Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen


Lime Marmalade 0

Posted on November 18, 2014 by Sahar

When it’s citrus season, my mind turns to making marmalade.  Not so much to eat it all myself (admittedly, it’s not my favorite preserve), but to give way as gifts at the holiday season and for those winter birthdays.

I have written about marmalade before; my recipe for Blood Orange Marmalade shows a less traditional way to make marmalade.  I use fruit juice and honey to sweeten as well as Pomona’s pectin to help set the marmalade up.

A traditional marmalade recipe generally uses equal parts sugar and water with anywhere from 2 – 5 pounds of fruit.  Citrus has lots of natural pectin (in fact, that is what many commercial pectins are made with, along with apple), so, generally, there is no pectin added to marmalade.  Many old-school recipes also require an overnight sit of the fruit in water and cook it the next day with sugar. An example of old-school marmalade can be found here.  A less time-consuming, but still traditional marmalade recipe can be found on the website/blog, Food In Jars.

Since I started posting about preserves – my first one, Classic Strawberry Jam – I’ve certainly learned a lot more.  While that first post is, if I may say so myself, packed with information, there were some things I just didn’t know.  I’ve since learned that 220F is the temperature where optimal jelling happens, and leaving your jars in the hot water for 5 – 10 minutes after they’ve been processed helps to stabilize the pressure in the jars where there is less likelihood of the contents leaking.  Also, Pomona’s Pectin is the only commercial pectin (that I know of) that uses calcium to activate the pectin (because it’s a sugar-free pectin); Low-Sugar Ball Pectin does not.

Pomona's. I usually buy it online, but if you go to the website, it has a list of local vendors.

Pomona’s. I usually buy it online, but if you go to the website, it has a list of local vendors.

 

In this recipe, I have once again used a non-traditional method.  I don’t let the fruit sit overnight, use less sugar, add lime juice instead of water, and I use pectin.  When I do make marmalade, I prefer it to be more on the tart/bitter side than the sweet.

Understand, I have a sweet tooth.  But I have my limits.

This is also a soft-set marmalade.  Most commercial marmalades, or even homemade ones, will be a rather stiff set, mostly due to the amount of sugar used.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The pectin and calcium powder. Because Pomona's is a sugar-free pectin, it needs the calcium to help activate it.

The pectin and calcium powder. Because Pomona’s is a sugar-free pectin, it needs the calcium to help activate it.

Calcium water. To make it, take 1/2 tsp. of the powder and mix it with 1/2 cup water. I like to use a 4-oz jelly jar to keep the water. It will keep in the refrigerator for 2 - 3 months. Just shake to mix.

Calcium water. To make it, take 1/2 tsp. of the calcium powder and mix it with 1/2 cup water. I like to use a 4-oz jelly jar. It will keep in the refrigerator for 2 – 3 months. Just shake to mix.

 

5 lb. limes, washed

4 c. lime juice

3 tbsp. low-sugar pectin (only if using regular commercial pectin, like Ball)

1 tbsp. calcium water (only if using Pomona’s)

2-1/2 c. to 3 c. sugar (18-3/4 oz. to 22-1/2 oz.)  *the amount of sugar is completely dependent on your preference

3 tsp. pectin (only if using Pomona’s)

 

 

1.  Measure out 2 lbs. of limes.  On each lime, cut the ends off down to the pulp.  I like to squeeze any juice off the cut ends into the pot.

Cutting the ends off.

Cutting the ends off.

After you have cut the ends off, cut the limes in halves or quarters and very thinly slice.

This took a while.

This took a while.

Place the limes in a large saucepan.

2.  Take the remaining 3 pounds of limes and peel them.  The easiest way to do this is to cut off the rind.  Cut out the lime segments from between the membranes of the lime. (See my previous marmalade post on how to do this.)  Then, segment the limes. (Ditto.)

Segmenting the limes. If they don't stay together when you cut them out, don't worry.  They'll cook down anyway.

Segmenting the limes. When you segment them, cut between the membranes (the white lines).  If they don’t stay together when you cut them out, don’t worry. They’ll cook down anyway.

Place the segments in the same saucepan as the unpeeled lime pieces. Add the lime juice.

The limes and juice ready to go.

The limes and juice ready to go.

If you are using regular low-sugar pectin (i.e. Ball), add it now.

3.  Bring the limes and juice to a boil over medium heat.  Turn down the heat to medium low and continue cooking until the peels are soft, about 45 – 60 minutes.

You'll know the rids are soft when they can easily be mashed with a fork.  You'll also begin to notice some thickening of the juice.

You’ll know the rids are soft when they can easily be mashed with a fork. You’ll also begin to notice some thickening of the juice.

If you are using the Pomona’s, add the calcium water at this time.

4.  Now, if you are using standard low-sugar pectin (i.e. Ball), add the sugar to the limes.  If you are using Pomona’s, mix the pectin with the sugar and add it to the limes.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.

It's hard to see, but the Pomona's pectin is mixed in with the sugar. If you try this with regular pectin, it won't work.

It’s hard to see, but the Pomona’s pectin is mixed in with the sugar. Don’t do this with standard pectin; it must activate before you add the sugar.

5.  Continue cooking the marmalade over medium-low heat until it is thickened, about 10 – 15 minutes.  To test the marmalade for its set, you can either place a thermometer and boil it until the liquid hits 220F, or place a small amount on a plate that has been frozen – the set will happen once the liquid is rapid-cooled on the frozen plate. Run your finger through the marmalade once it has cooled.  If you can leave a streak when you run your finger through, the marmalade has set up.

My marmalade once it has set up.  It's a soft set, which is what I wanted.

My marmalade once it has set up. It’s a soft set, which is what I wanted.

6.  Place the marmalade in canning jars leaving 1/4″ headspace, clean the rims and put on the lids and rims.  Place the jars back in the hot water and process for 10 minutes (begin timing when the water comes back to a boil).

After the marmalade has processed, take the canning pot off the heat, remove the lid, and leave the jars in the hot water for an additional 5 minutes.

Take the jars from the hot water and let them cool on racks.  When the jars seal, carefully tighten the rims.  If you can, leave the jars for at least 12 – 24 hours before moving them.

The finished marmalade.

The finished marmalade.

This recipe makes 7 – 8 half-pint jars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ginger Candy 0

Posted on November 13, 2014 by Sahar

Ginger is one of those spices that’s been used by humans for thousands of years.  The use of ginger dates back to 500 years BCE in China. A safe and versatile herb, ginger was traded by the Greeks and Romans and was among the first spices to find its way to Europe. It was a favorite of Confucius and he claimed never to be without it when he ate.

Traditionally it was (and still is) used to treat nausea, stomach ache, diarrhea and bleeding.  The shape of ginger also resembles that of the human digestive system and was noted in the “Doctorine of Signatures” (an ancient belief that plants grew where they were most needed; it was made popular in the 16th Century by Swiss Alchemist Paracelsus).

Of course, ginger is also a key ingredient in Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisines, amongst others.

(some material from examiner.com and wikipedia.org)

Many people find the flavor and the warm feeling they receive from eating ginger as soothing, which no doubt helps them feel better.  I know my husband & I like to eat ginger-heavy foods when we feel sick.

One of the easiest, and some would say tastiest, ways to get one’s ginger fix is to candy it.  We’ve all seen ginger candy in its various forms in Asian markets and other specialty grocery stores.  However, it is very simple to make and has a spiciness that the pre-made candies just don’t have.

The key to making ginger candy is the younger the ginger, the better.  Young ginger looks plump, firm, feels heavy for its size, with a tight almost shiny skin.  It has more juice and is less fibrous than older ginger.  Older ginger will look dried out and the skin shriveled.  It is also far more fibrous (the result of being dried out).  Also, while young ginger has a spicy flavor to it, older ginger can be bitter.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

 

1 lb. fresh ginger

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. reserved ginger poaching water

 

1.  Peel the ginger.  I like to use the spoon method.  This simply entails scraping the skin off the ginger with a regular teaspoon.  This takes off the skin with minimal loss of ginger and allows you to get into all those nooks and crannies.

Peeling the ginger using the spoon method.

Peeling the ginger using the spoon method.

The end result. Except for a couple of bad spots I cut out, the pile on the right is all skin.

The end result. Except for a couple of bad spots I cut out, the pile on the right is all skin.

 

2.  Slice the ginger into approximately 1/8″ thick slices with either a very sharp knife or a mandoline.

Going back to what I said before, this is what your ginger should look like.

