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TartQueen's Kitchen



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!

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!

 

Elvis Presley’s Peanut Butter & Banana Sandwich 2

Posted on January 08, 2015 by Sahar

This January marks the 80th year of the King of Rock & Roll’s birth.  I, and no doubt many others, certainly wish Elvis lived to see January 8, 2015.  He probably does, too.

Whether you prefer the pre-Army Elvis (as I do), Movie Elvis, or Vegas Elvis, no one can deny the man’s staying power in pop culture and his profound influence on modern music.

Elvis, believe it or not, has also had an influence, at least in some small part, on American cuisine. People outside of the South became more aware of the cuisine of the region, and just about every diner and restaurant – greasy spoon, fancy, or even sushi –  in the U.S. has some version of something Elvis themed – usually involving bacon, peanut butter, and/or bananas.

And, so, here we are.  The ubiquitous Elvis recipe – Fried Peanut Butter & Banana Sandwich.  This was, by all accounts, his favorite snack.  I recently read an interview with his long-time cook, Mary Jenkins, who said she couldn’t count the number of sandwiches she cooked for him. (Here is a brief glimpse of her in a 1996 BBC Documentary on YouTube. Mary passed away in 2000 at the age of 78.)

A few notes on this recipe:

1. White marshmallow fluff bread is a must (i.e. Mrs. Baird’s, Buttercrust, Wonder).  Period.

2.  A well-speckled banana is best.  You don’t want it too green or too black.

Banana comparison: The left banana is my preferred state of ripeness for eating out-of-hand. In fact, it's almost too ripe for me at this stage. The one on the right is way too ripe for me to eat, but, it's perfect for the sandwich.

Banana comparison: The left banana is my preferred state of ripeness for eating out-of-hand. In fact, it’s almost too ripe for me at this stage. The one on the right is way too ripe for me to eat, but, it’s perfect for the sandwich.

3.  While it appears that Mary used smooth peanut butter in the video, you can use either smooth or crunchy.  It’s your preference.

4.  She also sliced the bananas.  This doesn’t quite match most of the recipes I’ve read, but, if you prefer to slice the banana instead of mashing it, go ahead. Slicing the bananas will make a far less messy sandwich.

5.  Butter. period. That being said, looking at the video, Mary is continuously adding butter to the pan. I simply spread it on the bread. However, if you want to make your sandwich as rich as Elvis liked it, go for it.

Just as a reminder.  There has never been bacon on this sandwich.  Somewhere along the way, someone added it.  Not to say it isn’t delicious (because it is), but bacon is not part of the original recipe.

Second reminder: This isn’t a sandwich that needs to be or should be healthy.  Butter, white bread, and hydrogenated peanut butter (i.e. Peter Pan, Jif) are musts.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

2 slices white bread

2-3 tbsp. peanut butter

1 ripe banana, mashed or sliced

Butter

 

1.  Lightly toast the bread and spread butter on one side of each piece.

The buttered toast. Looking at the video, apparently Elvis liked his sandwiches to be fried in about a quarter pound of butter. I love butter, but I just couldn't do it.

The buttered toast. Looking at the video, apparently Elvis liked his sandwiches to be fried in about a quarter pound of butter. I love butter, but I just couldn’t do it. This toast is well-buttered, however.

2.  On the unbuttered side of the bread, spread peanut butter on one slice.  Top with the either sliced or mashed bananas. Place the other slice on top.

The peanut butter and banana. You can spread both on one piece of bread; I just did it this way for illustrative purposes.

The peanut butter and banana. You can spread both on one piece of bread; I just did it this way for illustrative purposes.

3.  In a skillet heated over medium heat, place the sandwich and fry on both sides until dark golden brown.

Frying the sandwich. Because the bread was already toasted a bit, you're basically frying the sandwich to warm up the peanut butter and banana. Plus, Elvis really liked to have his food well done.

Frying the sandwich. Because the bread was already toasted a bit, you’re basically frying the sandwich to toast the bread further and warm up the peanut butter and banana. Plus, Elvis really liked to have his food well done.

4.  Remove the sandwich from the skillet, place it on a plate, cut on the diagonal (that’s the way Mary did it), and serve.

A delicious gooey mess of a sandwich. It will be a whole lot less messy if you use sliced bananas. Also, milk and corn chips are the perfect accompaniments with this sandwich.

A delicious gooey mess of a sandwich. It will be a whole lot less messy if you use sliced bananas. Also, milk and corn chips are the perfect accompaniments.

 

Enjoy!

Elvis

 

Gingersnaps 0

Posted on December 22, 2014 by Sahar

I almost love gingersnaps more than I love a really good chocolate chip cookie. Almost. It’s a photo finish, really.

Just like gingerbread, gingersnaps date back to Medieval England and predate the cake style gingerbread we know today.

Traditionally, “gingersnaps” are a crispy cookie that “snap” when eaten, hence the name.

Gingersnaps have a long history in Europe, especially England and Germany. The cookies were made using molasses as a sweetener rather than refined sugar because it was less expensive and more readily available to the average person. (At this time, white refined sugar was extremely expensive and only available to the very wealthy.) As England expanded its colonial rule, it brought many of its cooking and baking traditions to these colonized countries, including gingersnaps.

European and British food traditions continued even after the American colonies gained their independence. Recipes that had been passed down, such as the traditional molasses and ginger recipe for snaps, still flourished in American kitchens.(information from www.ehow.com)
This recipe makes a lovely crispy yet slightly chewy melt-in-your-mouth cookie. The combination of shortening and butter is what does this. An all-butter cookie would cause the dough to spread quite a bit and make a very crispy cookie. An all-shortening dough would make a more cake-like cookie. I also like to use brown sugar as opposed to white because I find the cookie has a better texture and flavor. However, if you prefer to use or all you have is white (or even light brown) sugar, feel free to use it. Feel free to play with the spices. Of course, ginger should be your main flavor. However, most traditional gingersnap recipes have cloves and cinnamon.  I decided to buck tradition and used allspice as my secondary spice. Most of the sweet spices have an affinity with each other, so I thought, why not allspice? It works well in this recipe.As for the sugar to coat the cookie dough before baking – it’s a traditional addition. If you decide you don’t want the extra sugar, then skip that step.  However, since I wanted to go traditional (sort of), I did that step using turbinado (raw) sugar.If you would like to add even more ginger flavor, you can add grated fresh and/or finely chopped candied ginger.  Add as much or as little as you like.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

From top: molasses, baking soda, ginger, allspice, salt

From top: molasses, baking soda, ginger, allspice, salt

 

1/2 c. butter, room temperature

1/2 shortening, room temperature

1 c. dark brown sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1/4 c. molasses

 

2 1/2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

 

Extra sugar for rolling

 

 

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2.  In a mixer bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and brown sugar.

