Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen


Black Beans (Frijoles Negros) 0

Posted on April 15, 2015 by Sahar

Years ago, as I was rifling through my pantry trying to figure out what to make for dinner because I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store, I came across 2 cans of black beans and a jar of pickled jalapeños (that I figured I needed do something else with besides make nachos).  Of course, these are pantry staples every Texan should have.

Hmm… I thought. What can I do with these?  After looking through my fridge and finding some cilantro, I stumbled upon it.  “Tart these beans up, Sahar”, I said to myself.

A no brainer, really.

At the time I came up with this recipe, Husband Steve was a vegetarian. And, honestly, me being a dedicated omnivore, there were times I struggled with figuring out what to feed him other than the same old dozen or so meals.  Thankfully, he liked this new concoction so much it became a semi-regular in the rotation.  I liked it because I was working a full-time job at the time and this was a quick & easy meal to make for dinner.  Cheap, too.  And, let’s not forget the most important part here – delicious.

I’m not even going to call this anything remotely like authentic Mexican cuisine.  I mean, I honestly don’t know of any interior Mexican recipe that uses pickled jalapeños.  However, I like to think I’ve at least kept to the flavor profile somewhat and honored the spirit, if not the authenticity.

 

A few notes:

1.  I really designed this recipe around black beans.  However, if you don’t like or can’t find them, pinto will do in a pinch.

2.  If you don’t have a jar of pickled jalapeños, you can use fresh. Use one, and, depending on the heat level you want, remove the seeds or not.  Also, in place of the jalapeño brine, use lime juice.

3.  I generally serve this dish with brown rice. It just seems to work.  However, white rice or even your favorite Spanish or Mexican rice recipe will be fine, too.

4.  Occasionally, I’ll dice up a tomato (after I remove the seeds) and add it to the beans when I add the second half of the cilantro.  I’ll let the tomatoes sit in the beans just long enough to warm through before serving.

5.  When I serve the beans with cheese, I’ll use Jack cheese or Queso Fresco as a general rule.  The rule being that I usually have one or both of those in my fridge pretty much all the time.  Honestly, they just seem to work.  However, if you decide to go the pinto bean route, cheddar will work, too.

6.  To make this dish vegan, use vegetable broth and omit the cheese.

7. If you’re feeling decadent and carnivorous, a small piece or two of salt pork or bacon cooking with the beans wouldn’t be a bad thing. Just watch the amount of additional salt you put into the beans.

 

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

2 cans black beans (frijoles negros), drained

2 tbsp. oil

1/2 c. onion, fine dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

From top going clockwise: garlic, Mexican oregano, pickled jalapeño, cumin, black pepper, salt, jalapeño brine

From top going clockwise: garlic, Mexican oregano, pickled jalapeño, cumin, black pepper, salt, jalapeño brine

1 tbsp. pickled jalapeño, chopped

2 tsp. jalapeño brine

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

3/4 tsp. ground cumin

3/4 tsp. dried Mexican Oregano

1 bunch cilantro, chopped and divided

IMG_3104

1/2 c. vegetable or chicken broth, or water; more as needed

Rice, cheese, lime wedges, and tortillas or cornbread

 

 

1.  Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the oil and let heat up.

2.  Sauté the garlic and onion until the onion is soft, about 2 – 3 minutes.

Sauteeing the onion and garlic. It's important to allow the saucepan to become hot before adding the oil. This helps even a non-stick saucepan or skillet to become more non-stick. Plus, this helps to cook the food more evenly and efficiently.

Sautéing the onion and garlic. It’s important to allow the saucepan to heat up before adding the oil. This helps the surface to become more non-stick than it otherwise would be (especially in a non-teflon pan or saucepan).  Plus, this helps to cook the food more evenly and efficiently.

Add the jalapeños and sauté for another minute.

Adding the jalapeños.

Adding the jalapeños.

3.  Add the salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano and sauté another minute or just until the spices begin to have a fragrance. Be sure not to let them burn.

Adding the spices.

Adding the spices.

4.  Add the beans, jalapeño brine, half of the cilantro, and the broth or water.

Adding the beans, half of the cilantro, and the jalapeno brine.

Adding the beans, half of the cilantro, and the jalapeño brine.

 

Lower the heat to medium-low, cover the saucepan, and let the beans simmer for 30 minutes.  Stir occasionally.  Be sure to taste for seasoning.  Add more broth or water if the beans become too dry.

After 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes.

5.  When the beans are soft and the broth has thickened, remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the remaining cilantro and taste for seasoning.

Adding the other half of the cilantro. If you're using tomato, add it now.

Adding the other half of the cilantro. If you’re using tomato, add it now.

6.  Serve the beans with rice, cheese, a lime wedge, and cornbread or tortillas on the side.

Without cheese.

Without cheese.

With cheese.

With cheese.

¡Buen Apetito!

My Eating Locally Project 2015: March 0

Posted on April 01, 2015 by Sahar

Like the old saying goes, “March came in like a lion but left like a lamb”.  The beginning of the month was still in the grip of Old Man Winter, but the weather, especially this last weekend, was what Spring is all about: Sunny, warm, breezy, and not a little colorful.

Here in Austin, the middle of March is taken up with the annual craziness that is SXSW.  While I normally don’t participate (I remember the good old days when it was just about the local music), this year was different.  I participated in a panel on food & heritage long with Amy Kritzer of What Jew Wanna Eat, Kay Marley-Dilworth of ATX Food News, and Annette Priest, founder of Revel Insight. (Here is the Storify link).

As well as doing the SXSW panel, I also recorded a podcast with Cecilia Nasti of Field & Feast on Croissants.

After my SXSW was over, however, Husband Steve’s was just beginning; he’s the music guy.  So, since he wasn’t home much during most of the festival, I didn’t do too much cooking this month.  Hence, I didn’t do my usual amount of shopping.

So, sadly, I have no new recipes to share this month.  Just some really lovely photos.

 

Sunday, March 1.  Mueller Farmers Market

It was cold. Very cold. Also cloudy and damp.

As my friend Kelly Ann and I watched the ducks swim on the pond at Mueller, I wondered how they could stand it.

Ducks on the pond on a very cold day.

Ducks on the pond on a very cold day.

We had to park a ways out from the market stands because not only was the market open, but the Thinkery (the new Austin Children’s Museum) was in full swing.

The dragon at The Thinkery. His eyes glowed.

The dragon at The Thinkery. His eyes glowed.

While I normally enjoy the walk from the further lots (it is very pretty), that day was an exception.

A tiny bit of Spring peeking through the gray.

A tiny bit of Spring peeking through the gray.

Normally, the market is outside in the open. This day, it was under the dome. It helped a little.

Normally, the market is outside in the open. This day, it was under the dome. It helped a little.

The crowd was lighter than I've seen at previous market days. Of course, the cold no doubt kept many away. Others were huddled closer into the stands near the space heaters.

The crowd was lighter than I’ve seen at previous market days. Of course, the cold no doubt kept many away. Others were huddled closer into the stands near the space heaters.

As is my usual routine, I sought out my favorite produce vendor, Johnson’s Backyard Garden.  I may not always buy the bulk, or any, of my produce from them on a given visit (I like to try others, too), I simply like to go and take a look anyway. Their displays are beautiful and their produce, most of the time, is fantastic.

Parsnips at Johnson's Backyard Garden

Parsnips at Johnson’s Backyard Garden

Turnips at JBG.

Turnips at JBG.

First sign of Spring. Artichokes. JBG.

First sign of Spring produce. Artichokes. JBG.

Cabbage and rainbow chard. JBG.

Cabbage and rainbow chard. JBG.

Had to stop by the Austin institution that is Texas French Bread for some sourdough wheat. If you’ve never had it, you’re missing out on something great.

Texas French Bread's stand. Simplicity.

Texas French Bread’s stand. Simplicity.

Even though I set myself a limit on how much I’ll spend on any given visit, if I impulsively decide to visit Countryside Farms, I know the limit will be crossed.

Their meats and charcuterie are excellent and unique.  And, one of these days, I’m really going to indulge in some of their rillettes, pates, and mousses. But for now, I’m going to stick with the old stand-bys: chicken, sausage, and bacon. And, occasionally, lard and marrow.

Countryside Farms. European-style, unique, and slightly pricy, meats and charcuterie.

Countryside Farms. European-style, unique, and slightly pricy, meats and charcuterie.

K & S Seafood was a vendor that hadn’t seen before.  They generally sell at Cedar Park and Barton Creek Farmers Markets according to their Facebook Page.

I decided to try some Black Drum, a fish neither Steve nor I had ever tried before (at least not knowingly). The fish that I bought had been caught the previous Thursday, cleaned, filleted, and kept on ice. So, even though by this point it was 3 days old, it still had a nice oceany smell to it.  However, the lady working the stand did tell me that I needed to cook it within the next 24-48 hours.

I’m not sure if it’s the way I cooked the fish (simple pan searing) or what, but we decided we didn’t care for it.  There was really no flavor and the texture was almost plastic-like.

I can see using the drum bones to make stock, though. The flavor would be mild enough to take seasonings well and not overpower.

K & S Seafood. I felt bad for the girl working the stand. She had a space heater, but having to constantly plunger her hands into ice to pull out the seafood had to have been torture on a day where the wind chill was in the 30's.

K & S Seafood. I felt bad for the lady working the stand. She had a space heater, but having to constantly plunge her hands into ice to pull out the seafood had to have been torture on a day where the wind chill was in the 30’s.

Now, I know that all sorts of studies have warned against drinking alcohol to keep warm. But, when you’re confronted with a cold, damp, and windy day, and you’re presented with a table full of mead that you’re encouraged to sample for free, I’d like to see you say “no” and walk away.

Meridian Hive Meadery‘s samplings were the highlight of the trip. I tried 4 excellent samples and finally landed on the Huajilla as my choice. Not too sweet and a little dry, I think it will be lovely in the late spring, early summer, or mid autumn.

The meadery opened in Austin in 2012 and is open for tours and tastings (check the website for details).

Mead tasting? Yes, please.

Mead tasting? Yes, please.

From the lovely folks at Meridian Hive Meadery.

From the lovely folks at Meridian Hive Meadery.

Now, on to my purchases for the day:

Huajilla Mead from Meridian Hive Meadery. Slightly sweet and dry. It's going to excellent in the summer.