Going back to what I said before, this is what your ginger should look like.  This ginger is young, plump, and has a lovely ginger-spice scent.

The sliced ginger. I may have gone a little crazy on the thinness scale.

The sliced ginger. I may have gone a little crazy on the thinness scale.

Note: If you like, you can slice your ginger thicker or even cut it into small cubes (as I’ve seen some candies), however, the cook times will increase for both the poaching and candying.

3.  Place the ginger in a medium saucepan and cover with water to 1″ above the ginger.  Bring the water to a boil, turn down the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the ginger is soft and pliable. (You’ll know this when you take a piece of ginger out of the water and bend it and it doesn’t crack or break. Be careful – hot ginger.)  At a 1/8″ thickness, this takes about 45 minutes – 1 hour.  As I stated in the note, if you cut the ginger thicker, it will take longer.

If the water gets too low, add more as needed.

While your ginger is poaching, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Poaching the ginger.  Silly me, I forgot to take a picture of the ginger after it was poached.

Poaching the ginger. Silly me, I forgot to take a picture of the ginger after it was poached.

4.  When the ginger is finished poaching, reserve 1/2 cup of the poaching water and drain the ginger in a strainer.

5.  Add back into the same saucepan the ginger, reserved water, and the sugar.

Ginger, water, and sugar in the saucepan.

Ginger, water, and sugar in the saucepan.

Stir until the sugar is somewhat dissolved.  Bring the water to a boil.  Reduce the heat and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the water has evaporated and the sugar crystallizes on the ginger, about 20 – 30 minutes.  (As the pan dries out, you will need to begin constantly stirring and adjusting the heat so the sugar doesn’t burn.)

Early in the final candying process. The ginger will become darker as it cooks and the sugars caramelize.

Early in the final candying process. The ginger will become darker as it cooks and the sugars caramelize.

After aboout 20 minutes. The water has reduced significantly.

After about 20 minutes. The water has reduced significantly and is looking like syrup.

At about 30 minutes. The edges of the pan will begin to sugar up and the syrup has reduced even more. At this point, you want to stir pretty much constantly.

At about 25 minutes. The edges of the pan will begin to sugar up and the syrup has reduced even more. At this point, you want to stir pretty much constantly.

 

6. Once the ginger has dried in the pan (you’ll know this because the sugar on the ginger has begun to recrystallize), remove the pan from the heat and spread the ginger onto your parchment-lined baking sheet. Allow to cool.  It should still have some pliability (this will come from any residual moisture the sugar has held on to.)

The dried ginger. It's hard to see, but the sugar has crystallized.

The dried ginger. It’s hard to see, but the sugar has crystallized.

 

If you like, sprinkle more sugar on the ginger and toss to coat.

Ginger and sugar on the baking sheet.

Ginger and sugar on the baking sheet.

Done!

Keep the ginger in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

The ginger will keep in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

 

Candied ginger can be simply eaten out of hand or chopped up and used in any number of desserts.  If it does dry out before you’ve used all of it, place the ginger in a container with some sugar.  This will flavor the sugar in the same way as using a vanilla bean will.

 

 

 

Mujadarah مجدرة 0

Posted on October 17, 2014 by Sahar

In the ongoing informal series of foods from my childhood, today, I’m going to introduce you to Mujadarah.

Admittedly, this wasn’t my favorite dish growing up.  I usually picked at it or ate it with lots of salad so I could get it down.  But, as happens with most of us, my palate changed and discovered that I, even if I don’t love Mujadarah, I like it.  It must have been the lentils.

The first record of mujadara dates back to  1226, in the Iraqi cookbook Kitab al-Tabikh by al-Baghdadi. It was known as “peasant food”.  Mujaddara is the Arabic word for “pockmarked”; the lentils among the rice resemble pockmarks. Generally consisting of rice, lentils, sometimes burghul (#3 or #4 coarse grind), and, very occasionally, meat, it was served during celebrations. Without meat, it was a medieval Arab dish commonly consumed by the poor. Because of its importance in the diet, a saying in the Eastern Arab world is, “A hungry man would be willing to sell his soul for a dish of mujaddara.”

Arab Christians traditionally eat mujaddara during Lent.  The dish is also popular among Jewish communities of Middle Eastern origin, in particular those of Syrian and Egyptian backgrounds; it is sometimes nicknamed “Esau’s favourite”. Jews traditionally ate it twice a week: hot on Thursday evening, and cold on Sunday.

(Some information from wikipedia and Rose Water & Orange Blossoms)

If the recipe looks somewhat familiar to you, I’ve made a dish similar before, Koshari.  The biggest difference is that Koshari has chick peas and pasta and is generally served with a tomato-cumin sauce.

 

A few notes:

1.  You can make this dish with white rice, brown rice, or burghul wheat. If you use burghul, be sure to use a #3 (medium coarse) or #4 (coarse) grind. If you use burghul, it will be the standard 2:1 ratio you would use for white rice.

2.  You can use either brown or green lentils.  Don’t use red.  They cook too soft for this dish.

3.  My mom uses just cinnamon as the spice (other than salt & pepper).  Play with the spices and come up with a combination you like.

4.  While some do make this dish with meat, I’ve always eaten it as a vegetarian meal.  If you want to add meat, follow the meat cooking instructions for Kidra.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

The lentils. Use brown or green.

The lentils. Use brown or green.

From top left:

From top left: cumin, allspice, olive oil, black pepper, salt

 

1 c. brown or green lentils

2 c. white or brown long-grain rice

2 lb. onions, cut in half and sliced thin

4 c. water or broth (5 c. if using brown rice)

2 tsp. allspice

1 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 c. + 2 tbsp. olive oil

 

1.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the rice and saute for 1 – 2 minutes.

Sauteing the rice.  I used brown in this post.

Sauteing the rice. I used brown in this post.

Add the salt, pepper, allspice, and cumin.  Cook until the spices begin to give off a fragrance, about 1 minute.

Adding the spices. As you cook, the oils in the spices will come out and flavor the oil and rice.  Be sure to stir constantly so the spices don't burn.

Adding the spices. As you cook, the oils in the spices will come out and flavor the oil and rice. Be sure to stir constantly so the spices don’t burn.

Add the water or broth, bring to a boil, cover the saucepan, and turn down the heat to low.  Cook until the rice is done – 25 to 30 minutes for white, 45 to 50 minutes for brown.

2.  Meanwhile, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep skillet.  Add the onions and a pinch of salt.  Stir occasionally, until the onions are soft and begin to take on color.

Cooking the onions. When you get to this point, make sure you watch them closely.  You want caramelization, not burning.

Cooking the onions. When you get to this point, make sure you watch them closely. You want caramelization, not burning.

Once the onions begin to brown, watch them more closely and stir more often; you want the onions to brown, not burn.  Cook them down as far as you like. (I prefer them to be fully caramelized.)  Depending on how dark you want the onions, it could take anywhere between 20 – 30 minutes to cook them.

I like my onions well caramelized. This took about 30 minutes.

I like my onions well caramelized. This took about 30 minutes.

When the onions are done, take them off the heat and set aside.

3.  About halfway through the rice cooking time, place the lentils in a medium saucepan, cover with water to at least 1″ above the lentils, and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook the lentils, adding water as needed, until they are done, about 20 – 25 minutes.

Boiling the lentils.  Be sure to keep them covered with water so they don't dry out.

Boiling the lentils. Be sure to keep them covered with water so they don’t dry out.

4.  When the lentils and the rice are done, mix them together (I usually do this in the pot I cooked the rice in).  Mix in the onions.  Taste for seasoning.

5.  Mujadarah is usually served with either yogurt or a tomato-cucumber salad (basically tabouleh without the bulghur wheat).

Sahtein! صحتين!

Sahtein! صحتين!

 

 

Kidra قدرة 1

Posted on October 06, 2014 by Sahar

I’ve been feeling sentimental lately thinking about the foods from my childhood years.  I’d forgotten how good some of them were and still are.  It must also come with the realization that I’ve hit middle age and how I really need to eat healthier.

Kidra is another one of those dishes from our childhood that my sisters and I remember fondly.  It was an every-once-in-a-while dish; it was never one of Mom’s favorites, so we didn’t have it too often. But, when we did have it, my sisters and I would gorge.

Traditionally, it’s a recipe that is baked in a large narrow-necked clay pot called a tanour (التنور).  The pot was filled with the ingredients, sealed with a flour and water paste, and buried in an oven built into the sand where it was left to cook for hours and up to overnight.  Once cities started growing, people would send not only their bread to the bakeries, but their tanour pots as well.  In some very remote areas, the Bedouin still cook Kidra this way.

