and thickened, remove from heat. Unused tomato chutney will keep stored in a container or jar in the refrigerator for several weeks. It is also good with grilled fish and chicken.

Sweet Potato Oven Fries Dusted with Cumin
One orange sweet potato (yam)
Olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
Ground cumin

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut the sweet potato in half lengthwise, then cut each half into quarters lengthwise. Line a cookie sheet with a sheet of parchment or a silicone baking mat. Arrange the sweet potatoes on the baking sheet.  Drizzle the potatoes with about 2 tablespoons olive oil; season with salt and black pepper. Place the sweet potatoes in the oven and roast for 20 minutes; check the potatoes for doneness by inserting a knife point into the flesh of the potato. If the potatoes need more cooking, return them to the oven for a few more minutes.  Remove sweet potatoes from the oven. Sprinkle the sweet potatoes with a light dusting of ground cumin. 


*lyrics from “Guilty,” lyrics by Randy Newman          

Those of us who grew up in the Philly area have a special place for Bonnie Raitt. We remember her local appearances (with her bassist, “Freebo”) at the Main Point, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, on Gene Shay’s Sunday night folk music show, or opening for other acts at larger venues. She’s back after a break of seven years, a time in which a number of personal losses occurred her life. She returns, still in great voice; an impeccable musician. She has been an influence on many younger musicians (sorry about the word, “younger,”) such as Susan Tedeschi.  But where Bonnie plays slide guitar, Susan had to marry her own slide guitarist. Welcome back.

Swordfish with Spring Vegetables

How sweet it is… tiny English peas and yellow cherry tomatoes

Inspired By the Market: Swordfish with Spring Vegetables
(listening: Ambrose Akinmusire  “When the Heart Emerges Glistening”

Each week at the farmer’s market brings new arrivals. At Jett’s Produce there were baskets of English peas and yellow cherry tomatoes. Curling out from a container of cucumbers were bunches of garlic scapes. Farmer Thad Jett uses high tunnels on his farm so tomatoes so early in the season are not unusual for him. The peas, the sweet-as-sugar tomatoes, and some garlic scapes would get used as part of dinner.

After you shell the peas, you could save the pea pods and turn them into a simple broth. Rinse, then toss the pea pods into a saucepan with a bit of chopped onion, chopped celery; exact ingredients aren’t crucial. Whatever you have hiding in the fridge will work. Fill the pot with 6 cups water, add ¼ teaspoon salt, and simmer until reduced by half. Strain, saving the broth. Press on the vegetables to release more flavor, then discard the vegetables. Store the broth in the refrigerator and use for this recipe, or freeze for a future use in soup, risotto, etc.

If you don’t want the bother of shelling peas, fresh sugar snap peas are also beginning to show up at markets and they could be used just as easily. You will use about 6 to 8 sugar snaps per serving, sliced in half. They will require a slightly longer cooking time, but they are an easy substitute for the peas.

What are garlic scapes? Garlic scapes, sometimes called green garlic, are the tops of the garlic plant. You use them the same way as garlic cloves. You can also chop them and puree them with some olive oil and you will have green garlic oil to use for cooking. Substitute garlic scapes for garlic in pesto.

Add the peas only a minute or two before serving since they don’t require much cooking time.
This was made with swordfish, but would go well with chicken, too.

If you are pairing this with fish, you could add some clam broth (bottled is fine) as a cooking liquid for the vegetables. If you make this with chicken, you could use chicken broth. This is optional since water will help form a broth as the vegetables cook.

The vegetables and their cooking liquid form the basis for the sauce for the fish. Reduce the sauce slightly and enrich it with a tablespoon or two of cold butter swirled in just before serving.
The recipe can be adapted to other vegetables as they make their way into the markets. Be inspired.

Swordfish with Spring Vegetables
For two servings:

Two  6 ounce swordfish steaks
1 Tablespoon thinly sliced garlic scapes, or 1 or 2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons minced shallot or onion
14 to 16 yellow cherry tomatoes
½ cup peas (or sugar snap pea substitution)
salt and ground black pepper
olive oil, for cooking
water or pea broth
1 Tablespoon cold unsalted butter

1. Place a medium-sized sauté pan over medium heat; when hot, swirl in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic scapes and shallot/onion. Lower the heat a sweat the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes until softened. Add the cherry tomatoes, season with salt and ground black pepper. Add ½ of water, cover the pan and cook the tomatoes until they begin to blister and begin softening. Watch from time to time and add additional water/broth as needed. Once the tomatoes have softened and given off some of their juice it’s ready for the peas, but wait until the swordfish is done.
2. Grill the swordfish until cooked to the desired degree of doneness; about ten minutes an inch total cooking time for well done. Remove fish and keep warm.
3. Add the peas to the sauté pan, and additional broth and cook the peas until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat and add the cold butter to the pan;  swirl the butter around until it has melted and the sauce is a creamy consistency. Divide the vegetables between two plates. Top with the swordfish and spoon some of the sauce over the fish.