Huajilla Mead from Meridian Hive Meadery. Slightly sweet and dry. It’s going to excellent in the summer.

My haul:

Sourdough Wheat from Texas French Bread; Black Drum from K & S Seafood; Turnips from JBG; Chicken and Bacon from Countryside Farms

 

Thursday, March 12:  Boggy Creek Farm

With Steve’s SXSW already starting and me getting ready for a crazy few days that included a much-anticipated visit from my oldest (long-term) friend Michelle, I took it easy at my monthly visit to Boggy Creek Farm.

Compared to my visit to Mueller, the day at Boggy Creek was almost balmy. By that I mean, the sun was actually out. At least a little. It had been raining for several days prior to my visit, so things were a little messy at the farm.  Nothing terrible – just puddles and mud.

Spring again trying to peek through.

Spring again trying to peek through.

Peeking around the corner at the farmhouse.

Peeking around the corner at the farmhouse.

 

Larry Butler's creations. As I've said before, his Smoked Dried Tomatoes are legendary.

Larry Butler’s creations. As I’ve said before, his Smoked Dried Tomatoes are legendary.

Farm eggs, and wares from other local producers.

Farm eggs, and wares from other local producers.

Lovely eggs from Boggy Creek's resident chickens.

Lovely eggs from Boggy Creek’s resident chickens.

The big wood box of sweet potatoes.

The big wood box of sweet potatoes.

First of the Spring head lettuces: Frisee.

First of the Spring head lettuces: Frisee.

Baby celery. I bought it mostly for the leaves.

Baby celery. I bought it mostly for the leaves.

After I bought my produce and sausage, I did what I always do, take a little stroll around the farm.

I think this is cabbage. I really need to ask next time.

I think this is cabbage. I really need to ask next time.

Looking over the last of the winter produce. Carol Ann told me the early spring produce was starting to come in, too.

Looking over the last of the winter produce. Carol Ann told me the early spring produce was starting to come in, too.

And, of course, there were the grande dames and lords of the farm, the chickens and roosters.

I noticed that they were all running around loose and I wondered what was going on.  Carol Ann told me that because of the rains, the coop was muddy, so they let the chickens and roosters out so the coop could be cleaned and dried.  She said that they all normally get to run loose after the farmstand is closed for the day, but and exception was made and they were let out early.

Needless to say, I stayed longer than I had originally planned.

The nesting boxes were dry, so the chickens could at least escape from prying eyes there.

The nesting boxes were dry, so the chickens could at least escape from prying eyes there.

This one was very determined to get into that pecan.

This one was very determined to get into the pecan she was pecking at.

Looks like the king and his court.

Looks like the king and his court.

Struttin'.

Struttin’.

So, my purchases for the day:

Pork Chorizo from Peaceful Pork

Pork Chorizo from Peaceful Pork

Frisee; Baby Celery; Brassica Salad; Sweet Potatoes

Frisee; Baby Celery; Brassica Salad; Sweet Potatoes

 

Sunday, March 22: Hope Farmer’s Market.

 

This was the best day yet. Spring warm, sunny, and SXSW was finally over.

 

A lovely day to be at the market.

A lovely day to be at the market.

The wisteria starting to bloom.

The wisteria starting to bloom.

The fountain at Plaza Saltillo. Hopefully, the city will get it working again.

The fountain at Plaza Saltillo. Hopefully, the city will get it working again.

A little sidewalk art.

A little sidewalk art.

Hope isn’t a large market, so I generally see a lot of the same vendors I see at other markets. Some seem to be exclusive to this one.

Of course, Johnson’s Backyard Garden was there. And, as usual, their stand was glorious. The only sour note was their romaine lettuce. While I did end up buying a bag, I really had to search for one that wasn’t already beginning to brown.

Dandelion Greens at JBG.

Dandelion Greens at JBG.

Rainbow Chard at JBG.

Rainbow Chard at JBG.

Early harvest Romain Lettuce. JBG.

Early harvest Romaine Lettuce. JBG.

Herbs. JBG.

Herbs. JBG.

Beets. I didn't buy any; I just like the way they look in photographs. JBG.

Beets. I didn’t buy any; I just like the way they look in photographs. JBG.

Oranges. So much better than grocery-store bought. JBG.

Oranges. So much better than grocery-store bought. JBG.

Yard to Market Co-Op was a vendor I’ve not seen or noticed before. I just took a quick look at their website and it looks like Hope is the only farmers market they attend.

I will say their produce looked amazing (especially the dino-sized rutabaga) and the eggs were so fresh they looked like they came out of the hens that morning.

I’ll most definitely need to seek them out first next time I head to Hope Market.

Yard to Market Co-Op. This is the first time I've seen them.

Yard to Market Co-Op. This is the first time I’ve seen them.

The largest rutabaga I'd ever seen. I bought it.

The largest rutabaga I’d ever seen. I bought it.

The greens at the Co-Op stand.

The greens at the Co-Op stand.

Collards. Co-Op.

Collards. Co-Op.

More kale. Co-Op.

More kale. Co-Op.

And, yes. I stopped by Countryside Farms again. I was hoping for another chicken. They were sold out; so, I settled for some Merguez.

Charcuterie at Countryside Farms.

Charcuterie at Countryside Farms.

As I was leaving, I decided to take the long way back to the car and admire some of the East Austin mural art. It seems to be one of the few signs left that this area was a thriving Hispanic & African American community.  Sadly, like most other medium-to-large cities, people from the older neighborhoods are being priced out in the name of progress.

Zoot Suiter immortalized.

Zoot Suiter immortalized.

IMG_5331

I’m not sure if the name on the gas tank is the rider or the artist. Or both.

IMG_5332

Mary’s face here kinda reminds me of the “restoration” of the Ecce Homo Fresco in Spain.

Once again, I headed home with my purchases.

Purchases, Part 1: Eggs and Rutabaga from Yard to Market Co-Op; Merguez from Countryside Farms

Purchases, Part 1: Eggs and Rutabaga from Yard to Market Co-Op; Merguez from Countryside Farms

Purchases, Part 2: Rainbow Chard; Dandelion Greens; Flat Leaf Parsley; Romaine Lettuce; Oranges. JBG.

Purchases, Part 2: Rainbow Chard; Dandelion Greens; Flat Leaf Parsley; Romaine Lettuce; Oranges. JBG.

 

Since I don’t have any recipes this month, I thought I’d give you a tutorial on how to wash and store your fresh greens. This can apply whether you buy your greens organic at the farmers market, farmstands, or the conventional produce from the grocery store.

All produce has the same thing: dirt. Dirt you have to wash off. Whether it comes from the ground or other people, it has to be washed off.  This is especially true with leafy greens.  Dirt tends to get into the nooks and crannys of the stems and leaves, and, if you don’t wash them properly, at best, you’ll end up with grit in your food.

And sometimes, bugs.  Yes, bugs happen.

So, here is the tutorial in pictorial form:

Begin by trimming the greens. I just generally cut off the woody parts of the stems. You can eat, compost, or toss these out. It's up to you.

Begin by trimming the greens. I just generally cut off the woody parts of the stems. You can eat, compost, or toss these out. It’s up to you.

The trimmed greens, Rainbow Chard in this instance, in a (clean) sink full of cold water. It needs to be cold. If you want to refresh older greens, you can fill the sink with cold water and ice.

The trimmed greens, Rainbow Chard in this instance, in a (clean) sink full of cold water. It needs to be cold. Gently agitate the greens to wash off the dirt. If necessary, pick up the leaves individually and rub off the dirt, pick our bad leaves or tear out bad spots on the leaves. If you want to refresh older greens, you can fill the sink with cold water and ice.

After taking the greens out of the water, shake off some of the excess and place it the basket of a salad spinner.

After taking the greens out of the water, shake off some of the excess and place it the basket of a salad spinner. As you take the greens out of the water, try not to stir up any of the dirt that sinks to the bottom.

Now, spin.

Now, spin.

After the excess water has been removed, lay the greens in a single layer (a little overlap is OK) on paper towels. (I buy the thicker "shop towels" from the hardware store).

After the excess water has been removed, lay the greens in a single layer (a little overlap is OK) on paper towels. (I buy the thicker “shop towels” from the hardware store). Now, carefully roll the leaves up in the towel and place the roll in a large zip bag, squeezing out as much of the air as possible. This will help keep the greens simultaneously dry yet still keep them from drying out.

I hope this was useful.

See you in April.

Well, at the end of the month.

 

 

 

 

Thom Yum Gai 0

Posted on March 27, 2015 by Sahar

It’s hard to believe even 15 – 20 years ago most Americans had never even heard of Thai food outside of cities that had a large Asian population.  Now, Pad Thai, Pad See Ew, Massaman Curry, Green Papaya Salad, and Green Chicken Curry seem to be everywhere.

As much as I like those dishes, and many others, one stands out for me: Thom Yum Gai – Chicken Coconut Soup.  The words “thom yum” basically mean “hot and sour soup”. “Gai” is the chicken version of this soup. Other styles of thom yum include – “Pla”: a fish soup eaten with rice; “Kha Mu”: a slower cooked soup made with pork knuckles.  There are several other variations of this soup.

This is not only a refreshing soup to eat any time of year, but it’s one on my go-to’s when Husband Steve and I aren’t feeling well.  Something about the alchemy of Asian soups in general that just make us feel better.

I like to make my Thom Yum Gai heavily seasoned.  So, my soup has a pronounced, but not overbearing flavor, of ginger, lime, and chiles.  I wanted to keep the flavor in line with what I’ve eaten at some of my favorite Thai restaurants. Of course, if you want to go lighter, adjust the seasonings as you like.

Besides the taste, the next best thing about this soup is the quickness and ease in which it comes together.  From start to finish, less than an hour.

I will say that my inspiration for this recipe comes from James Peterson. His award-nominated book, Splendid Soups, is arguably the best book on soups ever published. While this is my recipe, he was definitely an influence on the direction I took.

 

A few notes:

1.  Kaffir lime leaves are an authentic ingredient in this recipe.  However, even with the plethora of Asian markets now in Austin, I still have a very difficult time finding them. So, I now use lime peel.  However, if you can find Kaffir leaves, by all means, use them.  4 – 6 leaves, cut into julienne (thin) strips will work well.