Now, many families have tanours made of lined copper that can be placed in the oven or on the stove (my parents have one) and it generally takes less than an hour for the Kidra to cook.

This is dish cooked all through the Palestinian regions and families in the Middle East, but it is most popular in Gaza, where, from what I can tell, the dish originated.

 

A few notes:

1.  If you don’t have a tanour, don’t worry.  I don’t either.  I used my Dutch oven.  It works well.

2.  Lamb is the most traditional meat to use in this dish.  You can use beef if you prefer.  Either way, be sure to use a stew meat (shoulder, round).

3.  Some people will use saffron or osfour (the stamen of the safflower) to give the dish a yellow color.  It is totally optional.  My parents never used either of these in this recipe, so I don’t either.

4.  Another traditional ingredient in this recipe is whole heads of garlic that are added just before the tanour goes into the oven.  My parents never used garlic in their Kidra.  After doing some research, I decided I wanted to add garlic in my own recipe.  However, instead of whole heads of garlic, I use peeled cloves. I like it.

Again, this is completely optional.

5.  If you don’t have whole cardamom pods for this dish, it will be fine without them.  However, you do miss out on some of the traditional flavor if you don’t use them.

6.  While white rice is most commonly used, you can use brown long-grain rice (brown basmati works well).  Just add an additional 1/2 cup of liquid and add 15 -20 minutes to the cooking time.

7.  You can make this vegetarian by using vegetable broth or water, omitting the meat, and adding more chick peas and/or fava beans.  If you’d like to add some green, use fresh green beans (not haricot vert) and saute them at the same time as you would the chick peas.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Clockwise from top left:

Clockwise from top left: ground cardamom, cardamom pods, black pepper, salt, ground cumin, ground allspice. Center: olive oil

If your garlic cloves are large, cut them down to make the cloves more equal in size.

If your garlic cloves are large, cut them down to make the cloves more equal in size.  Also, be sure to cut off the stem end because it doesn’t cook down and has an unpleasant texture.

1 lb. lamb or beef stew meat, cut into 1″ cubes

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. ground cardamom

2 tbsp. olive oil, more if needed

1 med. onion, chopped fine

1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled, larger cloves cut in halves or quarters

1 1/2 c. long grain rice

1 15-oz. can chick peas (garbanzos), drained

6 – 8 cardamom pods

3 c. chicken broth or water, more if needed

 

 

1.  Preheat the oven to 325F.  In a medium bowl, toss the meat with the spices.

Spiced lamb.

Spiced lamb.

2.  In a Dutch oven, or, if you’re lucky, you have a tanour, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Brown the meat in batches; you want to get a good sear on the meat.  If you crowd the pan, they will simply steam.

Browning the meat.  Don't crowd the pan or instead of a nice brown crust, you'll end up with grayed steamed meat.

Browning the meat. Don’t crowd the pan or instead of a nice brown crust, you’ll end up with grayed steamed meat.

After each batch of meat is browned, take it out of the Dutch oven and set it aside.  Repeat until all of the meat is done.

The finished (so far) meat.  I just put it in the overturned Dutch oven lid. It's a Dad thing.

The finished (so far) meat. I just put it in the overturned Dutch oven lid. It’s a Dad thing.

3.  Saute the onions and garlic in the Dutch oven, about 5 minutes.  If you need to keep the brown bits on the bottom from burning, add about 1/4 cup of water or broth to help deglaze the pan. (It doesn’t have to be an exact measurement. Just eyeball it.)  Stir frequently.

Cooking the onion and garlic.  If you need to, like I did here, add a little water or broth to deglaze the pan to keep the lovely browned bits from burning.

Cooking the onion and garlic. If you need to, like I did here, add a little water or broth to deglaze the pan to keep the lovely browned bits from burning.

4.  Add the rice and cook for another 2 – 3 minutes.  Stir constantly.

Adding the rice.

Adding the rice.

Add the chick peas and cook another 2 – 3 minutes.  Again, stir often.

Adding in the chick peas.

Adding in the chick peas.

Then add back in the meat, cardamom pods, and the water or broth.

Adding the meat, cardamom pods, and broth.

Adding the meat, cardamom pods, and broth.

5.  Bring the water or broth to a boil on the stove.  Cover the Dutch oven and place it on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.

In the oven.

In the oven.

Alternately, you can cook this fully on the stove (especially of you don’t have an oven-safe pot) on low heat for about 45 minutes, or, again, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.

6.  Serve with plain yogurt or cucumber-yogurt salad.

If you use cardamom pods, be sure to let your guests know.  The pods infuse a wonderful flavor but aren’t great to bite into.

Sahtein! صحتين !

Sahtein! صحتين !

 

 

Hill Country Weekend 0

Posted on September 30, 2014 by Sahar

Several years ago, Husband Steve & I decided that on our birthdays, if we could help it, we’d not give gifts, but go somewhere the birthday kid wanted to go.  Since, this year, he had been out of town just before his birthday, I gifted him with power tools.

As for me, we decided a long weekend in the Texas Hill Country would be a nice, and affordable, idea.  We occasionally go to Fredericksburg for a few quick hours but rarely move off of the Hauptstrasse (Main Street) where most of the touristy shops and restaurants are.

This time, we decided to remedy that.

Friday:

We arrived in Fredericksburg, as is our routine, about 2 hours later than we originally planned. Steve & I decided we didn’t want to stay in a hotel, so I booked a room through Gästehouse Schmidt, a company in Fredericksburg that acts as a reservation service for bed & breakfasts, private home rental, and vacation homes throughout the Hill Country.  I found a lovely room in a private home, Casa Mariposa.  The house was a beautiful stucco with wonderful design and landscaping (we guessed the owners are artists, or, at least artistic).  The room itself was around the side of the house with a private entrance.

At Casa Mariposa.

At Casa Mariposa.

Since it was Labor Day weekend, we guessed the owners were out of town since we never saw them or their dogs.  No matter.

Three of the things I loved about the space were the fact that it was in a very quiet & lovely residential neighborhood, it was within walking distance of the north (less touristy end) of Main Street, and it was across the street from the local radio station.

The radio station.

The radio station. I didn’t get the call letters.

Since we didn’t arrive until almost 6pm, we basically had just enough time to drop off our things and rush off to Kerrville to the fall music festival.  We were going to enjoy an evening of music, and, especially one of our favorites, Nora Jane Struthers and the Party Line.

Lovely skies above Kerrville.

Lovely skies above Kerrville.  The evening was surprisingly cool for late August.

People camping out at the festival. I'm a four-walls girl myself.

People camping out at the festival. I’m a four-walls girl myself.

First glimpse of the stage.

First glimpse of the stage. The group playing was rather forgetful.

Since we arrived so late, we decided to eat dinner at the festival.

Some of the food stalls.

Some of the food stalls.

As with many festivals these days, there is always an effort to have at least one stall with healthier food options; Kerrville was no different.  However, like most festival goers, we opted for less healthy.

My dinner. Nachos and Dr Pepper.

My dinner. Nachos and Dr Pepper.

Steve's Dinner: Barbecue Plate

Steve’s Dinner: Barbecue Plate

The food was about what we expected.  Basically, my nachos tasted like something you’d get at any ballpark in America.  Steve’s average barbecue was covered with an almost too-sweet sauce (I suspect KC Masterpiece) and quite possibly HEB brand cole slaw and potato salad. The bar was set low and we weren’t disappointed.

I was then regaled with what I believed was some of the most defiantly mediocre folk music I’ve ever heard.  There was one performer (whose name I blissfully can’t recall) who included a little TMI to his act. To keep myself sane during this period, I walked around and took a few pictures of the green.

Kerrville evening.

Kerrville evening.

Walking around the festival.

Walking around the festival.

This photo was a happy accident.

This photo was a happy accident.

Moon over Kerrville.

Moon over Kerrville.

After the picture taking was over, I decided to get some dessert.  I went to the stand that was selling ice cream sandwiches.  I was given my choice of cookies, so I chose chocolate chip. They were the size of hubcaps.

Dessert. We shared. Still didn't finish it.

Dessert. We shared. Still didn’t finish it.

The cookies were just OK.  They had been frozen, and, while there’s nothing wrong with that, they were too hard and thick.  They should have been just a little chewier and thinner.  Plus, the taste was flat.  It was probably due to the freezing.  The ice cream was Blue Bell. Can’t go wrong there.