Getting ready to cream the butter, shortening, and brown sugar together.

Getting ready to cream the butter, shortening, and brown sugar together.

After creaming the butter and sugar together. You don't want to beat too much air into the mixture.

After creaming the butter and sugar together. You don’t want to beat too much air into the mixture.

Add the egg and molasses and mix until well combined.

After adding the egg and molasses.

After adding the egg and molasses.

3.  Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, and allspice.

Sifted dry ingredients. Kinda like the way it looks.

Sifted dry ingredients. Kinda like the way it looks.

4.  Add the dry ingredients to the molasses mixture 1/3 at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Mixing in the dry ingredients. Be sure to mix well after each addition and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

Mixing in the dry ingredients. Be sure to mix well after each addition and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

The finished dough. Try not to eat it at this stage.

The finished dough. Try not to eat it at this stage.

5.  When the cookie mixture is ready, take a small amount and roll into a ball about 1″ in diameter.  Roll the ball in the extra sugar to coat.

Rolling the cookie dough in sugar. This is a pretty traditional step in making the cookies.  However, if you prefer not to have the extra sugar, you can skip this step.

Rolling the cookie dough in sugar. This is a pretty traditional step in making the cookies. However, if you prefer not to have the extra sugar, you can skip this step.

Place the ball of dough onto a cookie sheet.  Repeat about 4 dozen times. Have no more than 12 per baking sheet because the cookies will spread.

Ready for the oven. The cookies will spread quite a lot, so be sure to have about 2" between each ball of dough.

Ready for the oven. The cookies will spread, so be sure to have about 2″ between each ball of dough.

6.  Bake the cookies for 15 – 18 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through the baking time.

Now your house will smell like the holidays.

Now your house will smell like the holidays.

Enjoy!

 

Namourah نمورة 1

Posted on March 30, 2014 by Sahar

When I was (much) younger, I have to admit, I really didn’t like Arabic sweets.  They tasted strange and were too sweet (even for my sweet tooth).  Of course, as I’ve grown older and my palate has become more sophisticated, I’ve come to appreciate their flavor, complexity, and their place in my own heritage.

Namourah is a perfect example of a dessert I loathed as a kid but love now.  In fact, I take it to parties sometimes and it’s usually one of the first items to be devoured (and there is a lot of food at the parties I go to. Food people, you know).

Namourah is a dessert that is ubiquitous all over the Middle East.  The basic recipe (which I’ll be showing you in this post) is made with a simple syrup flavored with orange or rose water.  However, it is also made with honey and some recipes add coconut.  I like to keep it simple.

This recipe is a classic Arabic dessert in that it’s very sweet and rich.  It’s meant to be eaten in small doses with a group of friends and family with small cups of Arabic coffee.  In a typical Arab home, these types of desserts are served only when there is company over.  Otherwise, fresh fruit is generally in order.

 

This is an eggless cake made with semolina flour.  As a result, this is a very dense cake (especially after the syrup is poured on). And, what leavening that takes place (and there isn’t much) happens when the baking soda and baking powder react with the acids in the yogurt.

You can make this cake vegan is you like by using soy or coconut yogurt and vegan margarine.  However, I can’t guarantee your results will be quite the same.

Traditionally, the baking dish is greased with 2 tablespoons of tahineh.  However, I prefer to use regular pan spray.  I find the ease of cleaning outweighs tradition in this case.

This recipe also uses clarified butter and qatr (simple syrup).  To see explanations of how to make these, please see my post from October 31, 2013, Knafeh (http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?p=1973).

This recipe is an adaptation from what is, to me, my holy grail of Arabic cookbooks, “Sahtein”.  It was originally published in 1976 by the Arab Women Union of Detroit.  It was my first Arabic cookbook and still my first go-to for many recipes despite my now 20-book Arabic cookbook library.  My mom’s original 1976 printing is held together with rubber bands now.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Semolina. Yes, the same flour used to make pasta. Also known in Arabic as "smeed" سميد

Semolina. Yes, the same flour used to make pasta. Also known in Arabic as “smeed” سميد

 

2 tbsp. Tahineh or use pan spray

4 cups smeed (Semolina سميد )

1 1/4 c. clarified butter

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1 1/4 c. laban (yogurt لبن) (I prefer to use full-fat yogurt; I prefer the flavor and texture)

2 tbsp. yogurt

3 c. Qatr (simple syrupقطر)

1/2 c. whole blanched almonds

 

1.  Either grease with the tahineh or spray an 11″ x 17″ baking dish.  Set aside.  Preheat the oven to 400F.

2.  In a large bowl, mix together the smeed (semolina), sugar, and butter.  Set aside.

Smeed, sugar, and butter ready to be mixed.

Smeed, sugar, and butter ready to be mixed.

Mixed.

Mixed.

3.  In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, baking soda, and baking powder.

Yogurt, baking soda, and baking powder ready for mixing.

Yogurt, baking soda, and baking powder ready for mixing.

Mixed. Watch for a few seconds and see how the powders, especially the soda, react to the acid in the yogurt.

Mixed. Watch for a few seconds and see how the powders, especially the soda, react to the acid in the yogurt.

4.  Add the yogurt mixture to the smeed mixture.  Blend well.  It will be a little crumbly and dry-looking.

Getting ready to mix. The yogurt just keeps growing.

Getting ready to mix. The yogurt just keeps growing.

Mixed. The batter will be dry and crumbly-looking. But, it will stay together and spread easily.

Mixed. The batter will be dry and crumbly looking. But, it will stay together and spread easily.

5.  Take the mixture and spread it in the baking dish as evenly as possible.  Use your hands if necessary.

The cake batter spread in the pan.  Be sure the batter is as evenly as possible in the pan.

The cake batter spread in the pan. Be sure the batter is as evenly as possible in the pan.

6.  Spread the remaining 2 tablespoons of yogurt evenly over the top of the cake.  With a very sharp knife, cut the cake into roughly 2″ pieces either in diamond or square shapes (this is necessary so the syrup will soak evenly into the cake after baking). Top each piece with a blanched almond.

Yogurt on, cake cut, almonds placed. And, yes, I'm terrible at cutting evenly. Go figure.

Yogurt on, cake cut, almonds placed. And, yes, I’m terrible at cutting evenly. Go figure.

7.  Bake the cake in the oven for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, rotate the cake and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the cake is a golden brown.

Remove the cake from the oven and cut along the original cut lines, if necessary (and it usually is).

The baked cake. I like it a little on the darker side. I think he flavor is better. Just take care not to let it burn on the bottom or sides.

The baked cake. I like it a little on the darker side. I think he flavor is better. Just take care not to let it burn on the bottom or sides.  As you can see, I had to cut the pieces again along the original cut lines.