2.  If you can’t find lemongrass, you can use the peel of 1 lemon.  Alternately, if can find it, there is a lemongrass paste that is available in some supermarkets; however, once you open the tube, it must be used within a finite amount of time.  If you decide to use the paste, check the measurements on the container to see how much you need.  DO NOT use dried lemongrass; all of the oils that give it its flavor will have dissolved leaving you with basically grass clippings.

3.  You can peel the ginger or not.  I generally don’t. If you do prefer to leave the skin on, be sure to wash the ginger thoroughly.

4.  Shiitake mushrooms are really best for this dish.  However, if you don’t like or can’t find them, you can use straw mushrooms (you can usually find them canned. Be sure to drain them first).  In a pinch, criminis will do.

5.  Chicken is the most common way to make this soup.  However, you can also make it with shrimp, mixed fish and/or shellfish, pork, or tofu.  Just use the same amount as you would the chicken.  Be sure to use the corresponding broth as well.  I’ve seen some restaurants serve thom yum with beef, but I don’t know how authentic that is or if it’s just to satisfy American palates.

6.  By the way, fish sauce is essential to making this dish. There’s really no omitting it.

7.  If you are making this dish with tofu and want to make it vegan, here is a recipe for vegan fish sauce.

8.  If you can’t find Thai (also known as bird) chiles, you can substitute 3 – 4 serrano chiles. If you don’t want that much heat, be sure to remove the seeds and membranes. You can also cut back on the number of chiles.

9.  To help stretch the soup and/or help mitigate the heat, you can serve some Jasmin rice alongside the soup.  Alternately, have some cooked rice noodles in the bottom of the serving bowl and pour the soup on top.  Just have the noodles or rice on the side, not in the actual soup pot.

10.  Even though leaving all of the seasonings in the soup is more authentic, if you want to, after the soup has cooked, you can strain the broth, pick the chicken and mushrooms out of the seasonings. and place them back into the broth before serving. This is especially helpful if all you really want to do is drink the broth from a mug.

(I know you’re asking the question – “Why not strain the broth before you add the mushrooms and chicken?” Because, the longer the seasonings cook in the broth, the more flavor you will have. Besides, it’s not really that much extra work.)

11.  If you do decide to go full authentic, serve the soup with a pair of chopsticks and a small bowl on the side so your guests can place their pieces of lemongrass, ginger, etc., aside as they eat.

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

 

3 c. chicken broth

peel of 1 lime, cut into 1″ pieces

IMG_3100

2 ea. 4-inch stalks lemongrass, either sliced or minced (depending on your preference and patience)

IMG_3099

1/2 c. ginger, cleaned and cut into 1/8″ slices (estimating is fine)

IMG_3098

4 Thai chiles, thinly sliced

IMG_3096

1/3 c. Thai fish sauce

1/2 c. lime juice

4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, and sliced 1/4″ thick

IMG_3102

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and sliced thin (approx. 1 lb. to 1-1/4 lbs.)

IMG_3105

1 can (15-1/2 oz.) coconut milk

1/4 c. cilantro, chopped

IMG_3104

 

 

 

1.  In a large saucepan, add the chicken broth, lime peel, lemongrass, ginger, chiles, fish sauce, and lime juice.  Bring to a boil over high heat.

The broth, lime juice, lime peel, ginger, lemongrass, and chiles in the saucepan.

The broth, lime juice, lime peel, ginger, lemongrass, fish sauce, and chiles in the saucepan.

2.  Add the shiitakes, lower the heat to medium, and cook for 5 minutes.

Adding the shiitakes. I like to use this mushroom because it adds a wonderful flavor and stands up to the cooking.

Adding the shiitakes. I like to use this mushroom because it adds a wonderful flavor and stands up to the cooking.

 

3.  Add the chicken, coconut milk, and cilantro.  Continue cooking until the chicken is just done; about 3 – 5 minutes.

Adding the chicken, coconut milk, and cilantro. Cook just until the chicken is done.

Adding the chicken, coconut milk, and cilantro. Cook just until the chicken is done. You want to be sure not to overcook it.

4.  When the chicken is done, remove the saucepan from the heat and taste for seasoning.

I like to serve this with either fried won ton skins or crispy noodles (Remember those? The ones in the bag?)

I like to serve this with either fried won ton skins or crispy noodles (Remember those? La Choy?)

 

Enjoy!

Pasta alla Puttanesca 0

Posted on March 25, 2015 by Sahar

 

I have to admit, sometimes, in this wanna-be low-carb world, I just want to enjoy a big bowl of pasta. It’s quick, easy, satisfying, and filling. But, of course, as always and most importantly, delicious.

So, I’m going to introduce you to one of my & Husband Steve’s favorite pasta dishes. Pasta alla Puttanesca.

 

Pasta alla Puttanesca literally translates into “Whores’ Pasta”.  Its origin myths are a bit murky, but by most accounts, it’s a dish that dates back only about 50 – 60 years and was most likely created in southern Italy.

Some say the dish was invented by an Italian restaurateur who had an influx of customers near closing time one evening and threw together what he had left over – some olives, tomatoes, and peppers. Another origin story is that is was named “puttanesca” because it was easy and everything went into it. A third story is “decent” Italian housewives made this sauce with whatever they had laying around and threw it at ladies of the night while screaming “puttana!”.

I’m not so sure about the third one. But, who knows?

 

This is an easy dish.  From prep to eating, it takes no more than 45 minutes.

A few notes:

1.  Since there are no true hard and fast rules for this dish – except that it must have the tomatoes, olives, and peppers – you can add or remove ingredients as you like.  That being said, I like to think I’ve at least stayed with the spirit of the original recipe.

2.  Some recipes have anchovies, some don’t. If you want to make this dish vegetarian/vegan, certainly omit the anchovies.

3.  It’s also very important to at least roughly chop the olives.  Even if you do buy olives that say “pitted”, pits will happen.  The chopping will help you find any before your guests or family do.

4.  Be sure to taste the finished sauce before adding any additional salt. The olives are in brine, the anchovies are salted, and the capers are either in brine or salt.  While you can rinse the excess saltiness off the olives and capers, some salt will still be there.

5.  Occasionally, I like to use some of the oil from the anchovy jar with the olive oil. I really like anchovies.

 

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

From top left: red pepper flakes, salt-cured capers, olive oil, garlic, anchovies

From top left: red pepper flakes, salt-cured capers, olive oil, garlic, anchovies

It's important to at least roughly chop the olives, even if they're pitted. Sometimes, pits will still happen. It's better you find them during prep than your family or guests to find them during dinner.

It’s important to at least roughly chop the olives, even if they’re pitted. Sometimes, pits will still happen. It’s better you find them during prep than your family or guests to find them during dinner.

 

 

1 lb. spaghetti

2 tbsp. olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 – 10 anchovy filets, minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste

1 28-oz. can chopped tomatoes (with their juice)

1 1/2 c. pitted black or mixed black and green olives, roughly chopped

2 tbsp. capers, rinsed

Salt to taste

 

Parmesan, fresh grated

 

 

1.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.

2.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, pepper flakes, and anchovies.  Saute for 1 – 2 minutes.

Sauteing the garlic, red pepper flakes, and anchovies. The anchovies will melt right down. Lovely.

Sauteing the garlic, red pepper flakes, and anchovies. The anchovies will melt right down. Lovely.

3.  Add the tomatoes, capers, and olives.  Lower the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You want some of the liquid from the tomatoes to evaporate and the sauce to thicken slightly.

Adding the tomatoes, capers, and olives.

Adding the tomatoes, capers, and olives.

 

4.  Take the skillet off the heat and toss the spaghetti in the sauce.  Taste for salt (you’ll very likely not need it).

Tossing the pasta with the sauce. Take your time with this step. You want to be sure to coat the pasta and mix in everything as thoroughly as possible.

Tossing the pasta with the sauce. Take your time with this step. You want to be sure to coat the pasta and mix in everything as thoroughly as possible.

 

Serve with a generous helping of Parmesan.

IMG_3085

 

Buon Appetito!

 

Oyster Stew 0

Posted on March 09, 2015 by Sahar

 

IMG_3035

It’s been a seemingly unending winter here in Central Texas. At least our version of it. Damp & chilly with the occasional freeze and subsequent public freak-out.

So, seeking out “hearty” comfort foods to try to ignore Winter’s lingering visit is simply human nature. In that spirit, I decided on Oyster Stew for dinner last week.

I suppose one could call this a chowder.  It certainly has some milk (my preferred chowder base) in the broth. However, this recipe only uses 1 cup of milk, is thickened with a roux, and doesn’t have any bacon or salt pork in the recipe as traditional chowders do.

I do serve it with oyster crackers, though.

 

Note: In this example, I did use clam juice.  It has a fairly neutral flavor and is readily available.

If you do use a commercial seafood-based stock, be careful of how much salt you add.  Commercial stocks, especially seafood, can be salty.  Some of it is simply from the natural saltiness of the seafood and some is from the addition of salt during manufacturing.

 

The Ingredients. (Not pictured: Milk)

The Ingredients. (Not pictured: Milk)

From top left: salt, Old Bay, pepper, thyme

From top left: salt, Old Bay, pepper, thyme

2 tbsp. vegetable oil or butter

1 stalk celery, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)

1 small onion, finely diced (about 3/4 cup)

1 lb. Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes

2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tbsp. Old Bay Seasoning, or to taste

4 c. fish stock, shellfish stock, or clam juice (or, in a pinch, chicken broth or water)

4 tbsp. butter

4 tbsp. flour

1 1/2 pt. oysters (keep any oyster liquor [juice] – it will be added with the milk)

A beautiful oyster from Quality Seafood. I was assured by the fishmonger that the red was simply the color of the food they were filtering - not Red Tide.

A beautiful oyster from Quality Seafood Market. I was assured by the fishmonger that the red was simply the color of the food they were filtering – not Red Tide. It’s too cold for Red Tide in this hemisphere right now, anyway.

I generally remove the connective muscle from the oyster because I don't like the texture.  It's easy to remove; just pull it out. However, you can keep it in if you like.

The oyster with its connective muscle removed. I generally remove this from the oyster because I don’t like the texture. It’s easy to remove; just pull it out (try not to take too much of the oyster meat with it). However, you can keep it in if the texture doesn’t bother you. To see the muscle in the oyster, look at the above photo. It’s opaque and plastic-looking.