Finally, Nora Jane came on stage. Sanity restored.

We drove back to Fredericksburg and sleep.

 

Saturday:

We really had no concrete plan for Saturday other than to drive. We knew that we did want to go back to Kerrville and see the town, maybe head to Bandera. (Both of which we ended up doing.)

But, first, breakfast.

We really had no idea where we wanted to go.  A Yelp search came up with the Sunset Grill. It did not disappoint. (Yelp turns out to be helpful on occasion.) It is a pleasant room heavy on yellow and green with a leafy patio space.  They were busy but the room didn’t feel overcrowded.

The breakfast menu is very egg-heavy. To me, a mark of quality.

My Omelet: The Neptune

My Breakfast: The Neptune

My breakfast was the Neptune Omelet.  As the name implies, it’s seafood.  Cocktail shrimp, scallops, and real crab (a nice surprise) with a bit of cream cheese mixed in.  It was delicious. Honestly, one of the best omelets I’ve ever eaten.  I even liked the home fries. The whole grain toast was a nice touch.

Steve's Breakfast: Huevos Rancheros

Steve’s Breakfast: Huevos Rancheros

Steve was quite happy with his Huevos Rancheros.  His egg was cooked over easy – perfect for mixing with the sauce.  The sauce itself had a bit of kick without being too overwhelming. I had a small bite and almost wished I’d ordered that instead.  Almost.

After breakfast, we were off to Kerrville and Bandera.

Kerrville Theater

Arcadia Theater. Kerrville.  I like these older facades.

While walking around Kerrville, Steve had one basic thing on his mind: albums. Since albums have come back into vogue, he’s been adding to his already extensive collection. For our anniversary, I bought him a 1917 Victrola, so now he includes 78’s in his hunts along with his constant pursuit of 33’s and 45’s.

I suppose he could have worse habits or hobbies.

So, while he ducked into the first of many antique malls we would patronize over the weekend, I just took a few photos of flowers.

Flowers on the square

Flowers on the Square. Kerrville.

Flowers on the Square. Kerrville.

Flowers on the Square. Kerrville.

Flowers on the Square. Kerrville.

Flowers on the Square. Kerrville.

We walked around a bit more and came across the Schreiner Mansion and the Kerr Arts & Cultural Center.

We didn’t go into Schreiner Mansion (it was closed).  It was built by Charles Schreiner in 1879 and, after his death in 1927, was used as a Masonic Lodge.  In 1972, it was sold to a private owner.  In 1974, it was purchased by the Hill Country Preservation Society.  By 2009, the mansion was donated to Schreiner University.  The Mansion is now used for tours, as an event space, and educational programs.

Schreiner Mansion

Schreiner Mansion

Next door is the Kerr Arts and Community Center.  It is in a refurbished post office and is an open, flowing space.  As you walk in, there is an exhibit of Kerr County’s geological history with fossils, rocks, petrified wood, and petrified dung included. On one wall, there is a large-screen TV with a continual loop of tectonic plate shifts (with Kerrville’s future position marked) beginning at 4 billion years BCE through present day. If you ask, one of the docents will show you the effect of acid on limestone. It was a well done and fascinating exhibit. Science! (I don’t recall why I didn’t take photos. I don’t believe photos were allowed.)

AS we walked through the KACC, we saw a rather nice (and expensive) gift shop and a wonderful exhibition of winning photographs by members of the Hill Country Camera Club.  There were some beautiful photographs displayed.  Sadly, no photos of the entries were allowed.

We then came across this gem.  A completely handmade working miniature Ferris Wheel.  I think I stared at it for 20 minutes.  A gentleman at the center said that there was a recent exhibit of works by members of a woodworkers club in town.

All wood carousel at Kerr Arts & Cultural Center

Working all wood carousel at Kerr Arts & Cultural Center

All handmade

All the figures were handmade. It was beautiful.

Soon, we were off to Bandera.  The Cowboy Capital of the World.  Little did we know we were visiting during Celebrate Bandera.  The population of 856 seemed to explode 10-fold.  There is a sizable craft fair on the courthouse grounds, busy shops and restaurants, a parade, and a whole lot of cowboy pride.

Bandera Courthouse

Bandera Courthouse

Festooned horses

Festooned horses

To get away from some of the crowds, Steve & I walked around a bit.  Bandera is a lovely little town.  I think we’ll try to go back when it’s not so crazy.

We just liked this sign.

We just liked this sign.  I can certainly relate.

Flowers in Bandera

Flowers in Bandera

Flowers in Bandera

Flowers in Bandera

We made our way back to the courthouse to find some refreshments.

Texas Hurricane.  40 ounces of citrus and sugar water. Refreshing on a 99F day.

Texas Hurricane. 40 ounces of citrus and sugar water. Refreshing on a 101F day.

After we cooled off a bit and did a little shopping, we decided it was time for lunch.  We had walked by this bar called the Chikin’ Coop earlier and decided we needed beers and burgers.

It was dark and cool when we stepped inside.  In fact, I managed to find a table right next to the air conditioner.  I went to the bar to order beers and get menus.  They were busy, so it took some time to get the food; beers, no problem.

When we finally did get our lunch, it was great.  Some of the better burgers we’ve had in quite a while.  They weren’t overly huge, were still juicy, and the ingredients fresh.

My Lunch: Mushroom Burger with Onion Rings

Steve’s Lunch: Cheeseburger with Onion Rings

My Lunch: Mushroom Burger with Fries and Shiner.

My Lunch: Mushroom Burger with Fries and Shiner.

Chikin' Coop's Kitchen door. I want this.

Chikin’ Coop’s Kitchen door. I want this.

I would have to say my only complaint would be about the volume.  There were a couple of bands on stage while we were there that were far too loud for the size of the room.  They weren’t bad, just loud. I’m not just saying this because I’m middle-aged.  There was one young lady who seemed to think that sheer volume could make up for the fact she still had a rather untrained voice.  It was painful.

We made our way down Hwy 173 to Hondo because, well, we’d never been there.  There wasn’t a whole lot going on when we arrived.  It was almost the epitome of the sleepy small town.  We, admittedly, get there late (almost 5pm) for a Saturday, so a lot of places were already closed or closing.  Plus, we were pretty worn out from being out in the heat most of the afternoon, so we didn’t explore the town as much as we might have otherwise.

Raye Theater. Blanco, TX

Raye Theater. Hondo, TX

Old Blanco Courthouse

Medina County Courthouse, Hondo, TX

After about an hour in Hondo, we made our way back to Fredericksburg.  I spotted a couple of signs as we drove back through Bandera and just had to stop.

Spotted this sign driving back through Bandera on our way to Fredericksburg.

Come for the balls. Stay for the festival.

I just love these cool old signs.

I wonder how fun this place might have been.

After making  it back to Fredericksburg, showers and naps, we decided on a restaurant that was within walking distance of our room, Catfish Haven.  Now, Steve’s all about the fried catfish.  I rarely cook it at home because of the mess, and, because, well, it’s not terribly healthy.  But, if we make an every-once-in-a-while treat, we somehow justify the occasional lapse to ourselves.

We made it in about 7pm and the restaurant was about 3/4 full.  We were seated right next to the side dish (euphamistically, but I suppose somewhat accurately, called the vegetable bar) and salad bars.  Fried Okra, green beans with bacon, and pinto beans were on tap.  In just the short time we had been there, I noticed the kitchen changing out the fried okra pan twice.  The salad bar had the usual lettuce and toppings available along with all the mayonnaise-based dressings you could ask for.  Everything looked and tasted fresh.

Catfish Haven

Catfish Haven’s sides bar.

Catfish Haven

Catfish Haven’s salad bar.  It was fresh, clean, and varied.

Catfish Haven

Steve’s salad and fried okra (one of his all-time favorites).

Catfish Haven

I just opted for a fairly simple salad knowing what was coming from the kitchen.

The menu was, of course, seafood-heavy, but did offer burgers, chicken, and steaks of various preparations.  We opted for fried fish and seafood, because, what the hell.

Frying is, admittedly, not personally my favorite way to prepare or eat fish and seafood, but this was excellent.  Nothing was overcooked or greasy.  The hushpuppies had a peppery taste to them and didn’t appear to have been sitting around under a heat lamp.

Overall, a very good meal. Especially when washed down with a beer.

Steve's Dinner: Captain's Catch

Steve’s Dinner: Captain’s Catch.  Catfish, shrimp, oysters. He was happy.