8.  Pour the qatr over the cake and let it soak in (trust me, it does).  When the cake warm to room temperature, it’s ready to eat.

Pouring over the qatr. Do this as evenly as possible so the whole cake gets an even soaking.

Pouring over the qatr. Do this as evenly as possible so the whole cake gets an even soaking.

Yes, please.

Yes, please.

 

 

Really Good Oatmeal Cookies. I promise. 1

Posted on March 21, 2014 by Sahar

Now, let’s face it.  Oatmeal cookies kind of get a bad reputation.  Basically, well, because they’re made mostly of what many people consider the most healthy yet mushy and tasteless breakfast food of all – oatmeal.  And, usually raisins – which I personally consider to be Satan’s candy.

Many times, through many recipes, oatmeal cookies tend to be overly dry, or overly soft & doughy.  Not much flavor is another negative in the oatmeal cookie column.  And no amount of added chocolate chips or dried fruit will fix it.

In my quest to come up with a good oatmeal cookie (because, yes, I do like them; always have), I made many batches, researched recipes old and new, and ate more cookies than I care to admit.  I even made my husband take them to work to use his co-workers as tasters.

I finally hit upon the idea of making the cookies with dark brown sugar, adding some oat flour, and a little maple syrup for flavor.  It just made a wonderful combination.

Oh. And as for the dried fruit – I use dried cherries and cranberries. They are my two favorite dried fruits and I simply like the way they go together. However,  you can use any dried fruit you like: apricots, apples, blueberries, and, yes, raisins.

You can also use chocolate, white, or cinnamon chips as well. If you want to.

Now, admittedly, I tend to make these cookies rather large.  That’s because making cookies is not one of my favorite things to do.  I simply don’t have the patience for it.  I tend to only bake cookies during the holidays – these included.  You can make them any size you like.  But, I will say this recipe makes a lot of cookies.  With the larger size that I bake, this recipe will still make about 5 dozen.  Smaller cookies? At least 6 dozen.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Dried cherries (l) and dried cranberries (r)

Dried cherries (l) and dried cranberries (r)

Dark brown and granulated sugars.

Dark brown and granulated sugars.

From top left: Maple Syrup, Vanilla Extract, Nutmeg (c), Baking Soda, Salt

From top left: Maple Syrup, Vanilla Extract, Nutmeg (c), Baking Soda, Salt

Oat and all-purpose flours.

Oat and all-purpose flours.

The oats.

The all-important oats.

And, of course, butter and eggs.

And, of course, butter and eggs.

 

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 c. dark brown sugar

1 c. sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbsp. maple syrup

1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 c. oat flour

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

3 c. rolled oats

1 c. dried cranberries

1 c. dried cherries

 

1.  Preheat your oven to 350F.  Line your baking sheets with foil and parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Set aside.

2.  In a mixer, beat together the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Scrape down the sides as needed.

Creaming together the butter and sugars.  Be sure you make the mixture as fluffy and well-mixed as possible.

Creaming together the butter and sugars. Be sure you make the mixture as fluffy and well-mixed as possible.

3.  Turn down the heat to low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Again, scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Adding the eggs.  Be sure you mix in each egg thoroughly.  This will help to dissolve the sugar and make a homogenous mixture.

Adding the eggs. Be sure you mix in each egg thoroughly. This will help to dissolve the sugar and make a homogenous mixture.

4.  Add in the vanilla and syrup.  Beat on medium-low speed until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Adding the maple syrup and vanilla extract.

Adding the maple syrup and vanilla extract.

5.  Sift together the dry ingredients – all-purpose flour, oat flour, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.

I have vivid memories of my mom using this sifter. She gifted it to me when my husband & I moved into our house. I use it all the time.

I have vivid memories of my mom using this sifter. She gifted it to me when my husband & I moved into our house. It’s still my favorite.

The dry ingedients ready for sifting.

The dry ingredients ready for sifting.

Sifted.

Sifted.

6.  Turn the mixer to low speed and, in small scoopfuls (about 1/4 cup), add the dry ingredients, mixing well after each addition.  Again, scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Adding the dry ingredients. You want to add about 1/4 cup at a time.  This ensures complete incorporation and a whole lot less mess.

Adding the dry ingredients. You want to add about 1/4 cup at a time. This ensures complete incorporation and a whole lot less mess.

The dough after all of the dry ingredients have been mixed in.

The dough after all of the dry ingredients have been mixed in.

7.  Turn the mixer off, lower the bowl or lift the top of the mixer, and add the oats and fruit.  Lift the bowl or lower the top of the mixer, and, on very low speed, fold them into the dough.  (You can also do this step by hand.)

Mixing in the oats and fruit.  Do this on very low speed. My mixer was quite full at this point.

Mixing in the oats and fruit. Do this on very low speed. My mixer was quite full at this point.

Cookie dough. Done.

Cookie dough. Done.

8.  Drop tablespoons full of batter onto the baking sheets.  Leave at least 2 – 3 inches in between.  These cookies spread a lot.

Take a nice heaping scoop of dough, smooth it off , and drop it on the baking sheet.  These are soup spoons, by the way.

Take a nice heaping scoop of dough, smooth it off , and drop it on the baking sheet. These are soup spoons, by the way.

The cookies ready for the oven.  These are going to spread out a lot; so, don't crowd too many onto a sheet.  This is a half sheet pan (11-1/2" x 17").

The cookies ready for the oven. These are going to spread out a lot; so, don’t crowd too many onto a sheet. This is a half sheet pan (11-1/2″ x 17″).

9.  Bake the cookies 15 – 18 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the cooking time.  Let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.  (This will result in a fairly crispy cookie.  If you want the cookies slightly chewier, reduce the baking time by 2 – 3 minutes.)

See how much they spread?

See how much they spread?

Try to resist. I dare you.

Try to resist. I dare you.

Enjoy!

 

Sea Salt Caramels 0

Posted on December 23, 2013 by Sahar

Like most of us in my generation, we were raised on the good old standby, the Kraft caramel.  Nothing wrong with them, really.  In fact, we loved them.  They came in tiny individually wrapped morsels and were only found during the holidays, starting with Halloween.

Now, those were fine when we were kids. Basically, because we didn’t know any better.

However, for me anyway, once I had my first soft, small-batch caramel, Kraft just didn’t do it for me anymore.  I decided to learn how to make my own.

And, here is the result.

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

A short history of the caramel by Samira Kawash from www.gastrnomica.org:

“Caramels first appeared on the American candy scene in the 1880s and its lineage is obscure. In flavor and character, what we know today as caramel candy is closely related to British toffee and butterscotch, which appeared in the early 1800s.  British candy historian Laura Mason suggests that caramels might have evolved in the spirit of dental charity—a softer counterpart to the hard-on-the-teeth British toffee. Stephen Schmidt, author of Dessert in America and an expert in the history of American desserts, looks to the other side of the Channel for caramel origins: “The inspiration behind American caramels were French caramels, which came to this country during the vogue for French cooking of the Gilded Age.”