Juice of 1 lemon

1 c. milk or half-and-half

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter or heat the oil.  Add the celery and onion and saute until the vegetables are soft but not browned, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Sauteing the onion and celery.

Sauteing the onion and celery.

2.  Add the potatoes and continue sauteing just until the potatoes begin to warm up, about 3 – 5 minutes.

Adding the potatoes. While I generally don't like to use Russets in soups, they are the best potato to use for stews and chowders. It's their starchy quality.

Adding the potatoes. While I generally don’t like to use Russets in soups, they are the best potato to use for stews and chowders. It’s their starchy quality that just works for these dishes.

Add the thyme, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and the Old Bay Seasoning.  Stir until the vegetables are coated with the seasonings.

The spices and thyme added.

The spices and thyme added.

3.  Add the stock or broth.  Cover the saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil.  Once the liquid comes to a boil, uncover the saucepan, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes.

Adding the clam juice

Adding the clam juice

After about 20 minutes of boiling. The potaoes are just about done.

After about 20 minutes of boiling. The potatoes are just about done and the broth has thickened slightly.

4.  Meanwhile, make the roux.  In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the flour and stir until it is mixed thoroughly with the butter.  Stir over the heat for an additional 2 minutes.  Take the skillet off the heat and set aside.

Making the roux. You want to stop at a blonde roux.

Making the roux. You want to stop at a blonde roux.

5.  When the potatoes are done, add the roux, lemon juice, milk, and oysters (along with their liquor).  Continue cooking until the milk is heated through, the stew is thickened a bit more, and the oysters are cooked, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Adding the rest of the ingredients.

Adding the rest of the ingredients.

The stew has thickened up. Try not to let it come to a full rolling boil. A few bubbles on the surface is fine, but you run the risk of overcooking the oysters and curdling the milk if you let the stew boil.

The stew has thickened up. Try not to let it come to a full rolling boil. A few bubbles on the surface is fine, but you run the risk of overcooking the oysters and curdling the milk if you let the stew boil.

Taste for seasoning and serve with crackers.

Nothing like a nice stew on a cold night.

Nothing like a nice warm stew on a cold night.

 

Enjoy!

My Eating Locally Project 2015: February 0

Posted on February 28, 2015 by Sahar

Well, life kinda got in the way this month with illness and travel playing rather large parts.  So, my shopping month was a bit more truncated than I would’ve liked. But, one must roll with the (figurative) punches.

 

I really stayed with three places in February: Springdale FarmBoggy Creek Farm, and SFC Downtown Farmers Market.

There wasn’t a whole lot new this month. The winter produce is still coming in: root vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, dark greens, lettuces, and citrus. I’m certainly not complaining; I love my winter produce. But, I will say, I am looking forward to what the spring will be bringing.

I did expand a bit beyond just produce and bought some amazing meats and eggs. The meats were definitely splurge items. But, given the flavor and quality, the occasional outlay is worth it.

 

Wed., Feb 4.

For my first forays into the new month, I decided on two old familiars, Boggy Creek and Springdale Farms. I not only love both these places for the obvious reasons – fresh organic produce, fresh eggs & dairy, locally made products, homemade treats  – but also for the quiet they offer in a city growing way too fast.

My first stop was Boggy Creek Farm. Along with the produce, I stretched myself this time and splurged on some excellent lamb chops and eggs.

My haul from Boggy Creek: Eggs from Coyote Creek Farm, Lamb Chops from Loncitos, Maria's Brassica Salad, Baby Lettuce Mix, Romanesco

My haul from Boggy Creek: Eggs from Coyote Creek Farm, Lamb Chops from Loncito Cartwright, Maria’s Brassica Salad, Baby Lettuce Mix, Romanesco (Italian cauliflower)

Nothing like farm-fresh eggs.

Nothing like farm-fresh eggs. It said “large” on the carton. But, I swear some were jumbos.

Personally, I think Romanesco is one of the most beautiful vegetables .

Personally, I think Romanesco is one of the most beautiful vegetables .

More Romanesco. It grows thick and fast this time of year.

More Romanesco. It grows thick and fast this time of year.

The broccoli table.

The broccoli and cabbage table.

Jeweled carrots.

Jeweled carrots.

Boggy Creek's salad mixes.

Boggy Creek’s salad mixes.

Collards and Kale.

Collards and Kale.

FYI

FYI

Spring trying to sneak in.

Spring trying to sneak in.

Lettuces in the one of the fields at Boggy Creek.

Lettuces in the one of the fields at Boggy Creek.

 

My next destination was Springdale Farm. I didn’t buy quite as much there. They did have garlic chives again, though. Yea!

Even if I don’t buy much, I love to simply go to the farm and look around. It’s a great place to simply look at the farm, the chickens, and the yard art and meditate a little.

My haul from Springdale Farm: Beets, Savoy Cabbage, Garlic Chives

My haul from Springdale Farm: Beets, Savoy Cabbage, Garlic Chives

Radishes

Radishes, Savoy Cabbage, Frisee, Turnips, and flowers in jars.

Carrots galore.

Carrots galore.

Some of the fields and yard art at the farm.

Some of the fields and yard art at the farm.

Field of dill.

Rows of dill.

baby broccoli in the field.

baby broccoli in the field.

Looking to the back of the farmstand.

Looking to the back of the farm stand.

One of the other delights at Springdale is Eden East Restaurant. It’s a reservation-only, weekend-only restaurant. They use only locally sourced ingredients in their dishes.  As a result, no menu is the same week-to-week.

Admittedly, I haven’t eaten there yet. I’ve promised myself that I’ll make reservations for Husband & me soon. I know people who have eaten there and they all say the same thing – it’s an incredible experience.

By the way, it’s BYOB.

The kitchen and seating at Eden East.

The kitchen and seating at Eden East.

Love the stove.

Love the stove.

 

Sat., Feb. 14

In anticipation of Husband Steve coming home from a business trip, I headed out to the Downtown Farmers Market to stock up on a few groceries for the weekend.

It was still chilly, but certainly warmer than my last visit in January.  At least none of the vendors looked like they were going to freeze.

Starting to list my haul from SFC Market: Chicken from Smith & Smith Farms.

Chicken from Smith & Smith Farms. I hit a week where they didn’t have fresh chickens available. Still, this one was no more than a few days from the yard,

Phoenix Farms. I bought some gorgeous Brussels Sprouts here.

Phoenix Farms. I bought some gorgeous Brussels Sprouts here. Their produce was lovely.

Beautiful Brussels Sprouts.

Beautiful Brussels Sprouts. They comprised part of Saturday Night’s dinner.

The cruciferous vegetables at Phoenix Farms.

The broccoli, cauliflower, and Romanesco at Phoenix Farms.

Red Lettuce at Phoenix Farms.

Red Lettuce at Phoenix Farms.

Kitchen Pride Mushrooms. A brand many of us are familiar with.

Kitchen Pride Mushrooms. A brand many of us are familiar with.

Criminis. Always good.

Criminis. Always good.

One of my favorite stands - Johnson's Backyard Garden.

One of my favorite stands – Johnson’s Backyard Garden.

My haul from JBG: Collard Greens, Radishes, Sweet Potatoes, Rutabaga, Celery Root

My haul from JBG: Collard Greens, Radishes, Sweet Potatoes, Rutabaga, Celery Root. I was so happy; I rarely see celery root.

White and Gold Cauliflower. JBG.

White and Gold Cauliflower. JBG.

Rainbow of beets. JBG.

Rainbow of beets. JBG.

Wall of radishes. Try them roasted. JBG.

Wall of radishes. Try them roasted. JBG.

Rutabagas and Celery Root. Very underappreciated vegetables. JBG.

Rutabagas and Celery Root. Very underappreciated and underutilized vegetables. JBG.

Collards and sweet potatoes. A symbiotic relationship. JBG.

Collards and sweet potatoes. A symbiotic relationship. JBG.

This is quickly becoming another one of my favorite vendors - Countryside Farm.

This is quickly becoming another one of my favorite vendors – Countryside Farm. They specialize in pork and poultry and have some amazing artisan products.

Countryside Farm's stand. Beautiful artisan products.

Countryside Farm’s stand. Beautiful artisan products. They’re definitely a splurge.

Cheddar & Jalapeno Sausage. Countryside Farm.

Cheddar & Jalapeno Sausage. Countryside Farm. It was delicious.

Fresh Lard. Just because. Countryside Farm.

Fresh Lard. Just because. Countryside Farm.

Breakfast at Tamale Addiction.

Breakfast at Tamale Addiction.

Pork Pastor with Pineapple Tamales. They were delicious.

Pork Pastor with Pineapple Tamales. They were delicious. And big. Two was more than enough.

And, dinner that night…

Valentine's Dinner, if you will:

Valentine’s Dinner, if you will: Roast Chicken; Roasted Radishes, Rutabaga, Celery Root, and Brussels Sprouts; Simple White Rice

 

Wed., Feb, 25

For my final shopping trip, I went back to the old reliables, Boggy Creek and Springdale.  A lovely day, weather-wise, it was not. Every time I stepped out of the car it seemed to be colder.

My first stop this time was Springdale. They were bringing everything back into the farm stand from under a tent in the yard. I guess they just finished a cooking demo or a photo shoot.

Spring is trying to make an appearance.

Spring is trying to make an appearance. I promise, those flowers are purple.

Rose in the foreground, kale in the garden.

Rose in the foreground, kale in the garden.

Fennel,

Fennel, lettuce, oranges, carrots, beets

Green Garlic. I never used it before. I bought some anyway.

Green Garlic. I never used it before. I bought some anyway.

A big bin of green onions.

A big bin of green onions.

Some very pretty posies. Paula said what farm they were from, but I forgot the name.

Some very pretty posies. Paula said what farm they were from, but I forgot the name. I think she said the farm would be selling this vendor’s flowers come spring. So, there’s that.

One of Springdale Farm's chickens. The speckled hen is lovely in her own way.

One of Springdale Farm’s chickens. The speckled hen is lovely in her own way.

Some new additions to the henhouse. Paula told me these chicks are 2 weeks old. She had them in a warm room.

Some new additions to the hen house. Paula told me these chicks are 2 weeks old. She had them in a warm room next to the coop.