My Dinner: Fried Oyster & Shrimp Plate

My Dinner: Fried Oyster & Shrimp Plate.  The oysters weren’t overcooked and the shrimp were huge. I can’t remember if I finished or not.

After dinner, we walked around our end of Main Street and wandered around a shop that was heavy on tin sculptures and Talavera pottery.  Some of it was lovely, but we debated whether a) we could fit it in the car, and b) do we really need it.  In the end, we didn’t buy anything.

We kept trying to walk off some of dinner when we saw quite a storm coming our way.  The temperature dropped at least 10 degrees in 20 minutes and there was a spectacular light show happening.  Steve & I decided it would be for the best to make our way back to our room.

Storm a'comin'

Storm a’comin’

It turned out to be a whole lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.  At least in Fredericksburg.  I went to sleep long before Steve.

 

Sunday

Going home day and we decided to take our time getting there.

After a snail’s pace early morning, we finally packed up and headed out.  There was one more place we wanted to visit before we left Fredericksburg.  But first, brunch.

I was all for going back to the Sunset Grill, but Steve wanted to try somewhere else in town.  We spotted the City Cafe and pulled in.

It was a small space with no more than 10 tables. Brunch was good, but average.

City Cafe Steve's Breakfast: Migas

Steve’s Breakfast: Migas. He said they were good.

City Cafe My breakfast: Pancakes

My breakfast: Pancakes with over-easy egg and bacon. Meh.

After brunch, we walked across the street to Red Baron Antique Mall.  Steve, of course, was on the lookout for albums.  I was just wandering.  I did end up buying a Brownie camera.  Now, to clean it and use it.

Every antique store I go into now seems to have large numbers of rolling pins.

Every antique store I go into now seems to have large numbers of rolling pins.

Wall o' Gadgets

Wall o’ Gadgets

Fredericksburg

Vereins Kirche, Fredericksburg

The Vierens Kirche (Vierens Church) in Fredericksburg was originally built not long after the first German settlers came to the area as a meeting house. The original building was demolished in 1896.  The current Vierens Kirche was built and dedicated in 1935.  It is now a small museum chronicling the history of the town. The museum is free but there is a suggested donation box.

About 10 miles east of Fredericksburg is RR1376.  Follow that road and you will come to the storied town of Luckenbach, Texas.  Population 3.

There’s truly not much to the place.  It was named after Jacob Luckenbach (1817-1911) whose family was one of the first to settle in and around Fredericksburg.  It has a bit of a disputed history, but is generally accepted to have been established as a town in 1846.  It was a thriving town until 1970, when the post office officially closed.  Hondo Crouch and some friends purchase “downtown” Luckenbach soon after and turned it into a place for musicians (Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker, etc.) to hang out and jam.

And a legend was born.

Any given weekend, you can head to Luckenbach and find people enjoying music, drinking beer under the oaks and elms, pitching washers, and buying souvenirs.

We took one look in the post office, saw the crowd, and decided we really didn’t need any more t-shirts.

Luckenbach, TX

Post Office. Luckenbach, TX

Washer Pitchin'

Washer Pitchin’ Pits. The Central Texas equivalent of pitching horseshoes.

Luchenbach rooster

Luckenbach rooster. He must be used to the people and noise. He was just strutting around.

Luchenbach Dance Hall

Luckenbach Dance Hall

After we left Luckenbach, we decided to head towards New Braunfels.  But first, RM1888 took us through Blanco.

We didn’t really spend a whole lot of time there.  Just a quick stop at the Old Blanco Courthouse.  The courthouse was originally built in 1886 and was only used for four years, until 1890, when the county seat of Blanco was moved to Johnson City.  The building has since been used for offices, a school, bank, community meeting hall, and theater/opera house.  By 1937, it was in use as a hospital.  When the hospital was closed in 1961, the building eventually fell into disrepair.  It was bought in 1986 by an admirer who wanted to restore the building to its former grandeur.  When the new owner wanted to move the building from its original place, the Blanco County Preservation Society was formed to oppose the plan.

Today, the building is beautifully restored with a small museum and is used occasionally as a movie location.

Old Blanco County Courthouse

Old Blanco County Courthouse

Old courtroom upstairs where they filmed part of the 2010 version of "True Grit"

Old courtroom upstairs where they filmed scenes for the 2010 version of “True Grit”

We headed to New Braunfels.  I haven’t been to there since I was a child, so I was looking forward to seeing the town.  It was much larger than I remembered.

New Braunfels, TX

Brauntex Theater. New Braunfels, TX. Marty Stewart was on the marquis.

New Braunfels, TX

Birthplace of Gebhardt Chili Powder. New Braunfels, TX

New Braunfels, TX

San Antonio Street, New Braunfels, TX

New Braunfels, TX

Train Depot, New Braunfels, TX

I really wasn’t in the mood to go into any more antique malls. Steve was.  We finally agreed on a time limit and walked into the Downtown Antique Mall.  I made the mistake of pointing out to Steve two booths full of nothing but albums and the time limit soon went out the window.

So, I wandered.  I found some real treasures.  It was a nice store.  And huge. So many antique malls allow their stall holders to put any old junk up for sale (I’ve seen plastic pill boxes you can buy at HEB for sale more than once).  This place seems to be a little more selective.

The things you find in antique stores these days. I now officially feel old.

The things you find in antique stores these days. I now officially feel old.

Found this Revere Stereo camera while wandering around the antique store while Steve was pawing through piles of records.

Found this Revere Stereo camera while wandering around the antique store while Steve was pawing through piles of records. I bought it. Now to clean it and figure out how to use it.

New Braunfels is a lovely town and I would like to go back, perhaps during the week when it’s not quite so busy.  Explore it more in depth.  Stay out of the antique mall.

Our final destination was a place that I think has the best barbecue anywhere, Cooper’s Pit Barbecue. The original restaurant is in Llano, but they’ve opened restaurants in New Braunfels, Fort Worth, and, soon Austin (yea!).

You choose your meat from the pit, hand it to the cutters who break it down for you.  They have corn, macaroni & cheese (plain and jalapeño-bacon), potato salad, cole slaw, and cobbler (peach, blackberry, apple, and pecan). It’s all good.

I’m wrong. The meat is ethereal.

You get butcher paper to eat on and white bread on the table.  There are self-serve beans, sauce, pickle slices, and sliced onions.

As usual, we overbought to take the extra home.

Barbecue porn. Cooper's. New Braunfels.

Barbecue porn. So happy. Cooper’s. New Braunfels.

And, home to Austin.

 

 

 

Lentil Soup شوربة دس and Artichokes with Coriander اضيوكي مع الكزبرة 2

Posted on September 28, 2014 by Sahar

I am now going to introduce you to two more dishes from the Middle East – one from my childhood and one I discovered more recently.  Lentil Soup and Artichokes with Coriander.

Lentil Soup (Shorbat Adas) is a very popular dish during Ramadan. Soup is a traditional way to break the fast and the heartiness of this soup is perfect for that.  Some people will put cooked ground beef or lamb in the soup, others balls of Kefta (basically, ground meat with onion, parsley, and spices).  Some will also use dried bread and puree it into the soup to thicken it. Sliced radishes are also a popular addition.

The Artichokes with Coriander (Ard al-shokeh ma’kuzbara) is a more recent discovery for me. It’s a dish popular in Jericho in the early summer when artichokes are in season.  Here, I’ve used frozen artichokes.  This way, I can eat this dish at any time of year.  Mainly, though, because I really don’t like to clean artichokes.

 

A few notes:

1.  The soup is really best with the red lentils.  They have a lighter, slightly sweeter flavor that’s best for the soup.  They’re much more readily available than they used to be.

2.  Be sure to wash the lentils.  They’re generally dusty when they’re packed.  While processing methods have become better, sometimes, especially if they’re from a bulk bin, they may also have small rocks or dirt. So, be sure to check them carefully.

3.  As with most soups, this is even better the next day and freezes well.  When you reheat the soup, be sure to add a little broth or water because it thickens up as it sits.

4.  If you want a smoother soup, then you can puree it.  However, I prefer a little texture in the soup.

5.  You can easily make the soup vegan by using either vegetable broth or water.

6.  Don’t use marinated artichokes packed in olive oil.  Be sure, especially with canned or jarred ones, that they are packed in water.  Or, if you’re using frozen, they’re unseasoned.

7.  If you don’t like cilantro (coriander), you can use parsley.  It obviously won’t taste the same, but it will work.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

The lentils. Red lentils work best in this soup. They're much more readily available than in the past.