Whatever its British or French origins, the caramel candy that appeared at the end of the nineteenth century was uniquely American. Home recipes most closely resembled the French version, employing basic combinations of butter, sugar, cream and flavorings. But more unique confections were spilling out of professional candy kitchens: In their quest for market share and profit, commercial producers would experiment with such ingredients as paraffin, glucose, coconut butter, flour, and molasses to alter the texture, firmness and quality of the candies.

As Catherine Owen attempted to explain to her 1887 candy-making aspirants: “Caramel is really sugar boiled until it changes color, but the candy understood as ‘caramels’ is something different.” Sara Rorer’s 1889 Home Candy Making, for example, gives a recipe for “caramel” that includes only sugar and water, boiled to “the consistency of molasses.” This would be sugar cooked to a very high temperature, over 330 degrees. Caramel candy recipes, in contrast, cook sugar with milk or butter at lower temperatures.  This is the flavor prized today as “caramel,” but for Americans in the 1880s and 1890s, that distinctive taste was not so closely attached to the caramel candy sensation. Even in caramel candy’s heyday, chocolate’s appeal and marketability were undeniable. Hence the famed Philadelphia Caramel, which was, as everybody on the eastern seaboard knew, a chewy morsel of chocolate.

Milton Hershey, who would go on to found the Hershey’s chocolate empire, began as a caramel man; his Lancaster Caramels were advertised to include a mix of 30 varieties. Prior to Hershey’s chocolate innovations of the 1890s, milk chocolate was a closely guarded European secret. Chocolate bars for eating were imported, expensive delicacies. Caramel, in contrast, could be made for every taste and budget. Caramel candy in that era was not a specific variety, but a generic form: so Hershey sold chocolate, strawberry, coffee, maple, and coconut caramels. Our familiar plain caramel would have been known in that day as another flavor, vanilla. Soon, the caramels got fancier. Nuts, cream centers, or even chocolate dipped. One day, Hershey looked at those chocolate dipped caramels and saw a new direction for his company. Exit caramels, enter the Hershey Bar.”

***********

Candy making, for the most part, is pure common sense.

1.  Don’t touch or spill the hot sugar. Especially on yourself or anyone else. There’s a reason pastry chefs and candy makers call this stuff napalm. Have no distractions (i.e. kids, pets, alcohol, etc.) in the kitchen when you are working with molten sugar.

2. Don’t make candy on a humid day.  Believe it or not, the difference between 25% and 50% humidity can affect the way the candy sets up. The wetter the day, the quicker the sugars will break down before setting up completely. In other words, the sugar in the candy will absorb the extra moisture in the air, causing it to become a sticky mess.

Conventional wisdom holds that candy is best made on a cold, dry day.  Like, say, in Texas, February.

3.  Use a candy thermometer.  A reliable candy thermometer.  Mine is a Taylor brand that I’ve used for so long, I’ve managed to scrub off the numbers:

My well-worn, well-loved candy thermometer.

My well-worn, well-loved candy thermometer.

My thermometer is the older-style mercury type.  If the bulb on this breaks, because mercury is, well, poisonous, I’ll not only have to throw away the thermometer and what I am making, but the saucepan as well.

The newer thermometers are made with alcohol that’s been dyed red.  These aren’t as dangerous if the bulb breaks.  You can at least clean out the saucepan and use it again.

These should go from tempering chocolate (90F) up to roughly 400F.  A good candy thermometer will also be labeled with the stages of cooking sugar (thread, soft ball, firm ball, hard ball, soft crack, hard crack).  Also, most good candy thermometers can also be used for deep-frying as well.

4.  Don’t let the bulb on your thermometer touch the bottom of the saucepan. (The better thermometers have the bulb about 1/4″ to 1/2″ from the bottom).  Otherwise, you could get a false reading.

5.  Use the right sized saucepan for what you’re making.  Too large and the sugar will cook too quickly and burn.  Too small and the sugar will boil over and burn not only the stove, but you.

Also, invest in some heavy-bottomed saucepans.  Flimsy, thin saucepans (or any cookware) are no good for anything, but especially bad for candy making.

6.  Read the recipe carefully and thoroughly before starting.  Have everything ready to go.  Your ingredients should be measured, your utensils ready to go, your pans prepared, and a clear path made.  There is a lot of “hurry up and wait” in candy making; but when things start to happen, they happen fast.  Pre-preparation is essential.

7.  Watch for crystallization.  This happens when the liquid in the saucepan can no longer absorb the sugar. You end up with just a big cake of sugar in the saucepan.  There’s no fixing this.  If it happens, you have to start over.

The best way I’ve found to combat this is to simply make sure all of the sugar is moistened before I start to cook it.  I just gently push the sugar down and around in the liquid (usually water and corn syrup) until it is completely moistened. Then, I put the saucepan over medium-low heat and let it cook without stirring the mixture.  I let the sugars dissolve on their own.  The more you agitate the mixture, the more likely you’ll get crystallization. So, fight every instinct you have and DON’T STIR.

If you do happen to get some sugar crystals on the side of the saucepan, take a pastry brush, dip it some water, and brush the sides of the saucepan to dissolve the sugar.  If there are any solid, un-moistened crystals, they can also cause crystallization.

Once the sugar comes to a boil and all of the sugar has dissolved, you can, carefully, stir to your heart’s content.  The danger for crystallization has passed.

8.  Don’t cook the sugar too fast.  Medium-low to medium heat is ideal.  You want to give the sugar time to dissolve and the moisture to begin to evaporate before the mixture comes to a boil.  This also gives you more ability to control the temperature and greatly reduces the risk of the sugar burning.

9.  Do not double up a recipe or substitute unless you’re an experienced candy maker.  Candy recipes, along with baking recipes, are like scientific formulas.  If you throw it out of balance or change an element, the whole experiment could fail.

Or, be a spectacular success.

***********

a) If you want to have unsalted caramels, simply use all unsalted butter and omit the salts.

b) In this example, I use a combination of brown and white sugars. I think the flavor and color are simply better. However, if you prefer to use all white sugar, go ahead.

c) I used almond extract in this example.  Again, because I like the flavor.  The more traditional flavoring is vanilla, so, if you have that, use it.  Just make sure, either way, you’re using pure extract, not artificial flavoring.

d) Use cream and butter. This is non-negotiable.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

Light brown & white sugars. I like the combination. However, you can use all white sugar if you prefer.

Light brown & white sugars. I like the combination. However, you can use all white sugar if you prefer.