As Paula and I were talking about the chickens, I told her that I could watch them for hours. She replied, “We have them for three reasons: eggs, fertilizer, and as the entertainment committee.”

Excellent.

My Springdale haul: Green Garlic, Garlic Chives, Grapefruit, Chard, Mixed Baby Lettuce

My Springdale haul: Green Garlic, Garlic Chives, Grapefruit, Chard, Baby Lettuce Mix

After Springdale, I headed the roughly half mile over the Boggy Creek. While I didn’t take any photos in the farm stand that day, I did do some wandering around the grounds and took some there.

Red Lettuce growing next to the parking lot. I have to say, Carol Ann & Larry have a lot of faith in their customers not driving into the field.

Red Lettuce growing next to the parking lot. I have to say, Carol Ann & Larry have a lot of faith in their customers not driving into the field.

Frisee in a row.

Green puffs of frisee in a row.

Some lovely red lettuce.

Some lovely red lettuce. Ignore the hose.

One of my favorite spots at Boggy Creek. The bench looking at the fields. When the vines are flowering, it's gorgeous.

One of my favorite spots at Boggy Creek. The bench looking at the fields. When the vines are flowering, it’s gorgeous.

Fields of

Fields of broccoli (I think)

Some of Boggy Creek's chickens.

Some of Boggy Creek’s always busy chickens.

Boggy Creek haul, part one: Dine Kale, Brassica Salad, Sweet Poataoes

Boggy Creek haul, part one: Dino Kale, Brassica Salad, Sweet Potatoes

New York Strip from Deer Run Longhorns and ground lamb from Loncinto's Lamb

Boggy Creek haul, part two: New York Strip from Deer Run Longhorns and ground lamb from Loncinto’s Lamb

Cocao Hull Cocoa Powder from Organicare Farms.

Cocao Hull Cocoa Powder from Organicare Farms. I’ve never used this before, so I’m interested to see how it works and tastes. It smells divine, just like good chocolate should.

And, so… On to March.

******************************

As promised in January, here are two recipes using ingredients that I bought at the markets and stands this month.

 

Shrimp, cauliflower, ginger, garlic, and lime all have a natural flavor affinity with each other. So, I came up with this dish.  If you don’t have garlic chives, just substitute 2 – 3 cloves of minced garlic and add it to the skillet when you saute the ginger and shallot.

 

Apologies for the lack of pictures with this recipe. The taking of photos was pretty much an afterthought that night.  Not sure why.

 

Shrimp & Romanesco

4 tbsp. olive oil, divided

1 head Romanesco, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/4 c. water or broth

1 tbsp. ginger, minced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

2 lb. large shrimp, peeled & deveined

2 tbsp. garlic chives

Lime juice to taste

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  In a large skillet over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, saute the Romanesco for 5 minutes.  Add the water or broth, cover the skillet, lower the heat to medium, and steam the Romanesco until it is slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.

2.  Take the cover off the skillet and continue cooking until the Romanesco has started to brown in spots.  Take it out of the skillet and set aside.

Cooking the Romanesco

Cooking the Romanesco

3.  Turn the heat back up to medium-high, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil to the skillet and heat.  Saute the ginger and shallot until the shallot is soft, 2 – 3 minutes.

4.  Add the shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are opaque and pink, about 7 – 10 minutes.

Cooking the shrimp.

Cooking the shrimp. Be sure not to let it overcook.

Add back in the Romanesco, chives, lime juice, and salt & pepper.  Cook another 2 – 3 minutes. taste for seasoning.

Everything back in the skillet.

Everything back in the skillet.

Serve with white or brown rice.

Dinner is served.

Dinner is served.

 

 

 

This is a recipe that is a nod to my German half.

Again, looking at flavor affinities, apples, carrots, and cabbage all work well together. The anise of the caraway and tang of the vinegar are what gives this dish its German pedigree.

Plus, this slaw is great with pork.  Very German.

 

Warm Cabbage & Apple Slaw

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

4 tbsp. butter or grapeseed oil

1/2 tsp. caraway seeds

1 small Savoy cabbage, about 1 lb., shredded (in this example, I have 2 heads. They were very small and added up to 1 lb. together)

The shredded cabbage. It's easy to do: just cut the cabbage in half, and, with the cut side down, thinly slice the cabbage. Instant shreds.

The shredded cabbage. It’s easy to do: just cut the cabbage in half, and, with the cut side down, thinly slice the cabbage. Instant shreds.

2 tsp. brown sugar

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4’s, and sliced into 1/4″ thick slices

1 lg. carrot, grated

Apples and cabbage ready for the skillet.

Apples and cabbage ready for the skillet.

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar, or to taste

salt & pepper to taste

 

 

1.  In a large skillet, either melt the butter or heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the caraway seeds and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Cooking the caraway seeds in the butter.

Cooking the caraway seeds in the butter.

2.  Add the cabbage, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook until the cabbage is slightly wilted, about 7 – 10 minutes.

Cooking down the cabbage.  I like to use Savoy cabbage in this recipe because it cooks down fairly quickly and has a lighter flavor than regular green cabbage. I love green cabbage, but not for this dish.

Cooking down the cabbage. I like to use Savoy cabbage in this recipe because it cooks down fairly quickly and has a lighter flavor than regular green cabbage. I love green cabbage, but not for this dish.  I find it a little too bitter. I’ve not tried Napa Cabbage.

3.  Add the apples, carrot, apple cider vinegar, and a good pinch of pepper.  Cook until the cabbage and apples are soft but still has some bite.  Taste for seasoning.

Everything in the skillet. This is after about 10 minutes of cooking. The apples and cabbage are soft, but still with some bite.

Everything in the skillet. This is after about 10 minutes of cooking. The apples and cabbage are soft, but still with some bite.

 

I served this with the Cheddar & Jalapeno Sausage from

I served this with the Cheddar & Jalapeno Sausage from Countryside Farms. Husband Steve was a very happy man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy Rocky Road Fudge 0

Posted on February 10, 2015 by Sahar

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner (if you’re into that sort of thing), chocolate, while certainly always the culinary rage, takes on a special significance right now for a variety of reasons. So, here is recipe you can make for your beloved (or even just well-liked) that’s easy & quick. Plus, you won’t look like one of those crazed and desperate people rushing around the grocery store picking over the remains at 7pm on The Day.

And, hey, let’s admit it. That resolution to lose weight didn’t last past the 3rd week of January.  If it has, congratulations.  Keep it up.  But let yourself indulge on this one day.

Fudge is an American invention. According to some food historians, the invention of fudge can be dated to February 14, 1886; however, the exact origin and inventor are disputed. Most stories claim that the first batch of fudge resulted from an accident with a bungled (“fudged”) batch of caramels, when the sugar was allowed to recrystallize; hence the name from the interjection, “Oh fudge!”

One of the first documentations of fudge is in a letter written by Emelyn Battersby Hartridge, then a student at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. She wrote that a schoolmate’s cousin made fudge in Baltimore in 1886 and sold it for 40 cents a pound. She obtained the recipe, and in 1888, made 30 pounds of it for the Vassar Senior Auction. Word of the confection spread to other women’s colleges. Wellesley and Smith developed their own versions of this “original” fudge recipe.

The original fudge recipes were famously delicate: Precise measurements, cooking time and constant stirring were crucial for perfect fudge. The recipe looks simple—heat a mixture of sugar, butter and milk or cream to the soft-ball stage (224°-238°F), then beat it to a smooth, creamy consistency while it cools.

The “Original” Fudge Recipe

From Emelyn B. Hartridge of Vassar College:

  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup cream
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Combine sugar and cream and cook over moderate heat. When this becomes very hot, add the chocolate. Stir constantly. Cook until mixture reaches soft-ball stage (234°-238°F). Remove from heat and add butter. Cool slightly, then mix until fudge starts to thicken. Transfer to a buttered tin. Cut into diamond-shaped pieces before fudge hardens completely.

Because of the difficulty and time needed for the “old school” fudge recipes, “foolproof” recipes were developed for the home cook that included corn syrup, which prevents crystallization and produces smooth fudge. Later recipes substituted sweetened condensed milk, marshmallow creme, or other ingredients for the milk/cream that were better guarantees of a perfect fudge texture.

(source: www.thenibble.com Karen Hochman)

I have gone with a simpler, or “new school” recipe here. I know that some of the more traditional candy makers view these types of recipes with no small amount of skepticism, but it is quick & easy and a perfect gateway to the wider world of candy making.

A few notes:

1.  In this post, I used semisweet chocolate chips. Chips save me the hassle of chopping the chocolate and they’re a bit easier to work with.  If you do decide to use regular chopped chocolate, be aware that it will behave differently than the chips.  Because of the way chips are made – with milk and emulsifiers – the fudge won’t harden (it will become firm, just not as firm as if you use chopped chocolate) the same way or as quickly once it’s been taken off the heat after melting as it will with regular chopped chocolate from a bar.  So, there is less room for error if you use chopped semisweet chocolate. Chips are a little more forgiving; which is good if you’ve never made candy before.

2.  You can use milk chocolate chips in this recipe if you like but the fudge will take a little longer to set up.  If you want to use bittersweet, do a mix of semi- and bittersweet.  Bittersweet chocolate will be too dry to use on its own and won’t give you the chewy texture you’re looking for. (Despite the fact chocolate does form a liquid when melted, it is considered a dry ingredient. The higher the cocoa solid content, the drier the chocolate.)

3.  My own personal preference, nut-wise, is for roasted unsalted almonds.  You can use whatever you like or even a variety.  If you like to use salted nuts, go for it.

4.  Sweetened condensed milk: do not use 2%.  With the chocolate, butter, and marshmallows, I don’t know why you would anyway.

5.  Marshmallows.  If you are following either halal (Muslim), kosher (Judaism), or vegetarian diets, there is a marshmallow for you. Otherwise, good old Kraft marshmallows are fine.

6.  Be sure to stir constantly when melting the chocolate.  You don’t want it to sit too long without stirring because it will burn very easily.  Also, make sure the heat stays at medium.  Low and slow is the key here.  You just want to get everything hot enough for the chocolate to melt.  (If you are nervous about melting the chocolate over direct heat, put the chocolate, milk, butter, and salt into a medium bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water to make a double boiler.  Stir frequently just until the chocolate melts.  It will take longer, but the chocolate won’t burn.  Be sure to wipe off the bottom of the bowl as you take it off the boiler so you don’t get any water in the fudge.)