The lentils. Red lentils work best in this soup. They’re much more readily available than in the past.

From the top:

From the top: salt, pepper, olive oil, flour, cumin

Lentil Soup

1 1/2 c. red lentils, washed and drained

4 c. broth (chicken, beef, lamb, vegetable) or water

1 med. onion, minced

3 cl. garlic, minced

1 tbsp. flour

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

1 tsp. cumin

2 tbsp. olive oil

Juice of one lemon, or to taste

 

1.  In a large saucepan, place the onion, garlic, lentils, and broth or water.

Lentils, onion, and garlic in the saucepan awaiting the broth.

Lentils, onion, and garlic in the saucepan awaiting the broth.

Cover and bring to a boil.  Keep the saucepan covered, turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer for 45 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

The boiling pot.

The boiling pot.

2.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the flour, salt, pepper, cumin, and olive oil.

The oil, flour, and spices mixed together. It smells lovely.

The oil, flour, and spices mixed together. It smells lovely.

Add the mixture to the lentils after the first 45 minutes of cooking.

 

The soup after the first 45 minutes of cooking time.  Sorry, the lentils don't stay red.  They turn to a dull gold-yellow.

The soup after the first 45 minutes of cooking time. Sorry, the lentils don’t stay red. They turn to a dull gold-yellow.

After adding the oil-spice mixture.

After adding the oil-spice mixture.

After you add the oil & spices, cook for another 15 minutes, uncovered.  Stir occasionally.

3.  Add the lemon juice and cook another 5 minutes.

My old-style lemon reamer. One of my favorite things I received from my mother-in-law.

My old-style lemon reamer. One of my favorite things I received from my mother-in-law.

Taste for seasoning.  Serve with a drizzle of olive oil over the top and some extra lemon on the side.

The finished soup.

The finished soup.  Perfect.

 

 

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

Salt, pepper, olive oil

Salt, pepper, olive oil

The artichokes.  I used frozen ones in this recipe. If you do get jarred or canned, bue sure they aren't marinated ones.

The artichokes. I used frozen ones in this recipe. If you do get jarred or canned, be sure they aren’t marinated & flavored  ones.

Artichokes with Coriander

2 lb. artichoke hearts (2 bags frozen-thawed or 6 cans drained)

4 tbsp. olive oil

3 cl. garlic, minced

1/2 c. coriander (cilantro), chopped

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

1 tsp. black pepper, or to taste

1/4 c. lemon juice, or to taste

 

1.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 – 2 minutes.

Cooking the garlic.

Cooking the garlic.

Add the artichokes hearts and cook another 5 minutes.

Adding the artichokes. Be sure to continue stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning.

Adding the artichokes. Be sure to continue stirring frequently to keep the garlic from burning.

Add the coriander (cilantro), salt, and pepper.  Cook another 5 minutes. Stir frequently.

Adding the coriander (cilantro).

Adding the coriander (cilantro).

2.  Add the lemon juice and cook another 2 minutes.  Remove the skillet from the heat and taste for seasoning.

The finished artichokes.

The finished artichokes.

3.  You can serve this either warm or room temperature.  This dish can also be made a day in advance.  Warm it slightly or let it come to room temperature before serving.

Sahtein! صحتين

Sahtein! صحتين

In this post, I served the soup with toasted split pita bread to make a sort of cracker.  You can also serve with warm pita or a cracker of your choice.  The plainer the better.

 

 

Cacio e Pepe 0

Posted on August 29, 2014 by Sahar

Like many of you, no doubt, I’m a fan of Anthony Bourdain. I’ve read several of his books, watched his TV shows in their various incarnations, and have even seen him live here in Austin several times.

Why am I telling you this? Because he gave me the inspiration to try this most simple of pasta dishes, Cacio e Pepe.  I was watching his show on Rome and this dish was being prepared by a chef at one of his favorite restaurants.  I knew I had to make it.

Cacio e Pepe (meaning “cheese and pepper”) has been made in and around the Roma region since ancient times.  It was often one of the first solid foods eaten by infants and was a staple in the Roman Legion.  The traditional recipe has only pepper, Pecorino Romano, and pasta.

Like all recipes with few ingredients (or any recipe, for that matter), it will behoove you to buy the best that you can find or afford.  The pepper should be fresh ground and the cheese should be from Italy. (America does not make good hard Italian cheeses; they tend to be too salty or have a waxy quality.)

 

A few notes:

1.  I do stray from the traditional here with the addition of Parmesan cheese in the recipe.  In doing my research, I found many recipes that included Parmesan with the Romano.  Since I have done this with other recipes in the past and like the combination, I did it here as well.  However, you can simply use Romano if you like.

2.  I like to serve this in a Frico.  This is basically a fried cheese wafer from the Friuli region (NE Italy).  I saw the pasta being served in one of these on Bourdain’s Rome show and just had to do it. You can certainly skip this step if you like; however, I have included the recipe.

I mean, who doesn’t love fried cheese?

3.  A very important component of this dish is the pasta water.  Be sure to have a measuring cup nearby so you can retrieve at least 1 cup before you drain the pasta.  The pasta water contains starch that will help the sauce adhere to the pasta.

4.  Some recipes call for butter instead of or with the olive oil.  My own personal preference is for just olive oil.  You can certainly experiment and adjust to your taste.

4.  You want to drain the pasta when it has about 1 minute left of cooking time.  You will finish it in the skillet.  If you cook it all the way to al dente, then drain and add to the skillet, you run the risk of soggy pasta.

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Top: Pecorino Romano; bottom: Parmigiano Reggiano.  The difference in the colors comes from the tyep of milk used in each cheese and how long they are aged.

Top: Pecorino Romano; bottom: Parmigiano Reggiano. The difference in the colors comes from the type of milk used in each cheese and how long they are aged.  Romano is made with sheep’s milk cheese and is typically aged for one year.  Parmigiano is made from cow’s milk and is aged for at least 18 months and up to 5 years. The little white dots on the Parmigiano are the calcification of the milk solids.  They are nothing to worry about and actually enhance the flavor of the cheese.

8 oz. pasta, like spaghetti, tonnarelli, tagliatoni, or bucatini

1 c. reserved pasta water, more if needed

1 c. shredded Pecorino Romano

1/2 c. shredded Parmigiano Reggiano

4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. fresh ground black pepper

Additional Romano cheese for garnish

 

1.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions, minus 1 minute.  Reserve at least 1 cup of the pasta liquid.  Drain the pasta and set aside.

2.  Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and pepper.  Cook until the pepper begins to have a fragrance, about 30 seconds.

Cooking the pepper in the oil.

Cooking the pepper in the oil. Be sure to not let the pepper burn.  You just want a fragrance to come up.

Add 3/4 cup of the water and bring to a boil.

Adding the water. You need to work fast at this point.

Adding the water. You need to work fast at this point.

3.  Add the drained pasta and toss.  It will continue cooking while it absorbs the water and becomes coated in the oil and pepper.

The pasta coated with the oil and pepper. It has absorbed most of the water at this point.

The pasta coated with the oil and pepper. It has absorbed most of the water at this point.

 

4.  Remove the skillet from the heat and add the cheese.  Toss until the cheese has melted.  If necessary, add the rest of the pasta water to keep the cheese from clumping up and make a fairly creamy sauce.

Adding the cheese.  Use the remainder of your pasta water, if necessary, to keep the cheese from clumping and make a creamier sauce.

Adding the cheese. Use the remainder of your pasta water, if necessary, to keep the cheese from clumping and make a creamier sauce.

5.  To serve: If you are using a Frico cup (recipe follows), put a serving in the cup and sprinkle over some additional Romano cheese.  Otherwise, serve in a warmed pasta bowl with some additional Romano sprinkled over the top.  Serve immediately.

Buon Appetito!

Buon Appetito!

 

Frico:

Top: shredded Pecorino Romano; bottom: shredded Parmigiano Reggiano

Top: shredded Pecorino Romano; bottom: shredded Parmigiano Reggiano. I do recommend that you use either a larger shred on your cheese or grate it.  I did use Microplaned cheese.  It does make a lovely Frico, but it’s harder to work with.

1/2 lb. Parmigiano, shredded (preferably not with the Microplane) or grated (you can grate your cheese by breaking it down into small pieces and grinding them in the food processor)

-or-

Up to 1/2 lb. combination of Parmigiano Reggiano, Asiago, and/or Pecorino Romano

 

1.  Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle about ¼ cup of cheese over the bottom of the pan. Cheese will begin to melt, then bubble and brown on the edges.