Clockwise from top: light corn syrup; almond extract; flaked sea salt, fine sea salt

Clockwise from top: light corn syrup; almond extract; flaked sea salt, fine sea salt

Flaked sea salt close up. I love this stuff.

Flaked sea salt close up. I love this stuff.

 

Cream and butter.

Cream and butter.

1 c. sugar

-or-

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. light brown sugar

1/4 c. water

1/4 c. light corn syrup

3/4 c. heavy cream

4 tbsp. unsalted butter

4 tbsp. salted butter

1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract

1/2 tsp. fine sea salt

1/2 tsp. Fleur de Sel or flaked (Maldon) sea salt

 

1.  Line  9-inch loaf pan with parchment paper or foil.  Make it as smooth as you can. Make sure there are no holes in the foil or paper as you press it down.  If you accidentally poke a hole or make a tear, you need a new piece.  Spray or butter the paper or foil and set the pan aside.

2.  In a small saucepan, place the cream, butter, and 1/2 tsp. sea salt and bring the cream to a boil over medium heat.

Cream, butter, and salt in the sauce pan.

Cream, butter, and salt in the sauce pan.

Bring the cream to a full boil before taking off the heat and adding the extract.

Bring the cream to a full boil before taking off the heat and adding the extract.

Take the pan off the heat, add the extract, cover the saucepan and keep warm.

3.  In a medium saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water.

The sugars, corn syrup, and water in the saucepan. Very gently mix the ingredients so the sugars are just moistened.  I basically push the sugars around until they are submerged as much as possible. After that, I leave it alone.

The sugars, corn syrup, and water in the saucepan. Very gently mix the ingredients so the sugars are just moistened.
I basically push the sugars around until they are submerged as much as possible. After that, I leave it alone.

Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil (don’t stir!) and cook until they syrup reaches 302F (Hard Crack).

(Note: This is the progression of the syrup on my stove. Your times and temperatures may vary.)

The sugars are moistened and the thermometer is attached. We're ready to go.

The sugars are moistened and the thermometer is attached. We’re ready to go.

At 5 minutes over medium heat.  There is still some undissolved sugar.  Don't stir! This is the danger point where crystallization can occur; especially if you disturb it.

At 5 minutes over medium heat. There is still some undissolved sugar. Don’t stir! This is the danger point where crystallization can occur, especially if you disturb it.

10 minutes at 210F. The sugar should be pretty much if not completely dissolved at this point.  The crystallization danger has passed.

10 minutes at 210F. The sugar should be pretty much if not completely dissolved at this point. The crystallization danger has passed.

15 minutes at 238F. The syrup should be clear at this point.

15 minutes at 238F. The syrup should be clear at this point.

20 minutes at 250F. Things start to move fast at this point.  It took about 3 minutes more for the syrup to his 302F.

20 minutes at 250F. Now, things start to move fast. It took less than 5 minutes more for the syrup to hit 302F.

Once the sugar gets past 285F – 290F, it will begin to caramelize.  Be sure to swirl the pan so the sugar doesn’t burn (especially of you’re using only white sugar)

A tip: When you’re using a larger saucepan, the thermometer may not reach down to the syrup.  Carefully tilt the saucepan so the syrup covers the bulb of the thermometer so you will get an accurate reading.  Also, be patient.  It will take some time for the thermometer to read accurately.  Wait until the mercury stops moving.

Tilting the saucepan to get an accurate temperature of the syrup. Be careful not to spill any onto yourself or the stove. Also, be sure to hold the thermometer so it doens't flip off the saucepan (which has happened to me more than once).

Tilting the saucepan to get an accurate temperature of the syrup. Be careful not to spill any onto yourself or the stove. Also, be sure to hold the thermometer so it doesn’t flip off the saucepan (which has happened to me more than once).

4.  Once the sugar has reached 302F, take the saucepan off the heat, and CAREFULLY pour the warm cream mixture into the syrup, stirring constantly to combine.

Pouring the cream mixture into the syrup. Be Careful! Spattering syrup and steam everywhere.

Pouring the cream mixture into the syrup. Be Careful! Spattering syrup and steam everywhere. Use a long-handled wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula to stir.

If the syrup begins to harden, place the saucepan back on the heat and continue to stir.

Stirring the cream and syrup together.  Trust me. It will come together.

Stirring the cream and syrup together. Trust me. It will come together.

5.  Cook the mixture to 240F (Soft Ball).  At this point, it’s OK to stir occasionally.

(Again, these are based on my stove. Again, your times and temperatures may vary.)

At 5 minutes and 228F.

At 5 minutes and 228F.

At 10 minutes and 240F. Now, I'm done cooking.

At 10 minutes and 240F. Now, I’m done cooking.

This will make a soft caramel.  If you want a firmer caramel, cook to 245F (Firm Ball).

6.  Take the saucepan off the heat, give the caramel one more good stir, and carefully pour the finished caramel into the prepared pan.

The caramel in the pan.

The caramel in the pan.

Wait 10 – 15 minutes and the sprinkle on the fleur de sel or flaked sea salt over the top.  Let the caramel sit until set, at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

The salt. it gives a wonderful flavor an has just a little crunch. If you don't have flaked sea salt, you can use fleur de del. Kosher or table salt won't work.

The salt. it gives a wonderful flavor an has just a little crunch. If you don’t have flaked sea salt, you can use fleur de del. Kosher or table salt won’t work.

7.  Lift the cooled caramel out of the pan with the paper or foil.  Cut the caramel into pieces as big or as small as you like.

Cutting the caramels. I generally cut it 8x4 and get 32 out of a recipe. If you cut it 8x6, you can get up to 48

Cutting the caramels. I generally cut it 8×4 and get 32 pieces out of a recipe. If you cut it 8×6, you can get 48 pieces.

Keep them in an airtight container either individually wrapped or between layers of wax paper for up to 2 weeks.

If you decide to wrap the pieces, you can do it simply with wax paper you no doubt have already in the drawer. Don’t go out and buy the fancy wrappers – unless you really want to.

I start off with pieces that are about 4" wide.  You don't really want them any narrower than this.

I start off with pieces that are about 4″ wide. You don’t really want them any narrower than this.

Fold the wax paper lengthwise, making sure the straight edges match. Using a very shark paring knife (this works best), cut along the fold.

Fold the wax paper lengthwise, making sure the straight edges match. Using a very shark paring knife (this works best), cut along the fold.

Fold the pieces lengthwise again (narrowest edges matching as closely as possible) and cut along the fold again.

Fold the pieces lengthwise again (narrowest edges matching as closely as possible) and cut along the fold again.

What you should end up with.

What you should end up with.

Start by placing a pice of the caramel on a piece of the paper about 1" from the end closest to you.

Start by placing a piece of the caramel on a piece of the paper about 1″ from the end closest to you.

Continue rolling until you have reached the end of the paper (obviously).