7.  When you take the fudge out of the pan, there may be a thin film of spray on the bottom and on the sides of the edge pieces.  I get rid of that by placing the fudge on paper towels for a few minutes.  Works like a charm.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

12 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped or chips

2 tbsp. butter

1 can sweetened condensed milk

Pinch salt

1 tsp. almond or vanilla extract

1 10-oz. package miniature marshmallows

1 1/2 c. lightly roasted almonds (or any nut you prefer), either left whole or roughly chopped

 

1.  Line a medium baking dish with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  Set aside.  Pour the marshmallows into a large bowl and set aside.  Pour the almonds into a medium bowl and set aside.

Mini marshmallows in the bowl.  You can also find Kosher, Halal, or vegetarian marshmallows if Kraft just won't do.

Mini marshmallows in the bowl. You can also find Kosher, Halal, or vegetarian marshmallows if Kraft just won’t do.

2.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix together the chocolate, condensed milk, butter, and salt.

Chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, butter, and salt.

Chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, butter, and salt ready for glory.

Stir constantly just until the chocolate is melted, the ingredients are well combined, and the mixture is smooth.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the extract.

You just want to heat the ingredients until the choclate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  You don't want the fudge to become too hot or take a chance on the chocolate scorching.

You just want to heat the ingredients until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. You don’t want the fudge to become too hot or take a chance on the chocolate scorching.

3. Pour the fudge into the bowl with the almonds and mix together thoroughly.

Fudge and almonds. I like to mix in the almonds at this stage because they will be more evenly distributed and they help to cool the fudge.

Fudge and almonds. I like to mix in the almonds at this stage because they will be more evenly distributed and they help to cool the fudge.

Continue stirring almost constantly for about 5 minutes.  This will help dissipate the heat and keep the fudge from setting up.  When the bottom of the bowl feels comfortably warm (essentially body temperature), it has cooled sufficiently.

4.  Pour the fudge-almond mixture into the marshmallows and mix thoroughly.

Uh... Yeah.

At this point, the fudge should be cooled enough for the marshmallows to be stirred in but not melted or melting.

Ready for the pan.

Ready for the pan.

5.  Pour the fudge into the prepared baking pan, spread evenly, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.  When the fudge is set, cut into 2″ pieces.  It will keep in an airtight container for about a week.

Uh... Yeah.

Uh… Yeah.

 

Enjoy!

My Eating Locally Project 2015: January 0

Posted on January 30, 2015 by Sahar

Shopping locally at Austin’s farmers markets and farm stands is a project I’ve been telling myself to undertake for quite some time.

I’m doing this for a few “want” reasons:

1.  I want my husband & I to eat healthier.  We’re well into middle age and we need to be more cognizant of what we put into our bodies. It’s not that we eat badly; it’s that we can always eat better. (This is not to say occasional indulgence is off the table.)

2.  I want to teach myself to cook more seasonally. Like most people, I simply go to the store and grab whatever’s there, regardless of the season.  Cooking more seasonally will force me to be more creative in the kitchen.  That’s fine by me.

3.  I want to support local farmers, ranchers, and vendors.  The food is better, safer, you know where it comes from, and shopping locally is good for the environment. Less carbon footprint along with encouraging organically raised produce and meat.

 

This is most definitely a project that will be evolving over the year (and, hopefully, beyond).  Right now, I’ll just visit in-town (Austin) markets and farm stands.  As time goes on, I’ll travel further afoot, but always within a 50-mile radius so I can make meals at home with the largest variety of local options. The exception will be if I am traveling out of town for whatever reason.  I’ll plan on looking around any markets in those towns and posting them as a travelogue.

The other thing (as one of my sisters pointed out to me) is that I should post recipes of everything I make from what I buy. Since I missed the obvious here, I don’t have any recipes for January.  But, I will starting in February.  I did take pictures of some of the meals I made, though.

While thinking about the markets and stands I was going to patronize, I thought about the ones I know best and/or have heard about the most: SFC Market in downtown Austin, Hope Farmers MarketBoggy Creek Farm, and Springdale Farm.  They’re all excellent markets and stands with a wide variety of not just produce, but also locally made baked goods, local artisan products, locally legendary homemade treats, and locally sourced organic meat.  Not all of the places I’ve visited have everything I’ve listed here, but you’ll be happy with what you find.

A note: I decided that when I shop at the markets and stands, I wouldn’t buy any more perishables than I could cook in 2 meals (unless I can freeze them – like meat). Shopping at these markets and stands can cost a little more than the local grocery store (but worth it), so I choose not to buy too much so I can make sure the food doesn’t spoil before I cook it. I’m not too keen on wasting food or money.

SFC Farmers Market, January 3

I went to my first farmers market of the year early (they open at 9).  My general strategy for going early is to avoid the crowds and to potentially get the best of what’s available.

 

Most of my booty from the market. Sourdough Wheat Bread, Turnips, Sorrel, Maroon Carrots, Brussels Sprouts, Comb Honey, Dark Chocolate Salted Amond Bar, Dark Chocolate CinnaNib Bar.  More to come.

Most of my haul from the market. Sourdough Wheat Bread, Turnips, Sorrel, Maroon Carrots, Brussels Sprouts, Comb Honey, Dark Chocolate Salted Almond Bar, Dark Chocolate CinnaNib Bar.

Sourdough wheat from Texas French Bread.

Sourdough wheat from Texas French Bread.

The chocoalte bars came from Cocoa Puro Chocolate. These poor ladies were freezing.

The chocolate bars came from Cocoa Puro. These poor ladies were freezing.

A few of the other early risers.

A few of the other early risers.

Some of the beautiful produce from Tecolote Farm.

Some of the beautiful produce from Tecolote Farm.

Turnips and Sorrel from Tecolote Farm.

Turnips and Sorrel from Tecolote Farm.

Turnips. A most underrated vegetable.

Turnips. A most underrated vegetable.

This stand simply blew me away. Johnson's Backyard Garden.

This stand simply blew me away. Johnson’s Backyard Garden. I only bought two items from them; but I could’ve bought a whole lot more.

Maroon Carrots and Brussels Sprouts from JBG.

Maroon Carrots and Brussels Sprouts from JBG.

Personally, I thought I showed remarkable restraint in the face of temptation.

Personally, I thought I showed remarkable restraint in the face of temptation.

Just... Wow.

Just… Wow.

Comb Honey from Austin Honey Company. As we all know, eating local honey daily will help with allergies. It takes time, but it does work.

Comb Honey from Austin Honey Company. As we all know, eating local honey daily will help with allergies. It takes time, but it does work. Next time, I’ll buy some candles, too.

Whole chicken from Smith & Smith Farms

Whole chicken from Smith & Smith Farms

Here's my chicken. A beautiful 3-pound fryer. It was delicious. And tasted like chicken, not styrofoam.

Here’s my chicken. A beautiful 3-pound fryer. It actually tasted like chicken. Just like Nannie used to cook.

The backdrop.

The backdrop.

The menu at The Zubik House food truck. Amazing artisinal kolaches.

The menu at The Zubik House food truck. Amazing artisanal kolaches.

Breakfast from Zubik House: Apple, Bacon & Brie; Chorizo & Oaxaca Cheese; Boudin

Breakfast from The Zubik House: Apple, Bacon & Brie; Chorizo & Oaxaca Cheese; Boudin. Husband’s only complaint – not enough chorizo.

DInner: Citrus Chicken, Honey Braised Turnips & Carrots, Sauteed Turnip Greens.

Dinner: Citrus Chicken, Honey Braised Turnips & Carrots, Sauteed Turnip Greens.

 

Wednesday, January 7

I went to one of my favorite places in Austin, Springdale Farm. It’s a beautiful place that I just don’t visit often enough. Owners Glenn and Paula Foore are simply great people who have weathered many storms to make their farm a success.

The chicken coop. I could stand there and watch them for hours.

The chicken coop. I could stand there and watch them for hours.

Chickens!

Chickens enjoying their produce.

As I recall, it was going to freeze that night, so the fields are covered as a precaution.

As I recall, it was going to freeze that night, so the fields are covered as a precaution.

When I arrived, there was a large tour at the farm that morning. They bought a lot of produce before I got there, so there wasn’t as much for me to buy. Good for the Foores, not so much for me. But, I still managed to find some wonderful produce.

My haul: Purple Cauliflower, Red Chard, Savoy Cabbage, Grapefruit, Baby Arugula

My haul: Purple Cauliflower, Red Chard, Savoy Cabbage, Grapefruit, Baby Arugula.

Smoked Pepper Blend. Its got a kick.

Smoked Pepper Mix. Its got a kick.

The chalkboard so you can see what's available.

The chalkboard so you can see what’s available.

Cabbage, fennel

Cabbage, fennel, kale, and other assorted greens.

Purple cauliflower.

Purple cauliflower.

FYI...

FYI…

Dinner: Smoked Pepper Mix & Lemon Thyme Pot Roast; Arugula, Spinach & Graprfruit salad, Sauteed Chard

Dinner: Smoked Pepper Mix & Lemon Thyme Rubbed Pot Roast; Arugula, Spinach & Grapefruit Salad, Sauteed Chard

 

Sunday, January 11

Hope Farmers Market is one I have heard about for a long time but never visited.  My friend Phil is a volunteer at the market and has been encouraging me to stop by.  It’s a smaller market at Plaza Saltillo in east Austin with, like the SFC Farmers Market, a variety of vendors.

There weren’t too many people at the market when I arrived.  It was a cold, damp morning; so, that, no doubt, kept many people inside or they waited until later to come out.

A quiet morning a the market.

A quiet morning a the market.

As a bonus that morning, Austin Dog Rescue was having a sort-of open house. Lots of very sweet dogs ready for adoption.  If my husband and I were in the market for a dog, I certainly would’ve taken a closer look.

All kinds of dogs up for adoption.

All kinds of dogs up for adoption.

I didn’t buy too much at Hope.  I still had produce left over from earlier in the week and didn’t want to take a chance on not preparing it before it went bad.

But, I did get some great bread and protein.