Cheese in the pan.

Cheese in the pan.

When the cheese begns browning around the edges, I like to start trying to lift the edges of the frico.

When the cheese begins browning around the edges, I like to start trying to lift the edges of the Frico.

2.  Use a fork or a small spatula to lift edges and loosen the Frico from the pan. When it is browned on one side, carefully flip the Frico over for a few seconds (this does take practice).

The flipped frico. You can skip this step. Most people do.

The flipped Frico. You can skip this step. Most people do.

Note:  I will say, however, if you decide not to flip the Frico, it’s just fine. It does make things easier.  Most people don’t, anyway.

3.  When the Frico is done, remove the cheese from the pan and either cool flat on a plate or flip (very quickly) the cheese onto and overturned drinking glass (or anything that will give it a bowl-like shape) and let cool in a rough concave shape.

Flipping the Frico onto an overturned Ball jar. Let it stay there until it cools.

Flipping the Frico onto an overturned Ball jar. Let it stay there until it cools.

The finished Frico cup ready for the Cacio e Pepe.

The finished Frico cup ready for the Cacio e Pepe.

Mmm...

Mmm…

 

Frico can be made ahead and kept at room temperature in a sealed container for 3 – 4 days.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Panzanella 0

Posted on August 25, 2014 by Sahar

Panzanella is one of those dishes that simply screams summer.  It is at its best when tomatoes are in season, and, especially, fresh from your own garden.

Panzanella (literally meaning “bread in a small basket) is a Tuscan recipe that, before the 20th Century, was based on onions, bread, olive oil, and basil.  It wasn’t until the 20th Century that tomatoes were added; no doubt out of desperation and poverty.

The earliest known description of Panzanella is by the painter Angolo di Cosimo (“Bronzino”; 1503 – 1572).  He sings the praises of onions with oil and vinegar served with toast and, a page later, speaks of a salad of onions, purslane, and cucumbers.

The best things about this recipe? It’s easy, fast, and there’s no cooking involved. More reasons it’s perfect for summer.

(some information from wikipedia.org)

A few notes:

1.  This should go without saying, but use the best ingredients you can find and/or afford.  Panzanella traditionally has few ingredients, so they all need to shine.  There’s no way to mask indifferent ingredients in this recipe.

2.  Use at least day-old bread.  If your bread is too fresh, it will become gummy.  Also, use a good European-style crusty bread.  Most American-style breads don’t have the hard crust needed.

3.  Some Panzanella recipes soak the bread in water and then squeeze it out before using.  Others will have the bread soak in olive oil.  I use the latter method.  I prefer some bite to my bread; I find the water method makes the bread too soggy for my taste.  However, if the bread you are using is very hard, then the water method may be the way to go. Be sure to slice the bread into thick slices and soak for about 20 minutes.  Squeeze out the water before cutting or tearing the bread. (Perhaps even do half-and-half water and tomato juice.)

4.  The traditional Tuscan recipe has tomatoes, onions, basil, bread, olive oil, salt & pepper.  However, other recipes may include: cucumbers, lettuce, olives, fresh mozzarella, celery, carrots, parsley, chopped eggs, tuna, anchovies, bell peppers, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, anchovies, and garlic.  A Tuscan would frown upon these additions; however, feel free to add them if you like. (I do use garlic. Sometimes red wine vinegar.)

5.  This salad is really best the day it’s made.  You can eat it the next day (just let it come to room temperature after you take it out of the fridge), but the bread will be soggy.  Unless that’s what you prefer.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients (the tomatoes I chose to use were small-to-medium sized, but they still added up to roughly 2 lbs.)

1 med. loaf day-old (at least) crusty bread, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces

The cubed bread. I used an Italian rustic whole-wheat bread.

The cubed bread. I used an Italian rustic whole-wheat bread.

6 large tomatoes (approximately 2 lbs.), roughly chopped (don’t seed the tomatoes; you want the juice)

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil, more if needed

1 bu. basil, chopped or torn

2 cl. garlic, minced

1/2 of a medium red onion, very thinly sliced

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Mix together the bread, tomatoes, and olive oil.  Mix thoroughly and let sit for at least 20 minutes or up to 1 hour at room temperature.

The first three ingredients mixed together. Now, the waiting begins.

The first three ingredients mixed together. Now, the waiting begins.

2.  Add the remaining ingredients and combine thoroughly.  Taste for seasoning and saturation of the bread.  Adjust as needed.  Serve immediately.

Buon Appetito!

Buon Appetito!

Typically, this is served alone.  However, it will go well with just about any protein – especially grilled meat.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Three Dressings 0

Posted on July 30, 2014 by Sahar

Ranch, Blue Cheese, Thousand Island.  Three dressings that have been ubiquitous  on the American Dinner Table for decades.  Of course, being American, these dressings have been adapted to serve other purposes than just coating lettuce.  They are used for dipping vegetables, marinating, as a sandwich ingredient, and for mitigating the heat of Buffalo Wings.

Each one of these has an origin story that shows off, even in some small way, American ingenuity, taste, and not a little desperation.

Ranch Dressing was created on the true-life Hidden Valley Ranch (a dude ranch) near Santa Barbara, CA.  The originator, Steve Henson, was said to have come up with the original recipe while working as an electrical contractor in Alaska.  When he and his wife opened their dude ranch in the early 1950’s, they served the dressing to guests and it became a hit.  They began selling kits to guests to take home and make their own dressing (just add buttermilk).  The Hensons managed to build a small empire on their dressing, eventually selling their company to Clorox in the early 1970’s (the company still owns the brand).

Thousand Island Dressing has a slightly more murky history.  One story is that Oscar (Oscar of the Waldorf) Tschirky introduced the dressing to patrons of the Waldorf Hotel in New York via his boss, George Boldt, who was served the dressing while on a boat tour in the Thousand Islands in upstate New York.  It was said the chef on board basically threw together a salad dressing with whatever he had on hand, and it became a hit.  Another story, probably the more likely one, is that Sophia LaLonde, the wife of the fishing guide at the Herald House on the Thousand Islands, came up with the recipe in or around 1911 to serve at the hotel and shore dinners there.  The Broadway actress May Irwin enjoyed the dressing so much she asked for the recipe.  Mrs. LaLonde obliged, and Ms. Irwin took it back to New York and gave the recipe to Mr. Boldt so the kitchen could prepare it for her.  Once the Waldorf began offering the dressing to its patrons, the dressing became popular throughout the country.  The Holiday House Hotel in the Thousand Islands still sells the original recipe dressing at the hotel and online.

Blue Cheese Dressing has a very murky origin story.  It has been suggested that it originated in France, but that’s highly unlikely.  The French prefer lighter vinaigrette-style dressing on their salad; it’s doubtful that putting cheese in their salads would even occur to the French.  Blue cheese has been in America since at least the Revolution where that well-noted Francophile, Thomas Jefferson, enjoyed it at his dinner table.  The first recorded evidence of Blue Cheese Dressing as we’ve come to know it (Then known as Roquefort Dressing) was in Edgewater Hotel Salad Book in 1928.  An earlier version of the dressing appears in the Fannie Farmer’s 1918 Cookbook.  By the 1930’s the dressing had spread in popularity not only through Fannie Farmer, but also through Irma Rombauer’s ubiquitous book, The Joy of Cooking.

(some historical information from wikipedia.org, justserved.onthetable.us, thousandislandslife.com)

A few notes:

1.  All three of these recipes can easily be made vegan.

For the Ranch:  Omit the sour cream; substitute vegan mayonnaise and plain soy milk.

For the Blue Cheese:  Omit the sour cream and cheese; substitute vegan mayonnaise and plain soy milk; use crumbled hard

tofu to get the texture of the cheese; add tahini and apple cider vinegar (start with just a small

amount and add to taste).  If you have some nutritional yeast, you can also use that for additional cheesy flavor.

For the Thousand Island:  Substitute the mayonnaise for vegan mayonnaise.

2.  If you can find it (and it’s getting easier to), use “country style” buttermilk.  The flavor and thickness make so much difference in the finished dressing.

3.  If you must use dried herbs in the Ranch Dressing, use 1/2 the amount of the fresh in the recipe.  The dressing will need to  sit for an hour for the herbs to infuse their flavor.

4.  For the Blue Cheese Dressing, I used Amish Blue.  I have used gorgonzola, roquefort, and Stilton in the past.  Extravagant, but delicious.   You can use any type of blue cheese you like – as your cheese department and budget will allow.