Continue rolling until you have reached the end of the paper (obviously).

Carefully twist the ends to seal.  If the paper tears, start again with a new piece. This does get Zen after about the 40th piece.

Carefully twist the ends to seal. If the paper tears, start again with a new piece.
This does get Zen after about the 40th piece.

Wrapped.

Wrapped.

Unwrapped.

Unwrapped.

 

Hey. It’s the holidays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Makes approximately 32 – 48 pieces.

Ossobuco d’Agnello 0

Posted on November 14, 2013 by Sahar

This time of year provides the perfect excuse to break out some of the recipes that I would never make the rest of the year.  Which, in central Texas, means that I have only about 3 months to indulge in some of my favorite comfort foods.

Ossobuco is one of them.  With the rich lamb, sauce, and risotto, it’s a wonderful accompaniment to a cold night.

The name literally means “bone with a hole” (osso – bone; buco – hole).  Ossobuco is a dish (legendarily) created in the Milano area in northern Italy in the 19th century.  Some say it was created by local farmers as a way to cook tougher cuts of meat (i.e. shanks – the shin portion of the leg. The fore shank is the bottom part of the shin; the hind shnk the upper part of the shin.); others, it was created in an osteria.

The original recipe is made with veal shanks, cinnamon, and bay leaves with no tomato.  The more modern and more popular version is made with tomatoes, vegetables, and red wine.  And, while veal shank is still used widely, lamb shank is gaining in popularity.

As for myself, I prefer the lamb shanks.  I find they have far more flavor.  And, if you can get hind shanks, more meat for the money.

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

A few notes:

1.  In this example, I’m using fore shanks.  The butcher I bought these from didn’t have hind shanks that day.  But, they were large and worked well in this dish.  Also, I bought these still in the cryovac packaging.  The butcher had received them from the farm that morning and they hadn’t been fully trimmed yet.  More than likely, the shanks you buy will be already trimmed and ready to go.

2.  If you prefer not to use wine, then you can omit it all together.  As substitutions for red wine you can use extra stock for deglazing (you can add 1 tablespoon red wine or balsamic vinegar per 1 cup of  stock for tartness), or 100% cranberry or pomegranate juice; for white wine, you can use extra chicken or vegetable stock (you can add 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar to 1 cup of stock for tartness), verjus (a juice made from unripe green grapes), or unsweetened apple cider or juice.

3.  The traditional accompaniment for this dish is risotto.  However, of you prefer, you can also serve this with polenta, mashed potatoes, or pasta.  If you do use pasta, use a shaped pasta (such as campenelle or rotini)  or a wide pasta (such as paprdelle or bucatini).

4.  Gremolata is served alongside the Ossobuco as a way to cut through the richness of the dish.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients for everything.

The ingredients for the Ossobuco.

The ingredients for the Ossobuco.

The produce: Starting from top left - lemon zest, garlic; middle, from top - carrots, celery, onion; right, from top - thyme, rosemary

The produce: Starting from top left – lemon zest, garlic; middle, from top – carrots, celery, onion; right, from top – thyme, rosemary

Lamb shank fresh from the farm. If you can get hind shanks, do so.  These fore shanks were great.  I just had to clean them.

Lamb shank fresh from the farm. If you can get hind shanks, do so. These fore shanks were great. I just had to clean them.

Cleaning the lamb shank. You must remove the silverskin (or have your butcher do it). It doesn't cook down and your meat will be chewy and tough.

Cleaning the lamb shank. You must remove the silverskin (or have your butcher do it). It doesn’t cook down and your meat will be chewy and tough.

The cleaned lamb shank.  Admittedly not perfect, but a whole lot better.

The cleaned lamb shank. Admittedly not perfect, but a whole lot better.

 

Lamb Ossobuco

4 large lamb shanks (preferably hind shanks)

Salt

Flour

3 tbsp. Olive Oil

1 lg. onion, minced

2 carrots, peeled, either diced or cut into thin rounds

2 stalks celery, diced

3 cl. garlic, minced

1/2 c. tomato paste

1 c. dry red wine

2 sprigs rosemary

4 sprigs thyme

1 ea. 2″ strip lemon zest

2 – 3 c. chicken or beef broth (or a combination of both), more if needed

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Lightly sprinkle salt on the lamb shanks.  Then, lightly flour the them, shaking off any excess flour.  Set aside.

2.  In a large Dutch oven or a deep, stove-proof casserole dish, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the lamb shanks and sear until browned.  Cook the them in batches if needed.  Remove the shanks from the heat and set aside.

Browning the shanks. Do this in batches if you need to; don't crowd the pan or the shanks will steam and not brown.

Browning the shanks. Do this in batches if you need to; don’t crowd the pan or the shanks will steam and not brown.

3.  Reduce the heat to medium.  Add the vegetables and garlic and saute until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 5 minutes.

Sauteeing the vegetables.

Sauteing the vegetables.

Add in the tomato paste and cook another 3 – 4 minutes.

Adding the tomato paste. Let the paste cook until it begins to turn a burnt orange color.  This is the sugar caramelizing and helps to deepen the flavor.

Adding the tomato paste. Let the paste cook until it begins to turn a burnt orange color. This is the sugar caramelizing and helps to deepen the flavor.

Add in the red wine to deglaze the pan and cook another 5 – 7 minutes to reduce the wine and soften the flavor.

Cooking down the wine.

Cooking down the wine.

Then, add the rosemary, thyme, lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Simmer another 2 – 3 minutes.

Adding the lemon zest, rosemary, and thyme.

Adding the lemon zest, rosemary, and thyme.

4.  Lay the reserved shanks on top of the vegetables and add just enough broth to come halfway up the shanks.

Ready for the oven.

Ready for the oven.

Cover the casserole or Dutch oven and place in the oven.  Cook for 2 to 2-1/2 hours (flipping the meat halfway through) or until the meat is tender.  Check for liquid content, adding more if needed.

5.  After you take the baking dish out of the oven, remove the shanks and set aside.

So tender, it's falling off the bone.

So tender, it’s falling off the bone.

If you like, set the baking dish on the stove over medium-high heat to reduce the sauce.  Remove the rosemary and thyme stalks and discard.

I like to reduce the sauce a bit to concentrate the flavor. It's up to you, however.

I like to reduce the sauce a bit to concentrate the flavor. It’s up to you, however.

6.  Traditionally, the shank is served whole with the risotto and Gremolata.  However, if you prefer (and I do if I use fore shanks), trim the meat off the bone and mix it back into the sauce; then serve with the Risotto and Gremolata.

The meat trimmed off the bone. I prefer to do this if I use fore shanks.

The meat trimmed off the bone. I prefer to do this if I use fore shanks.

The meat back in the sauce. You can do this if you want to help stretch the meat. I like to do it when I use fore shanks.

The meat back in the sauce. You can do this if you want to help stretch the meat. I like to do it when I use fore shanks.

 

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

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

Saffron. The world's most expensive spice (currently about $3000/lb.). It comes fron the stamen of the Crocus flower. It takes approximately 50,000 - 75,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron.   Be sure to buy saffron that is in it's whole form. Don't buy powdered saffron; it's usually cut with turmeric.

Saffron. The world’s most expensive spice (currently about $3000/lb.). It comes from the stamen of the Crocus flower. It takes approximately 50,000 – 75,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron.
Be sure to buy saffron that is in it’s whole form. Don’t buy powdered saffron; it’s usually cut with turmeric.

 

Risotto alla Milanese

6 c. stock – beef, chicken, lamb, or vegetable

1 tsp. saffron, crushed

4 tbsp butter

1 small onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 c. carnaroli or arborrio rice

1/2 c. dry white wine

3/4 c. fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Salt & Pepper to taste

 

1.  Bring 5 cups of the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Reduce the heat to low and keep the stock warm.  In a small saucepan heat the remaining 1 cup of stock with the saffron.  Again, reduce the heat to low and keep warm.

2.  In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter and the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Sauteeing the onion and garlic.

Sauteing the onion and garlic.

Add in the rice and sauté, stirring constantly, another 5 minutes.

Adding the rice.  This will help to flavor the rice and begin the cooking process.

Adding the rice. This will help to flavor the rice and begin the cooking process.

Add a pinch or two of salt, stir again, and add in the wine.  Stir constantly until the wine has been absorbed by the rice.

Adding the wine. At this point, constant stirring of the rice will help to release the starch.

Adding the wine. At this point, constant stirring of the rice will help to release the starch.

3.  Lower the heat under the rice to medium.  Begin adding the 5 cups of stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring after each addition until the broth has been absorbed.

Adding the broth. Be sure to constantly stir the rice.

Adding the broth. Be sure to constantly stir the rice.

After you have added the 3rd cup of broth, add in the broth with the saffron.  Continue stirring.

Adding the saffron broth. Now, the risotto will become its classic yellow color.

Adding the saffron broth. Now, the risotto will become its classic yellow color.

4.  After you have added the 5th cup of stock, begin testing the rice to make sure it is al dente.  You may not need all the broth.  When the rice is al dente (or to your liking), add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and the Parmigiano.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Adding the butter and parmesan.

Adding the butter and parmesan.

 

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

 

The Gremolata Ingredients

The Gremolata Ingredients

 

Gremolata

Zest of 2 lemons

1 bunch of Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, minced

Salt to taste

2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive oil

 

Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl and serve along side the Ossobuco.

 

The finished Gremolata. Easy.

The finished Gremolata. Easy.

 

 

Buon Giorno.

Buon Giorno.

 

Buon Apetito!

 

Knafeh كنافة: The Nabulsi Treat 4

Posted on October 31, 2013 by Sahar

Go anywhere in the Leventine and you will be presented by one of the greatest amalgamation of shredded phyllo, farmers cheese, and sugar known to humankind: Knafeh.

This sweet traces its origins back to the Ottoman Empire and can still be found in various forms all through the former empire’s dominion.

However, all through the Middle East, the city of Nablus is the place where everyone knows the best knafeh is made.  An entire knafeh culture exists there and Nabulsis take great pride in their craft (http://tinyurl.com/knlv2zh).  In fact, the World’s Largest Knafeh was made in Nablus in July 2009 (http://tinyurl.com/jw83r29).  (Videos from YouTube)

And, wherever Palestinians have settled, they have taken the art of Knafeh making wherever they go.

Trays of knafeh in Amman, Jordan. I could've sat there all day eating this.

Trays of Knafeh in Amman, Jordan. I could’ve sat there all day eating this.

Now, I have to honestly say my dad and ‘Amto (aunt) Siham make the best Knafeh I’ve ever tasted.  I don’t know what they do, but it’s simply etherial.

However, I think my recipe is pretty good, too.  And, now, I’m going to share it with you.

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

A few things about Knafeh:

1.  The cheese:  This uses a farmers cheese called Jebne Nabulsi (literally translated “Nablus Cheese”).  Here in the States, it is always packed in brine.  Of course, this is done for preservation.  But, it also makes the cheese semi-hard and salty rather than young, soft, and either unsalted or lightly salted in the Middle East.  To rid yourself of the salt and to somewhat soften the cheese, you have to soak and simmer it.  A good alternative is fresh mozzarella.  However, if you can’t find unsalted mozzarella, you’ll need to soak it as well.

2.  Buy the dough already shredded.  Don’t try to shred sheets of phyllo yourself.  You’ll never get them as fine and it’s a huge hassle.  Any good Middle Eastern market will have the dough in the freezer section.  Let it thaw overnight in the fridge before using.

3.  Coloring the top of the knafeh a bright orange color is traditional.  However, Knafeh coloring isn’t necessary.  There is a powdered coloring available in Middle Eastern markets especially for Knafeh.  However, unless you plan on making a lot, don’t buy it.  Some people use gel color (for coloring icing).  Don’t use regular food coloring, however.  It’s not fat soluble.

4.  Using Rose or Orange water is up to you.  I prefer the orange.  Others, rose.

5.  Don’t skimp on the syrup.  I know that when you first begin to pour it over, it looks like too much.  Believe me, it’s not.

6.  Clarified butter is absolutely necessary to this dish.  Regular butter will burn.  See the end of the post on how to make clarified butter.

 

The ingredients

The ingredients

The Nabulsi Cheese and orange Blossom Water.  These are my two favorite brands.  The cheese isn't too salty and the Cortas, along with being and excellent product, is readily available in upscale and Middle Eastern markets.

The Nabulsi Cheese and Orange Blossom Water. These are my two favorite brands. The cheese isn’t too salty and the Cortas, along with being and excellent product, is readily available in upscale and Middle Eastern markets.

 

 

Thin Qatr (Ka-tr) (simple syrup)

2 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. water

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. orange or rose water (optional)

 

Knafeh

1 lb. knafeh dough (kataifi), thawed

2 lb. Farmers Cheese (Jebne Nabulsi) or fresh mozzarella

1/4 c. sugar

1 1/4 c. clarified butter

1 tsp. knafeh coloring (optional)

1/4 c. chopped pistachios (optional)

1 recipe Qatr (see above)

 

1.  Make the Qatr: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix together the sugar and water until the sugar is dissolved.

Starting the Qatr.

Starting the Qatr.

Bring to a boil.  Let the syrup boil for 3 minutes and then add the lemon juice.  Boil for 2 more minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the orange blossom or rose water, if using.  Set aside and let cool.

The finished Qatr. Once you put the orange or rose water in, the fragrance is amazing.

The finished Qatr. Once you put the orange or rose water in, the fragrance is amazing.

2.  Make the Knafeh:  Prepare the cheese – If using the Farmers cheese, you will need to soak and cook the cheese to remove the salt.  To do this, thinly slice the cheese (almost to the point of shaving it) and place in a large bowl.

The cheese. Slice it as thin as you can; almost to the point of shaving it.

The cheese. Slice it as thin as you can; almost to the point of shaving it.

Cover the cheese with water and let soak for two hours, changing the water every 30 minutes.  After you have soaked the cheese, drain it and place in a large saucepan and cover with water.  Bring the water to a simmer (do not let it boil – it will harden the cheese) and cook the cheese for 10 minutes.  Drain.  Repeat the process at least 2 more times or until the cheese is salt-free. (Taste as you go.)

If you are using fresh mozzarella, buy salt-free.  If you don’t find any, thinly slice the cheese and soak it in water for 30 minutes  – 1 hour.  Drain and taste.  Repeat if needed.

Drain the cheese on paper towels to remove some of the excess moisture.  Place the cheese in a medium bowl and toss with the 1/4 c. sugar.

The cheese after its been de-salted and tossed with sugar.

The cheese after its been de-salted and tossed with sugar.

3.  Meanwhile, take the knafeh dough and, with a very sharp knife, chop the dough into approximately 1″ pieces.

How the Knafeh dough comes out of the package. Kind of like a soft brick.

How the Knafeh dough comes out of the package. Kind of like a soft brick.

The chopped dough. Use a very sharp knife and quite a bit of caution when cutting the dough.

The chopped dough. Use a very sharp knife and quite a bit of caution when cutting the dough.

Have 1 cup of the clarified butter heating in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the dough to the saucepan.

Stir and cook the dough until it has absorbed the butter.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and let sit until cool enough to handle.

The Knafeh dough after it's been tossed with the hot butter.  I personally use wood spatulas to complete this step.  I have literally seen my dad and aunt stick their hands into the hot saucepan to mix the dough and butter together.  If I decide to do more mixing ith my hands, I generally wait until it's at least warm.

The Knafeh dough after it’s been tossed with the hot butter. As a general rule, I personally use wood spatulas to complete this step. I have literally seen my dad and aunt stick their hands into the hot saucepan to mix the dough and butter together. If I decide to do more mixing with my hands, I generally wait until it’s at least warm.

4.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  Prepare 2 baking sheets by lining with foil and spraying with non-stick spray. (I use 9″ x 12″ x 1″ sheet pans from a restaurant supply. Invest in some. You won’t be sorry.)  Pour the remaining 1/4 c. butter in the bottom of one of the baking sheets and mix in the knafeh coloring (if using).

Mixing the coloring and butter together.  While it isn't necessary to color the butter, it is traditional.

Mixing the coloring and butter together. While it isn’t necessary to color the butter, it is traditional.

5.  Take 1/2 of the Knafeh dough and spread it as evenly as possible over the bottom of the baking sheet.

Spreading the first half of the dough over the sheet pan.

Spreading the first half of the dough over the sheet pan.

Spread the cheese over the top in an even later.  Top the cheese evenly with the remaining dough.

The cheese layer.

The cheese layer.

The final layer of dough on top. This will eventually become the bottom.

The final layer of dough on top. This will eventually become the bottom.

6.  Place the baking sheet in the lower 1/3 of the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the top is a golden brown.

The Knafeh after the first baking. Now, time to flip.

The Knafeh after the first baking. Now, time to flip.

Take the baking sheet from the oven, place the second sheet on top, face down, and carefully flip the Knafeh.

Getting ready to flip.  Have the courage of your convictions when you do this. Along with an apron and very good potholders.

Getting ready to flip. Have the courage of your convictions when you do this. Along with an apron and very good potholders.

A perfect flip. This doesn't happen often. At least to me.

A perfect flip. This doesn’t happen often. At least to me.

Place the new baking sheet with the knafeh, now bottom-side-up, back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

7.  Once the knafeh is done, take it out of the oven and set the baking sheet on a rack.  Pour the Qatr over the knafeh as evenly as possible.

Pouring over the Qatr. Don;t skimp on this. It will soak in.

Pouring over the Qatr. Don’t skimp on this. It will soak in.

Top with the chopped pistachios (if using).  Let cool slightly and allow the syrup to soak in before eating.

The finished Knafeh.

The finished Knafeh.

Sahtein!

Sahtein!  P.S. This is excellent with a cup of strong Arabic coffee.

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Clarified Butter

At least 2 lbs. of unsalted European or European-style butter (it has a higher percentage of fat than American butters. American butters tend to have more water.)

Basically, clarified butter (also known as ghee or samneh) is butter where the milk solids have been removed.  When butter burns, it’s these solids that burn, not the fat.

Cooking with regular butter is fine, as we all know, in most cases.  In fact, sometimes browned butter is a beautiful thing.  However, for desserts like this, or even direct high-heat cooking, clarified butter is the way to go.  It has a much higher smoke point (about 450F as opposed to 325F for regular butter) as well as a longer shelf life (I’ve had some for at least 6 months and it’s still good).

It’s very simple to make.  It just takes a little patience.

Here is a lovely essay on clarified butter written by Edward Schneider for the New York Times in 2008: http://tinyurl.com/lj6ozhr

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I generally like to do at least 3 pounds at a time and store it in the refrigerator.

To begin, place the butter in a medium to large saucepan over very low heat.

 

Starting the process.

Starting the process.

Allow the butter to very slowly melt.  This is done to help the butter separate slowly and let the milk solids settle on the bottom of the pan.

The butter almost ready for skimming.

The butter almost ready for skimming.

Remove the pan from the heat.  With a large spoon, begin to carefully skim off the milk solids on top.

Skimming off the foam.  Some people save it for using on popcorn, in dairy recipes, or on rice.  If I don't have an immediate use for it myself, I tend to just discard it. It's up to you.

Skimming off the foam. Some people save it for using on popcorn, in dairy recipes, or on rice. If I don’t have an immediate use for it myself, I tend to just discard it. It’s up to you.

The remaining milk solids and little bit of butter in the bottom of the pan.

The remaining milk solids and little bit of butter in the bottom of the pan.

Once you have skimmed off all (or most) of the solids, carefully pour them into a clean container.  Some people will pour the butter through a cheesecloth as well to be sure to get every bit of milk solid out of the clarified butter.  However, if you are fine with a few bits of milk solid, you can skip that step.

The finished clarified butter. I generally get 4 1/2 cups from 3 lbs. of butter.

The finished clarified butter. I generally get 4 1/2 cups from 3 lbs. of butter.

 

 

Enjoy!

 

 



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