My haul: Chorizo, Beef Marrow Butter, Nine-Grain Bread

My haul: Chorizo, Beef Marrow Butter, Nine-Grain Bread

Nine-Grain Bread from Easy Tiger. If you go to their 6th Street Location, they have a great beer garden with an extensive menu.

Nine-Grain Bread from Easy Tiger. If you go to their East 6th Street Location, they have a great beer garden with an extensive menu.

Chorizo and Beef Marrow Butter from Countryside Farm.

Chorizo and Beef Marrow Butter from Countryside Farms.

Fresh Eggs from Countryside Farms. I didn't buy any.  Maybe next time.

Fresh Eggs from Countryside Farms. I didn’t buy any. Maybe next time.

A view down Comal Street.

A view down Plaza Saltillo. Comal Street.

One of my new favorite trucks: Rosarito's

One of my new favorite trucks: Rosarito Taco Truck

The famous Octopork Tacos. I bought 4 for lunch. Total overkill, but I couldn't resist.

The famous Octopork Tacos. I bought 4 for lunch. Total overkill, but I couldn’t resist.

Dinner: Chorizo; Warm Cabbage-Apple Slaw

Dinner: Chorizo; Warm Cabbage-Apple Slaw

 

Wednesday, January 22

After taking off for a few days for teaching and travel, I once again headed towards east Austin to my favorite farm stands: Boggy Creek and Springdale Farms.

Boggy Creek Farm is one of the oldest urban market farms in the country. It was established in 1992 by Carol Ann Sayle and Larry Butler.  They are two of the loveliest people you could ever meet.  Larry’s homemade condiments are legendary in Austin. Especially his Smoked Dried Tomatoes. He can’t keep up with the demand.

Boggy Creek Farm

A small section of Boggy Creek Farm. Gorgeous.

Boggy Creek's chickens. They come to the coop fence to greet you.

Boggy Creek’s chickens. They come to the coop fence to greet you.

This girl decided to sneak out and follow me around.

This girl decided to sneak out and follow me around.

My haul: From Boggy Creek - Purple and Yellow Carrots; Sweet Potatoes; Dino Kale; Maria's Brassica Salad; Larry's Smoked Dried Tomatoes; Pork Loin Chops from Peaceful Pork.  From Springdale Farm - Red Beets; Garlic Chives (I was really excited about those. They're so much better than regular chives.)

My haul: From Boggy Creek – Purple and Yellow Carrots; Sweet Potatoes; Dino Kale; Maria’s Brassica Salad; Larry’s Smoked Dried Tomatoes; Pork Loin Chops from Peaceful Pork. From Springdale Farm – Red Beets; Garlic Chives (I was really excited about those. They’re so much better than regular chives.)

Inside Boggy Creek's farm stand.

Inside Boggy Creek’s farm stand. Greens, root vegetables, salad mixes, and Larry’s treats abound. They also carry meat and dairy products from local vendors as well as eggs from their own chickens. The lady working the stand told me that carrot tops were edible. Honestly, I had never given them any thought. So, when I made dinner that night, I cut off the tips and added them to the salad. Revelation attained.

The bulk salad bins at Boggy Creek.

The bulk salad bins at Boggy Creek.

Boggy Creek Farm Stand on a chilly, damp morning.

Boggy Creek Farm Stand on a chilly, damp morning.

After finishing at Boggy Creek, I headed over to Springdale Farm.  I was there about 5 minutes, so I didn’t take any photos.

Dinner: Cumin Marinated Chicken Breast, Smoked Dried Tomato Rice, Brassica Salad with Bacon and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Dinner: Cumin Marinated Chicken Breast, Smoked Dried Tomato Rice, Brassica Salad with Bacon and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Next night's dinner: Pork Loin Chops (these come from heritage pigs, so they have a substantial amount of fat. But, they also have flavor.), Baked Sweet Potatoes, Sauteed Beet & Dino Kale.

Next night’s dinner: Pork Loin Chops (these come from heritage pigs so they have a substantial amount of fat; they also have substantial flavor), Baked Sweet Potatoes, Sauteed Beet Greens & Dino Kale.

Looking forward to February!

 

 

Vegetable Stock (or Broth) 1

Posted on January 22, 2015 by Sahar

One of my goals for 2015 (I don’t like the word “resolution”) is to keep up with my stock making. So, in the spirit of that goal, I’m sharing with you my own stock recipes.

I’ve already posted (some time ago) a recipe for Chicken Stock,  so I am moving on to the next one on my list, Vegetable Stock.  Next to chicken, it’s the stock I use the most.

 

As a kind of reminder from my Chicken Stock post, here is a little reiteration:

While a good sauce or gravy can cover up many sins in the kitchen, the sauce or gravy needs to taste just that much better.  So, if you’re using bad stock, there is nothing you can do to hide that.

The words “stock” and “broth” are generally used interchangeably. Because, well, they’re almost exactly the same thing.

According to “The New Food Lover’s Companion, 4th Ed.” (Herbst & Herbst, 2007):

“Stock is the strained liquid that comes from cooking meat or fish (with bones), vegetables, and other seasonings in water to extract their flavors.”

“Broth a liquid that comes from cooking vegetables, meat or fish, and seasonings in water.”

Basically, the difference between the two is one of use or intent. “Broth” is what you end up with at the end of cooking the ingredients; “Stock” is what you use to cook with.  Other definitions will say that a “Stock” is always made with bones while a “Broth” isn’t.  And, indeed, there is a very different “mouth feel “(a technical term used by chefs to describe taste and texture of an ingredient) between the two.

But, again, whatever you term it, a stock or broth can make or break a recipe.  A good stock will enhance; a bad stock will ruin.  There’s no hiding it.

 

There are a few rules when making vegetable stock:

1.  Don’t use potatoes.  They will make the stock starchy and cloudy.

2. Don’t use cruciferous vegetables (i.e. cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts). They will be too strong.

3. Don’t use artichokes or rosemary.  See above.

4.  Don’t use bitter greens (i.e. dandelion, mustard).  Again, see above.

5.  Don’t use vegetables where the color can leach out (i.e. beets).  They will, of course, color the stock.

6.  Do use seasonal vegetables.  Depending on the season, you can have a stock that is more savory or sweet.

7.  You can use scraps.  Just save them in a large zip bag and keep them in the refrigerator or freezer (depending on how quickly you think you’ll fill the bag).

8.  Make sure your produce, whether you use fresh or scraps, is clean.  This should be common sense, but, sometimes, common sense tends to take a vacation.

9.  You don’t need to peel your vegetables. You’d be surprised how much flavor they add.

10.  Always be sure to add some extra seasonings.  The most common is a “Bouquet Garni”: parsley, thyme, bay leaves.

11.  If you can, use filtered water.  If not, at least make sure you start with cold water from the tap.

 

This stock recipe is a very basic stock that I use frequently.  Depending on the season, or my mood, I’ll add different vegetables like corn, kale, fennel, or tomatillo (yes, I know, it’s technically a fruit).  Instead of leeks, I’ll add onions instead.

While I don’t add salt to my recipe, many people do.  If you decide to add salt, be careful with the quantity.  I’ve seen some recipes where people will also add wine and/or Parmesan rinds.  It is completely up to you what you’d like to add.

If you like, you can also brown your vegetables either by roasting or sauteing with a little pure olive oil (not extra virgin – too strong) or an unflavored oil (canola, grapeseed) before adding the water.  I’ve done this a few times, and it’s great.  It gives the stock a deeper, almost sweeter, flavor.  However, I didn’t brown the vegetables for this post.

 

Again, here is what I typically use as a base stock.  You can add, substitute, or subtract as you prefer.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The seasonings: Parsley, dried bay leaves, fresh thyme, black peppercorns

The seasonings: parsley, dried bay leaves, fresh thyme, black peppercorns

 

2 large leeks, white and green parts

Bringing home the fact that you must clean the vegetables. Leeks are notorious for hidden dirt.

Bringing home the fact that you must clean the vegetables. Leeks are notorious for hidden dirt.

The many layers of leeks. Cut these down and wash them thoroughly.

The many layers of leeks. Cut these down and wash them thoroughly.

1 lb. tomatoes, seeded

1 lb. carrots

1 lb. parsnips or turnips (if you do use turnips, be sure to peel them; the peels can be bitter)

3 stalks celery (leaves and all)

1 green bell pepper, seeded

2 red bell peppers, seeded

6 cloves garlic, crushed

Leave the skin on the garlic. You're going to strain the stock anyway.

Leave the skin on the garlic. You’re going to strain the stock anyway.

15 whole black peppercorns

3 bay leaves, either fresh or dried

6 – 8 sprigs thyme

1/2 bunch parsley, curly or flat

The bouquet garni. This is the old-school way of making one: wrapping the parsley, bay leaves, and thyme in 2 leek leaves.  You can also tie the bouquet garni into a cheesecloth or just add the ingredients to the stock without tying.

The bouquet garni. This is the old-school way of making one: wrapping the parsley, bay leaves, and thyme in 2 leek leaves. You can also tie the bouquet garni into a cheesecloth or just add the ingredients to the stock without tying at all; leave them loose.

 

1.  Prepare the vegetables by cleaning, peeling (if needed), seeding, and cutting down into large pieces.  (If you are using scraps, skip this step; except for the cleaning part).

The vegetables ready for the stockpot.

The vegetables ready for the stockpot.

2.  Put the vegetables in a large stockpot (at least 3-gallon), add the bouquet garni ingredients and the peppercorns, and 2 gallons (32 cups) water.

Vegetables in the stockpot.

Vegetables in the stockpot.

3.  Cover the stockpot and bring the water to a boil over high heat.  Then, remove the lid, turn the heat down to low, and let the stock simmer for 3 – 4 hours.  Add water as needed if it gets too low. (Generally with 2 gallons starting volume, I almost never need to add water; but, it does depend on your preference and how fast your stove cooks.)

The stock simmering.

The stock simmering.

4.  After 3 – 4 hours, take the stockpot off the heat and let it cool a bit before straining.  Alternately, if you have the space (my husband and I have a refrigerator in our outbuilding), cover the stockpot and place it in your refrigerator overnight.  The stock will get cold and the vegetables will steep a little longer.  Then, you can strain it the next day.

The stock and vegetables after sitting overnight in the refrigerator. Whether you do this or not is up to you.

The stock and vegetables after sitting overnight in the refrigerator. Whether you do this or not is up to you.

5.  Place a large colander over a larger bowl (or a large saucepan or stockpot).  Very carefully pour the stock and vegetables out of the stockpot into the colander (pour carefully and slowly; you don’t want to lose any stock through spillage or overflow).  Use a second bowl if necessary.

Press down on the vegetables to extract as much of the liquid as possible.  However, don’t press so hard that you end up pressing vegetables through the colander (they’ll be very soft) and making the stock cloudy.

The pressed vegetables. They have nothing left to give except to my compost.

The drained and pressed vegetables. They have nothing left to give except to my compost.

At this point, you can strain the stock a second time by passing it though a fine strainer to catch anything that passed through the colander. (I always do so I can have as clear a stock as possible.)

The finished stock.

The finished stock.

 

You can (and I generally do) place the stock back on the stove and cook it down even more to concentrate the flavors.  So, for example, I start off with 2 gallons of water and end up with 1 gallon of finished stock.

I will store/freeze the stock in quart-sized zip bags (I usually use 4 cups at a time).  However, use whatever size bag or storage container you prefer.  Remember, however, do not fill your storage container or bag to the brim.  Liquid expands as it freezes; so, if you fill it to the brim, either the bag will burst or the lid will come off the container and you’ll end up with a mess.

Oh yeah, be sure that the bags are completely zipped closed and/or the lids are tight on the storage containers. I’ve made that mistake before.

If you have the room in your freezer, lay the bags of stock on a sheet pan and place it on one of the racks.  When the stock is frozen, take the bags off the sheet pan and stack them.  Don't freeze the bags directly on the racks; you run the risk of the bags freezing around the racks and making them difficult to remove later.

If you have the room in your freezer, lay the bags of stock on a sheet pan and place it on one of the racks. When the stock is frozen, take the bags off the sheet pan and stack them. Don’t freeze the bags directly on the racks; you run the risk of the bags freezing around the racks and making them difficult to remove later.  Of course, if you are using rigid containers instead, just be sure they are stacked on a flat, even surface.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Lemon Curd 0

Posted on January 13, 2015 by Sahar

For me, winter is the best time of the year to make Lemon Curd. Why? you ask? Because winter is when I can find Meyer Lemons at the store. While I can certainly make lemon curd with regular lemons, I find Meyer Lemons have just the right mix of tart and sweet that take this lovely confectionary spread to the next level.

Meyer Lemons were grown in China for centuries and were introduced in the US in 1908 by F.N. Meyer.  Botanists believe it is a cross between a lemon and an orange.  It is generally larger, juicier, and less acidic than regular lemons.  They are usually available from fall through early spring, with their peak season during the winter.

A Meyer Lemon (l) and a standard lemon (r).

A Meyer Lemon (l) and a standard lemon (r).

IMG_2863

Regular Lemon (l) and Meyer Lemon (r)

 

Now, wait, you may be saying. What is exactly Lemon Curd?

First, there are two types of curd:

1.  Curd solids from milk.  These solids are formed when rennet (or another acid) is used to separate the milk solids from the liquid (whey) during the cheese making process.

2.  A sweet creamy spread that consists of (usually) citrus juice, egg yolks, sugar, and butter.  It can be made with other fruit such as berries.

 

A curd is a type of sauce called an emulsion.  The simplest explanation for this comes from The New Food Lover’s Companion:  “A mixture of one liquid with another with which it cannot normally combine smoothly. Emulsifying is done by slowly adding one ingredient to another while at the same time mixing rapidly (usually whisking). This disperses and suspends tiny droplets of one liquid throughout the other.  Emulsified mixtures are usually thick and satiny in texture.”  Mayonnaise, vinaigrette, hollandaise, and bearnaise are all examples of emulsion sauces.

 

A few notes:

1.  You can make this with regular lemons.  Find lemons that feel heavy for their size.  The final product will be more tart, but you can add some sugar to taste if you like after the curd is finished.

2.  The best way to go about this is low and slow.  If you show any impatience or lack of attention, you could easily over cook the curd and end up with sweet scrambled eggs.

3.  Always have extra bowls on the side in case you need to move your curd to a cool, clean bowl.

4.  Having an instant-read thermometer will come in handy.  You want the curd to come to about 160F.  It will be fully cooked at this point without scrambling the eggs (that is, if you are careful).

5.  When using the double-boiler, the boiling water should never touch the bottom of the bowl.  This will cause the eggs to cook too quickly.

6.  You can make lemon curd into a preserve: Fill a half-pint jar with a 1/2″ head space and process the jars for 15 minutes.  Take the canning pot off the heat and leave the jars in the hot water for a further 10 minutes, then take the jars out of the water, and place them on racks to cool and seal. Because of the nature of the curd, however, the texture will change during the processing, and it will only have a shelf life of 2 – 3 months because of the high dairy content.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The lemon zest. I sue a Microplane for mine. If you don't have a Microplane, just very finely mince the zest.

The lemon zest. I use a Microplane for mine. If you don’t have a Microplane, just very finely mince the zest.

 

3 egg yolks, room temperature

1 whole egg, room temperature

3/4 c. sugar

1/2 c. lemon juice (preferably Meyer Lemons)

Zest from juiced lemons

6 oz (10 tbsp.) butter, cut into 1/4″ cubes, softened

 

 

1.  Combine the egg whites, whole egg, and sugar in a medium stainless steel bowl with either a whisk (if you have a lot of upper body strength) or a beater starting on medium-low speed and gradually increasing the speed and mix until the mixture becomes light, thick, and falls into a ribbon when the whisk or beaters are lifted from the bowl. (Doing this will help to begin the emulsion process, start dissolving the sugar, and begin to chemically cook the eggs.)

Early in the process.  The mixture is still dripping unevenly. I kinda cheated here and used the electric beaters.

Early in the process. The mixture is still dripping unevenly. I kinda cheated here and used the electric beaters.

About 10 minutes later.  The mixture is thickened and is falling much more smoothly from the beaters.  If it doesn't fall  in a ribbon, you want the mixture to at least leave a "trail" in the bowl as it falls back in.

About 10 minutes later. The mixture is thickened and is falling much more smoothly from the beaters. If it doesn’t fall in a ribbon, you want the mixture to at least leave a “trail” in the bowl as it falls back in.

 

2.  Carefully mix in the lemon juice and zest.

Adding the zest and juice.

Adding the zest and juice.

3.  Have a saucepan about 1/4 full of simmering water ready on the stove.  Place the bowl with the lemon mixture on top. (You just want the bottom of the bowl to sit over the water.)

Setting up the double boiler: Fill the saucepan about 1/4 full of water. Make sure that the boiling water never touches the bottom of the bowl.

Setting up the double boiler: Fill the saucepan about 1/4 full of water. Make sure that the boiling water never touches the bottom of the bowl.

Have a second bowl on the side in case the mixture cooks too quickly and begins to curdle (that would be the eggs scrambling).

4.  Stir the lemon mixture with the whisk constantly until the foam subsides and begins to thicken.  Adjust the heat as needed (the easiest way to do this is to take the bowl from off the top of the saucepan, or, if the mixture is cooking too quickly, move the mixture to your second bowl; if you do move to a second bowl, very carefully scrape or do not scrape the original bowl – what’s left in the bowl is more than likely going to be scrambled).

Whisking the mixture. You want to do this fairly constantly until the foam subsides. Once this happens, the eggs will begin cooking much more rapidly.

Whisking the mixture. You want to do this fairly constantly until the foam subsides. Once this happens, the eggs will begin cooking much more rapidly.  Again, remember – low & slow is the key

The foam has pretty much subsided and the mixture is beginning to thicken. If you use an instant-read thermometer, it should read between 155F - 160F.

The foam has pretty much subsided and the mixture is beginning to thicken and look darker. If you use an instant-read thermometer, it should read between 155F – 160F.

5.  Begin to slowly add the softened butter.  Just add 2-3 pieces at a time, still whisking constantly.  You want to incorporate the butter into the lemon mixture.  If you simply add the butter and let it melt without whisking, the fat in the butter will separate and you won’t be able to incorporate it. You’ll simply end up with butterfat floating on top.

Adding the butter. Be sure to whisk constantly to make sure the butter is incorporated evenly into the lemon mixture. Do not let it simply melt on top.

Adding the butter. Be sure to whisk constantly to make sure the butter is incorporated evenly into the lemon mixture. Do not let it simply melt on top.

6.  After you have incorporated the butter, switch to either a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula.  Continue stirring constantly until the curd is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon or spatula.

Stirring the curd after the butter has been incorporated. Again, keep stirring constantly, making sure to keep, especially, the curd on the side and bottom of the bowl moving. That is the curd that will quickly overcook if it isn't constantly stirred.

Stirring the curd after the butter has been incorporated. Again, keep stirring constantly, making sure to keep, especially, the curd on the side and bottom of the bowl moving. That is the curd that will quickly over cook if it isn’t constantly stirred.

Coating the back of a wooden spoon. Running your finger through the curd on the spoon will test if it's ready. If the curd doesn't drip, it's ready. This means that the eggs are cooked and your emulsion was successful.

Coating the back of a wooden spoon. Running your finger through the curd on the spoon will test if it’s ready. If the curd doesn’t drip, it’s ready. This means that the eggs are cooked and your emulsion was successful.

7.  When the curd is done, remove the bowl from the heat and pour into a clean bowl.  Very carefully scrape or do not scrape the sides of the original bowl (it depends on how your final product looks).  You can strain the mixture if you prefer. (Straining is recommended if you have larger pieces of zest or you want to smooth out a slightly lumpy curd.)

If, when you are done cooking, your eggs are curdled or scrambled, or your butter separates out, you can pour the mixture into a blender (not a food processor) and try to make a smooth curd.  However, there’s no guarantee this will work; and if it does, you may still need to strain it to remove any remaining lumps of scrambled egg or the butter may separate out again.

8.  To store, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd and place in the refrigerator. Because of the high butter content, it will set up into a fairly firm spread.  It will keep for 4 – 5 days.

A lovely, creamy lemon curd. Sometime, I eat it just like this.

A lovely, creamy lemon curd. Sometime, I eat it just like this.

 

Perfect serving suggestion.

Perfect serving suggestion.

 

Enjoy!

 



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