5.  For the Thousand Island, I usually add more than 1 teaspoon of horseradish depending on what I’ll use it for (i.e. Reubens). So, adjust according to your taste.

6.  You can substitute low-fat yogurt for some or all of the sour cream.  If you must.

7.  All of these dressings will last up to a week.  If they begin to separate, just give them a stir.  The Blue Cheese Dressing, will, however, thin out considerably as it sits.  Just add more mayonnaise and sour cream to thicken.

Now, I will say, these are my versions of these dressings (and, no doubt, many others have made these same adjustments).  You can certainly add, subtract, and/or change ingredients.  For example, the original Thousand Island Dressing uses finely chopped egg in the recipe; I don’t. The original Ranch Dressing is made with buttermilk only; I’ve added mayonnaise.  I’ve added lemon juice to the Blue Cheese Dressing. I, like many, have also added bacon from time to time (it’s excellent on burgers when you feel like indulging).

Sometimes, I like to go all ’70’s and use an Iceberg wedge when I serve any of these dressings.  A dear, late friend of mine, Chef Roger Mollett, used to say, “Iceberg is the polyester of lettuce”.  He’s right, you know.

Uniquely American. From top clockwise: Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, Ranch

Uniquely American. From top clockwise: Thousand Island, Blue Cheese, Ranch

 

All of these dressings are made the same way:

1.  Add the ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly.

2.  Let sit for at least an hour, taste and adjust for seasoning.

3. Serve with salad or other food of your choice.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Salt, Pepper, Garlic

Salt, Pepper, Garlic

Ranch Dressing

1 c. mayonnaise

1/4 c. sour cream

1/4 c. buttermilk

1 clove garlic, very finely minced

1 tbsp. chives or scallion tops, very thinly sliced

If you don't have chives, thinly sliced scallion tops work as well.

If you don’t have chives, thinly sliced scallion tops work as well.

2 tbsp. dill, finely minced

Fresh dill is what really makes this dressing so delicious.

Fresh dill is what really makes this dressing so delicious.

1/4 c. parsley, finely minced

You can use either curly or flat-leaf parsley.

You can use either curly or flat-leaf parsley.

1 tsp. lemon juice

Salt & pepper to taste

Everything in the bowl.

Everything in the bowl.

Mixing. The buttermilk will be stubborn and not want to incorporate at first. But, trust me, it all comes together.

Mixing. The buttermilk will be stubborn and not want to incorporate at first. But, trust me, it all comes together.

Not pretty. But it's damn indulgent.

Not pretty. But it’s damn indulgent.

 

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Blue Cheese Dressing

1 c. mayonnaise

1/2 c. sour cream

1 1/2 c. blue cheese, crumbled

I used Amish Blue for this example. You can use any blue cheese you like.

I used Amish Blue for this example. You can use any blue cheese you like.

2 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. black pepper

Buttermilk, as needed

Mixing in the blue cheese. It's a lot. If you have to cruble your blue cheese (as opposed to buying it already crumbled), leave the pieces different sizes.  It makes for a more interesting texture.

Mixing in the blue cheese. It’s a lot.
If you have to crumble your blue cheese (as opposed to buying it already crumbled), leave the pieces different sizes. It makes for a more interesting texture.

Mixing in the pepper and lemon juice.

Mixing in the pepper and lemon juice.

My favorite.

My favorite.

 

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

 

Thousand Island Dressing

1 c. mayonnaise

1/4 c. ketchup

1 tbsp. onion, very finely minced

1 1/2 tbsp. sweet relish

1 1/2 tbsp. dill relish

1 tsp. horseradish

From top right, clockwise:

From top right, clockwise: minced onion (I had some scallion, so I used that), dill relish, sweet relish, horseradish, pepper, salt

1 tsp. lemon juice

Salt & Pepper to taste

Mixing

Mixing

Sweet-tart goodness

Sweet-tart goodness

The best way to test a dressing – any dressing – is to use some of the greens you’ll be serving it with to better gauge the flavors and how they taste together.

Testing the Thousand Island Dressing.

Testing the Thousand Island Dressing.

Plus, as well know, when you’re adjusting recipes standing up in the kitchen, the calories don’t count. Plus, hey, it’s lettuce.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Waldorf Salad – My Version 0

Posted on July 08, 2014 by Sahar

The origin story of Waldorf Salad is a fairly straightforward and simple one.  It was the creation of the long-time maitre d’ of the Waldorf Hotel (later to become the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel) in New York City, Oscar (“Oscar of the Waldorf”) Tschirky, in 1896.  It became an instant favorite with diners at the hotel.  Oscar, while not a chef, was the creator and inspiration of many of the dishes in the Waldorf’s first half-century. (He stayed with the hotel from 1893 until his retirement n 1943).

The original recipe consisted of simply apples, celery, and mayonnaise.  Not long afterwards, walnuts were added and became an important component of the salad.

Later variations have included turkey or chicken, dried fruit (especially raisins), lemon juice, orange zest, grapes, and yogurt.

It’s really a dish that simply lends itself to interpretation.

While I’ve stayed with the basic version of the salad, I have added my own variations as well.  Somewhere along the way, I thought, why not add some blue cheese?  It goes well with apples and walnuts as well as cutting some of the sweetness of the dried fruit.  Besides, I just like blue cheese.

 

A few notes:

1.  I like to use a mix of apples.  As always, whenever I use apples in a recipe, Granny Smith apples are my base.  I’ll add Pink Ladies, Gala, MacIntosh, or, if I’m feeling extravagant, Honeycrisp.  The flavor contrast works well.

2.  I’ve used both walnuts and pecans in this recipe.  It just depends what I have on hand.

3.  If you want to use yogurt in the salad, I would recommend going half-and-half with the mayonnaise.  Yogurt alone would be too strong a flavor.  Also, use a full-fat yogurt.  Fat-free – yuk.

4.  My preferred blue cheese in this recipe is either Amish Blue or Maytag Blue.  These are both excellent American blue cheeses and are readily available.  European-style blue cheeses (i.e. Stilton, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Cabrales), while delicious, are simply too strong.

5.  I don’t peel my apples.  You shouldn’t either.

6.  I use very little celery in my recipe.  Unlike the original recipe, I use it for flavoring, not as a main component.  However, if you prefer to use more celery, feel free.

7.  To make this dish vegan, simply omit the cheese (if you still want the cheese flavor, use nutritional yeast to taste), and use vegan mayonnaise.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Granny Smith and Pink Lady Apples

Granny Smith and Pink Lady Apples

Maytag Blue Cheese

Maytag Blue Cheese. Good stuff.

Walnuts. Not my favorite nut, but they work well here.

Walnuts. Not my favorite nut, but they work well here.

 

4 lg. apples, approx. 1 1/2 – 2 lbs.

1 lg. stalk celery, finely diced

1 1/2 c. walnuts or pecans, chopped (If you would like to toast them, put the nuts in a 350F oven for 5 – 7 minutes. Let cool before adding to the salad.)

1 1/2 c. dried fruit – one of each or a combination: cherries, cranberries, diced apricots, raisins, sultanas (gold raisins)

4 oz. (1/2 c.) Amish Blue or Maytag Blue Cheese, crumbled

1 c. mayonnaise

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Cut and core the apples.  I like to use a melon baller to core out the apple and cut out the blossom and stem ends with a “v” shape cut.  With the flat side down, cut the apple in to 1/2-inch thick slices.  Then, with 2 – 3 slices laying flat on the cutting board, cut the apples into 1/2-inch dice.  Place the apples into the bowl.

I find using a melon baller very effective for coring apples. Plus, it's safer than either a knife or an apple corer.

I find using a melon baller very effective for coring apples. Plus, it’s safer than either a knife or an apple corer. (I frankly find apple corers to be completely useless.)

Core. Out.

Core. Out.

Remove the stem and blossom ends by cutting out a v-shaped piece at each end.

Remove the stem and blossom ends by cutting out a v-shaped piece at each end.

Blossom end cut out.

Blossom end cut out.

Apples cored, cleaned,  and ready

Apples cored, cleaned, and ready

2.  Add the celery, nuts, and dried fruit.  Toss together.

All mixed together.

All mixed together.

3.  Add the cheese and mayonnaise.  Mix together until well incorporated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ready.

Ready.

4.  Traditionally, Waldorf Salad is served on a bed of lettuce.  I generally don’t.  However, if you would like to, go ahead.   I like to serve the salad with crackers or a good crusty bread.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 



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