Ever since Miles Davis, the problem for young trumpeters has been "where do you go?" Davis moved in so many directions during his long career that to even put a harmon mute into a trumpet and slur a note or two drew suspicions. For his 2011 "When the Heart Emerges Glistening," trumpeter Akinmusire heads down his own adventurous path, one steeped in tradition (he won the Thelonious Monk competition in 2007) and also fully aware of the parameter pushing avant-garde of the '60's and '70. Teamed with Walter Smith III on tenor sax, Gerald Clayton on piano, Harish Raghavan on bass and Justin Brown on drums, Akinmusire is a generous leader. It is an equal collaboration by like minded musicians.  This is music of edges, not smooth curves. Akinmusire prefers solos with angular moves. The polyrythmic drumming of Justin Brown keeps the music moving forward but always askew. The influence of co-producer Jason Moran is evident, but wasn't Monk's music first perceived as angular and off kilter? The album, except for a trumpet/ piano duet of the standard, "What's New" is comprised of compositions by Akinmusire with one by Raghavan. Lately Ambrose Akinmusire has been working with a big band, the results of which should be interesting. This is a major label debut filled with promise.

                             Jett's Produce:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Porcini Mushrooms

“Sunt tibi boleti:”*

Porcini Mushrooms

Porcini,. cepe, penny bun, steinpilz, Herrenpilz,
prawdziwek…..These are only a few of the many names throughout the world for boletus edulis (“edible mushroom”). I don’t know why we don’t have a name for it. Porcini seems to be our name of choice. Perhaps it’s the influence of the large migrant Italian population.

Eaten and prized for centuries, porcini are among a group of wild mushrooms that have yet to be cultivated commercially. And here comes the detour but I need to talk about the too-often-found menu description:  “wild mushrooms.” Most often these are cultivated mushrooms—a portabella, though good, is not a wild mushroom. I know that almost everything we eat was at one time a “wild” food until we learned to grow it but unless it was foraged, it’s not a wild mushroom. It doesn’t mean they’re not good. It only means that it isn’t “wild”.

Enough of the lecturing, please…

Porcini appeared at our local farmer’s market so a splurge was in order. Porcini are used in all manner of ways. Since I recently wrote about asparagus risotto, I thought of a dish of pasta for the porcini instead. (“Mmmmm...porcini risotto…”).  I have been making fresh pasta lately, but you don’t have too, of course. Any pasta you choose will work. If you want to make fresh pasta and need a recipe, one follows. It makes 9 ounces of dough, which when cooked, makes a sizable portion for two. Oddly, it works out just right for three people. Since our youngest daughter is home, it will be enough for the three of us. But she’ll get vegetables. She’s not a mushroom person. And since this is a splurge, I’m using some light cream to finish the sauce.

If you want to bolster the mushroom flavor, you can make a little broth using a few dried porcini mushrooms. Simmer the mushrooms in one cup of water. Season the water with ¼ teaspoon light soy sauce. Cook until reduced by half. Slice the hydrated porcini and add them to the pan with the fresh porcini. Add the mushroom broth when adding the cream.

Tagliatelle (or fettucine) with Porcini Mushrooms
For two

4 ounces dried tagliatelle or fettucine pasta
4 or 5 ounces Porcini mushrooms
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
salt and  ground black pepper
¼ cup white wine
¼ to 1/3 cup light cream
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
Olive oil, for cooking

1. Place a pot of lightly salted water over high heat. When the water boils, add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package. (If using fresh pasta, cook the pasta for 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Clean the porcini with a paper towel. Slice off the bottom of the stems. Slice the mushrooms into pieces. Place a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat. Swirl in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the shallots and cook until they begin to soften, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the porcini. If the pan gets dry, add a little more olive oil. Add the thyme to the mushrooms, season with salt and black pepper and continue cooking until the mushrooms soften, about 5 or 6 minutes, depending on the thickness of the sliced mushrooms. Pour the white wine into the pan; cook until the wine is reduced by half. Add the cream and the Parmesan cheese; reduce the sauce slightly.  If the pasta isn’t ready, remove the pan from the heat. (If the sauce gets too thick, you can thin it by using some of the pasta water).

3. When the pasta is ready, drain it and add it to pan. Toss the pasta with the mushrooms and sauce. Divide the pasta between two bowls and serve.

Fresh Pasta:
2 cups all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
2 eggs

1. Place the flour and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment. mix the flour and salt together. On low speed, add the eggs and mix until a ball of dough is formed. Remove the dough from the mixer. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it comes together and is smooth. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour before rolling and cutting the pasta. (This can also be made in a food processor with the plastic blade or by hand).

*”You eat the choice boletus:” Martial,  1st Century A.D.

Mainly Mushrooms: