Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen



My Arabic Breakfast فطوري العربية 3

Posted on September 30, 2013 by Sahar

One of the great things about having a parent, or parents, who were born and/or grew up in another country is getting to learn and experience mores, manners, customs, and, yes, food that are different than what you might experience daily in the wider world.

My sisters and I grew up with just such a parent.  Our father is Palestinian.  He’s originally from a town called Nablus.  When he was born, it was a part of  western Jordan. Now it is in the Occupied West Bank under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority.  Dad came to the US in 1960 to go to college.  Eventually, he met and married our mom, graduated from college with an engineering degree, co-raised three girls without losing his mind, worked for the same company for 40 years, and happily retired.

Along the way, Dad did impart in us some of his old-world wisdom.  Or, at least tried to.  And while we didn’t always appreciate the lessons he tried to teach – especially Arabic, which I’m still struggling to learn – we always appreciated the food.

And while my sisters and I certainly ate with glee the kibbeh, sayadieh (fish with rice), mjudarah (lentils and rice), mishi waraq (stuffed grape leaves), and knaffeh (sweet  shredded phyllo dough with cheese) our parents made (Mom and Dad each have their specialties), we especially enjoyed breakfast with unrestrained glee.

Breakfast at my aunt's home in Jordan

Breakfast at my aunt’s home in Jordan

Breakfast in the Middle East isn’t necessarily a rushed thing.  Well, it isn’t unless one has to rush off to work or school. Breakfast usually starts about 8 or 9 with a nice long chat over coffee.  Then, the food comes out.  It can be as simple as some jam, bread, and cheese on up to dips, za’atar (spice mix made with thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt), fresh fruit and vegetables, olives, pickles, eggs, and occasionally leftovers from the night before.

Unlike in the West, coffee isn’t drunk at breakfast.  It’s used as an aperitif, digestive, at social gatherings, and with the desserts the Middle East is so famous for.  Juice, water, or hot sweet tea is drunk at breakfast.

Just to make you hungrier, here’s a picture of my family at the restaurant my cousin Salam owns with her husband. Tarweea. It serves breakfast 24 hours a day.  And it’s amazing.

The family at Tarweea. Damn good food. And company.

The family at Tarweea. Damn good food. And company.

So, welcome to my version of Arabic Breakfast.

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The recipes I’m showing you are ubiquitous throughout the Middle East.  Like anywhere else, there are regional variations for each dish.  That being said, I’m going to show you the way I grew up eating these dishes and the recipes I learned Palestinian style.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

I will be making several recipes in this post:  Ful Mudammas (Fava Bean Dip), Baba Ghannouj (Eggplant Dip), Tomatoes and Garlic Poached in Olive Oil (not sure if this is authentic, but my dad makes it on occasion), and Hummous (which I’ve already made for you, http://www.tartqueenskitchen.com/?cat=63).

Hummous. Mmm... Click on the above link to get the recipe.

Hummous. Mmm…
Click on the above link to get the recipe.

The additions will be some lovely olives and turnip pickles:

olives, pickles, cucumber

Clockwise from top: Persian cucumbers, turnip pickles (the red color comes from a beet put into the brine), Moroccan Oil Cured Olives, Lebanese Green Olives

Plates of olive oil and za’atar.

Olive Oil and Za'atar

Olive Oil and Za’atar

Bread is dipped in the olive oil and then the za’atar.  It has a wonderful savory-slightly tart flavor.  Some people will also make a paste of the two, spread it on bread and toast the bread until the top is nice and bubbly.  It’s divine.

We also have some lebneh.  It is essentially yogurt cheese.  A lovely, delightfully slightly sour treat. Try it spread on bread with some tomato. Oh. Yeah.

Lebneh in olive oil. This stuff is the bomb.

Lebneh in olive oil. This stuff is the bomb.

Some farmers cheese is always essential on the table.  Jebne Nabulsi (Nablus Cheese) is our cheese of choice.  Farmers cheese is used in both sweet and savory dishes.  For sweet dishes, it’s usually boiled to remove the salt.  The cheese we get in the US is always packed in brine. If you’re able to buy it in Jordan, it’s much fresher. The difference is striking.

My favorite brand of Nabulsi Cheese. it's not too salty and cooks well.

My favorite brand of Nabulsi Cheese. it’s not too salty and cooks well.

 

The first recipe I’ll show you is for Ful (pronounced “fool”) Mudammas (فول مدمس).  It’s a breakfast dish made with fava beans. It’s a dish that’s been traced back to ancient Egypt and is still a very popular breakfast choice throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Now, I use the canned ones.   However, if you want to use fresh or used soaked dry beans, it’s up to you.

The ingredients for Ful Mudammas.

The ingredients for Ful Mudammas.

1 can fava beans, drained, liquid reserved

1/4 c. onion, finely minced

2 cl. garlic, minced

2 – 4 (depending on size and heat level) tabasco or pepperoncini peppers, minced

1/4 c. parsley, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon to taste

Olive oil

additional minced parsley for garnish, optional

 

1.  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, mix together the fava beans, onion, garlic, peppers,  about 2 – 3 tablespoons of the reserved liquid from the beans, and a pinch of salt & pepper.

Beans in the pot.

Beans in the pot.

Beans, onion, garlic, and peppers waiting to make me happy.

Beans, onion, garlic, and peppers ready to make magic.

Heat the mixture slowly, stirring occasionally.  Cook about 20 minutes.  Add more liquid if the beans become too dry.

Cooking the beans and vegetables. Be sure to not let the beans get too dry.

Cooking the beans and vegetables. Be sure to not let the beans get too dry.

2.  Once the mixture is cooked, taste it for seasoning and some lemon to taste.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and mash the beans, leaving some texture.  In other words, don’t make them a smooth mash.

Mashing the beans. Leave some texture. Don't make too smooth a mix.

Mashing the beans. Leave some texture. Don’t make too smooth a mix.

3.  Place the ful on a plate, drizzle over some olive oil and additional parsley.

The finished dish. Enticing, isn't it.

The finished dish. Enticing, isn’t it.

 

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The next dish I’m going to show you is Baba Ghannouj (بابا غنوج.). It’s a smooth dip made with eggplant.  It can be served as a mezze, a salad, or a side dish.  It is sometimes served with sliced or finely diced vegetables on top.  Some will use parsley or mint.  In some parts of the Arab world, particularly Syria, pomegranate seeds or syrup are used as well.

Traditionally, the eggplant is grilled over an open flame until it’s soft and charred.  However, I’ve found the oven is an excellent alternative cooking source.

When buying eggplant, look for ones with a smooth unblemished skin and no soft spots.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

1 eggplant

3 cl. garlic

1/4 c. tahineh, more if needed

Salt and lemon juice to taste

Olive oil for garnish

Pomegranate seeds or syrup for garnish, optional

Parsley for garnish, optional

 

1.  Prep the eggplant.  Heat your oven to 400F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.  Drizzle some olive oil on the bottom and spread to cover.

Take the eggplant, cut off the top, then cut in half lengthwise.

The eggplant. You want the flesh to be white to off white.  And not too seedy.  A lot of seeds can make the eggplant bitter.

The eggplant. You want the flesh to be white to off white. and firm. And not too seedy. A lot of seeds can make the eggplant bitter.

Place the eggplant cut side down on the baking sheet.  Drizzle to top with a little more oil and put in the oven.  Bake the eggplant until it’s soft, about 20 – 25 minutes.

Eggplant ready for the oven.

Eggplant ready for the oven.

2.  Meanwhile, if you are using pomegranate seeds, time to get the seeds out.

Hello.

Hello.

When buying a pomegranate, make sure there are no soft pots, the skin is smooth and free of blemishes, and be sure to check for pinholes in the skin.  That’s a sign of infestation or spoilage.  If you open a pomegranate and any of the seeds are brown or dried out, discard them.

Cut around the equator of the pomegranate just until you break through the skin.  Don’t cut all the way through or you’ll lose some seeds.

Pull the halves until they separate.  This takes a little doing, but it will happen.

An excellent pomegranate. The seeds are bright, red, and juicy. The membrane is firm and a nice creamy color.

An excellent pomegranate. The seeds are bright, red, and juicy. The membrane is firm and a nice creamy color.

I suggest wearing gloves for this next part. It is now time to separate the seeds from the membrane.  It’s really not difficult.  Just time consuming.  if you can remove the seeds in clusters, all the better.  The trick is to break as few seeds as possible and not include any of the membrane (edible, but very bitter).

Removing the seeds from the membrane.  Not difficult, but time consuming.

Removing the seeds from the membrane. Not difficult, but time consuming.

The remains.

The remains.

You will be rewarded for your hard work.

Your reward. They look like jewels.

Your reward. They look like jewels.

3.  Check the eggplant.  Give it a quick poke with your finger or a fork.  If it feels soft, it’s ready to come out of the oven.  Take the eggplant halves off the baking sheet and set aside until cool enough to handle.

The baked eggplant.  You want the char.  It adds a smky flavor to the final dish.  However, be sure not to let the eggplant burn.

The baked eggplant. You want the char. It adds a smoky flavor to the final dish. However, be sure not to let the eggplant burn.

4.  when the eggplant is cool enough to handle, carefully peel off the skin and discard.

Peeling the skin off the eggplant.

Peeling the skin off the eggplant.

Place the peeled eggplant in a small bowl or dish.  Set aside.

5.  With a food processor running, drop the garlic cloves down through the feed tube and chop them.

The chopped garlic.

The chopped garlic.

Add the eggplant, tahineh, and a little salt.

Ready to mix.

Ready to mix.

Puree the ingredients until a smooth consistency is achieved.  Add a little lemon juice through the feed tube while the machine is running.  When the lemon is mixed in, taste the baba ghannouj for seasoning.

6.  Place the baba ghannouj into a bowl and garish with a little olive oil, some parsley, and a few of the pomegranate seeds.

This is delicious. And I don't like eggplant.

This is delicious. And I don’t like eggplant.

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As for the Poached Tomatoes and Garlic, I really don’t know if it’s an authentic part of the meal.  However, I remember my dad making this dish from time to time, so I do, too.  My husband and I  like this dish, so I make it for that reason as well.

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

4 large tomatoes, quartered, core (blossom end) cut out, and seeded

10 – 12 cloves garlic, smashed

3/4 c. olive oil

1 tsp. salt

 

1.  Place all the ingredients in a large skillet or shallow saucepan over low heat.

The ingredients ready to be poached.

The ingredients ready to be poached.

2.  While the ingredients cook, you can mash them a bit if you like. Just cook until the tomatoes have completely broken down, about 30 minutes.

Cooking down the tomatoes and garlic.

Cooking down the tomatoes and garlic.

All done.  Yes, it's a lot of olive oil. It tastes lovely.

All done. Yes, it’s a lot of olive oil. It tastes lovely.

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Fried Nabulsi Cheese

1.  Take a few pieces of the Nabulsi cheese and cut them into smaller pieces (I usually cut them in half crosswise and then again lengthwise).  Place them in a bowl and rinse with water several times until it runs clear.  Let the cheese soak in the water to remove some of the salt.

Some of the cheese. The shape and saltiness of the cheese depends on the brand,

Some of the cheese. The shape and saltiness of the cheese depends on the brand.

Soaking the cheese

Soaking the cheese

Before you get ready to fry the cheese, take it out of the water and drain on paper towels.

2.  In a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the butter starts to foam, place a few pieces of the cheese in the skillet to cook.  Cook until each side is golden brown.

Frying the cheese. Not the most healthy way to cook it, but hey, why not?

Frying the cheese. Not the most healthy way to cook it, but hey, why not?

Drain the cooked cheese on paper towels and eat while still warm.  It doesn’t really keep once it’s cold.

Believe it or not, this is excellent on warm pita bread with a little jam.

Believe it or not, this is excellent on warm pita bread with a little jam.

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Of course, the one indispensable ingredient for the whole meal. Bread. Khubuz خبز

 

The bread.  The most indespensible ingredient of all.

The bread. The most indispensable ingredient of all.

And, here is the final table.

The final table. Invite a few friends.

The final table. Invite a few friends.

Sahtein!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Toast 1

Posted on July 18, 2013 by Sahar

French Toast. One of the most decadent meals one could ever hope for. It’s a divine meal for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or, yes, dinner.

Admit it. Breakfast for dinner is the best.

Day-old bread soaked in a custard mixture, cooked slowly on a skillet, and served with butter, syrup, powdered sugar, whipped cream, and, even better, fresh fruit.  It’s the kind of meal that makes you want to go back to bed on a lazy weekend. I know I do.

But, is French Toast really French? Well, yes and no.  No one knows the true origins of the recipe.

Dating back to the 4th or 5th Century, Apicius is credited as having the earliest recipe for stale bread soaked in milk, but not eggs, and served with honey.It was named “aliter dulcia” – another sweet dish.

“Another sweet dish: Break fine white bread, crust removed, into rather large pieces which soak in milk. Fry in oil, cover with honey and serve.” –Cookery and Dining in Imperial Rome, edited and translated by Joseph Dommers Vehling

There are also references to the recipe in a 14th Century German recipe “Arme Ritter” – poor knights.  In the 15th Century, English recipes for “pain perdu” (French) – Lost/wasted bread (a reference to bread that has gone stale).  A similar dish, “suppe dorate” – guilded snippets – was popular in England during the Middle Ages, although the English might have learned it from the Normans (the French who invaded England in 1066) , who had a dish called “tostees dorees” – guilded bread.

“Take slices of white bread, trimmed so that they have no crusts; make these slices square and slightly grilled so that they are colored all over by the fire. Then take eggs beaten together with plenty of sugar and a little rose water; and put the slices of bread in this to soak; carefully remove them, and fry them a little in a frying pan with a little butter and lard, turning them very frequently so that they do not burn. The arrange them on a plate, and top with a little rose water colored yellow with a little saffron, and with plenty of sugar.”
The Medieval Kitchen, Recipes from France and Italy,

The Oxford English Dictionary cites 1660 as the year “French toast” first made an appearance, in a book called The Accomplisht Cook. That preparation, however, left out the eggs, in favor of soaking pre-toasted bread in a solution of wine, sugar, and orange juice. The Dictionary of American Food and Drink contends that the first egg-based recipe in print didn’t appear until 1870; throughout the tail end of the 19th Century, similar recipes appeared under the monikers “French toast,” “Egg toast,” “Spanish toast,” and even “German toast.”

A highly dubious creation myth holds that French toast owes its creation to an Albany, N.Y., innkeeper named Joseph French. Legend has it that French whipped up a batch of the golden-brown treats in 1724 and advertised them as “French toast” because he’d never learned to use an apostrophe “s.”

Some historical information from: www.todayifoundout.com, www.slate.com, www.wikipedia.org

 

In other words, a lot of speculation. But no one really knows.

Now, on to the recipe.

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A few notes:

1.  Use any type of bread you like.  When I was growing up, my mom used good old sliced white bread.  And it was delicious.  Now, I use my personal favorite, challah (Jewish Egg Bread).  Buttermilk, sourdough, brioche, and country-style are all excellent choices.

2.  Day-old bread is best.  If your bread is too fresh, it will fall apart when you soak it in the custard mixture.  If it is too dry, you’ll never be able to get the bread soaked through enough to have a moist slice of finished toast.

3.  Whole milk. Please.  Cream and Half & Half are too heavy.  2%, 1%, and Skim don’t have the richness or flavor you want. Plus, they won’t stand up to the heat.

4.  If you like, you can add about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and/or nutmeg to the custard mixture.  I generally don’t, but, if you want to, go for it.

5.  I like to use my electric skillet to make French Toast.  The temperature is steady and easy to adjust as I need to.  If you prefer to use a skillet on the stove, keep the temperature at medium-low.  Yes, it takes a little extra time.  The results are worth it.

 

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

Beautiful Challah Bread.

Beautiful Challah Bread.

 

 

1 loaf day-old bread, sliced into 3/4″ – 1″ thick slices

6 eggs, well beaten

2 c. whole milk

1 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Butter, syrup, powdered sugar, whipped cream, fruit for serving (one, some, or all of these; up to you)

 

1.  Buy your bread a day or two before you decide to make the toast.  A few hours up to the night before, slice the bread into thick slices and lay out on racks.  This will let the bread dry out without over-drying. (If you slice the bread the night before and are afraid it might get too dry, cover the bread with a clean dish towel.  This will still allow for air circulation but keep the bread from over-drying.)

In a pinch, you can have your oven on low and place the sliced bread in there for an hour to quick-dry the bread as well.

Sliced bread.  Nice, thick slices.

Sliced bread. Nice, thick slices.

Drying the bread. The racks help with air circulation so the bread dries evenly.

Drying the bread. The racks help with air circulation so the bread dries evenly.

2.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs.  The need to be beaten well so that the whites, which can be notoriously hard to break down, are completely incorporated with the yolks.

The beaten eggs.  You want to be sure that the whites and yolks are fully incorporated.

The beaten eggs. You want to be sure that the whites and yolks are fully incorporated.

3.  Mix in the milk, sugar, and vanilla.

Adding the milk, vanilla, and sugar.

Adding the milk, vanilla, and sugar.

The custard ready for the bread.

The custard ready for the bread.

4.  Meanwhile, have either an electric skillet preheated to 275F or a non-stick skillet on the stove over medium-low heat.  (f you want to use a little unflavored oil or butter in the skillet, go ahead.  I generally don’t.)

5.  Take the bread, a slice or two at a time, and soak the bread.  Gently press on the bread to make sure the custard mixture is soaking completely through the slice.

Soaking the bread.

Soaking the bread. Gently press down to submerge the bread as completely as possible in the custard. Sometimes, you’ll see air bubbles coming up. That’s a good thing.  It means the liquid is displacing any air in the bread.

Flip the bread over and soak the other side.

Flipping over the bread.

Soaking the other side. When you press down, there should be no spring-back from the bread. Also, the area around the crust is more dense, so you may not get the same saturation as the rest of the slice.  That’s OK.

Carefully lift the bread out, allowing the excess custard to drip back into the bowl.  Lay the bread on a plate and repeat until you have enough to put into the skillet without crowding.

6.  Transfer the bread to the skillet and let it cook until it is golden brown on one side before flipping.  This will help keep the bread from falling apart and cook evenly.

The toast in the skillet. They key to cooking French Toast is low and slow.

The toast in the skillet. They key to cooking French Toast is low and slow.

Ready for its close-up. A lovely, dense, custard-filled slice of Challah. Yummy.

Ready for its close-up. A lovely, dense, custard-filled slice of Challah. Yummy.

Once the bread is browned, carefully flip it over.  Continue to cook the bread until it is golden brown on the other side as well.  It should also “puff” a bit in the center and, when you press it, it should bounce back, like a cake.

After flipping the toast. A lovely golden brown.

After flipping the toast. A lovely golden brown. After a few minutes, the centers should begin to puff up a bit, like a cake.

The finished toast. Notice the density and moistness of the bread. This is what you want.

The finished toast. Notice the density and moistness of the bread. This is what you want.

7.  Keep the toast in a warm oven while you finish cooking the rest.  Serve with any toppings you like and any sides you prefer.

Heated maple syrup and melted butter.  This is my preferred method of dressing my French Toast, waffles, and pancakes. it's just easier.

Heated maple syrup and melted butter. This is my preferred method of dressing my French Toast, waffles, and pancakes. it’s just easier.

Resistance is futile.

Resistance is futile.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oven Roasted Tomatoes with Orecchiette 4

Posted on March 31, 2013 by Sahar

The humble tomato. One of our favorite  nightshade family fruits used as a vegetable. It’s hard to imagine now how it was once considered at best a trash food, and, at worst, poisonous.

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A brief history (via www.wikipedia.org)

Aztecs and other peoples in Mesoamerica used tomatoes in their cooking. The exact date of domestication is unknown; however,  by 500 BCE, it was already being cultivated in southern Mexico. The large, lumpy tomato, a mutation from a smoother, smaller fruit, originated in Mesoamerica, and may be the direct ancestor of some modern cultivated tomatoes.

There is some specualtion as to whether it was Christopher Columbus or Hernán Cortés was the first European to transfer the small yellow tomato to Europe. The earliest discussion of the tomato in European literature appeared  in 1544 by Pietro Andrea Mattioli, an Italian physician and botanist, who suggested that a new type of “eggplant” had been brought to Italy that was blood red or golden color when mature and could be eaten like an eggplant—cooked and seasoned with salt, black pepper, and oil. However it wasn’t until ten years later that tomatoes were named in print by Mattioli as pomi d’oro, or “golden apple”.

The earliest discovered cookbook with tomato recipes was published in Naples in 1692, though the author had apparently obtained these recipes from Spanish sources. In northern areas of Italy, however, the fruit was used solely as a tabletop decoration before it was incorporated into the local cuisine in the late 17th or early 18th century.

The first recorded history of tomatoes in Italy dates back to October 31, 1548 when the house steward of the de’ Medici family wrote to the Medici private secretary informing him that the basket of tomatoes sent from the family’s Florentine estate at Torre del Gallo “had arrived safely.” Tomatoes were grown mainly as ornamentals early on after their arrival in Italy. The Florentine aristocrat Giovanvettorio Soderini wrote how they “were to be sought only for their beauty” and were grown only in gardens or flower beds. The tomato’s ability to mutate and create new and different varieties helped contribute to its success and spread throughout Italy. However, even in areas where the climate supported growing tomatoes, their proximity of growing to the ground suggested low status. They were not adopted as a staple of the peasant population because they were not as filling as other fruits already available. Additionally, both toxic and inedible varieties discouraged many people from attempting to consume or prepare them.

Tomatoes were not grown in England until the 1590s. One of the earliest cultivators was John Gerard, a barber-surgeon. Gerard’sHerbal, published in 1597, and largely plagiarized from continental sources, is also one of the earliest discussions of the tomato in England. Gerard knew the tomato was eaten in Spain and Italy.  Nonetheless, he believed it was poisonous.  Gerard’s views were influential, and the tomato was considered unfit for eating (though not necessarily poisonous) for many years in Britain and its North American colonies. By the mid-18th century, tomatoes were widely eaten in Britain, and before the end of that century, the Encyclopædia Britannica stated the tomato was “in daily use” in soups, broths, and as a garnish.

The tomato was introduced to cultivation in the Middle East/Asia by John Barker, British consul in Aleppo circa 1799 to 1825. Nineteenth century descriptions of its consumption are uniformly as an ingredient in a cooked dish. In 1881, it is described as only eaten in the region “within the last forty years”.

The tomato entered Iran through two separate routes; one was through Turkey and Armenia, and the other was through the Qajar royal family’s frequent travels to France. The early name used for tomato in Iran was Armani badenjan (Armenian eggplant). Currently, the name used for tomato in Iran is gojeh farangi [French plum].

The earliest reference to tomatoes being grown in British North America is from 1710, when herbalist William Salmon reported seeing them in what is today South Carolina, where they were introduced from the Caribbean. By the mid-18th century, they were cultivated on some Carolina plantations, and likely in other parts of the Southeast as well. Possibly, some people continued to think tomatoes were poisonous at this time; and in general, they were grown more as ornamental plants than as food. Thomas Jefferson, who ate tomatoes in Paris, sent some seeds back to America.

Alexander W. Livingston was the first person who succeeded in upgrading the wild tomato, developing different breeds and stabilizing the plants. In the 1937 yearbook of the Federal Department of Agriculture, it was declared that “half of the major varieties were a result of the abilities of the Livingstons to evaluate and perpetuate superior material in the tomato”. Livingston’s first breed of tomato, the Paragon, was introduced in 1870. In 1875, he introduced the Acme, which was said to be involved in the parentage of most of the tomatoes introduced by him and his competitors for the next twenty-five years.

When Alexander W. Livingston had begun his attempts to develop the tomato as a commercial crop, his aim had been to grow tomatoes smooth in contour, uniform in size and having better flavor.  After five years, the fruit became fleshier and larger. In 1870, Alexander introduced the Paragon and tomato culture began at once to be a great enterprise of the county. Today, the crop is grown in every state in the Union. He eventually developed over seventeen different varieties of the tomato plant.

 

And… thus  the birth of the  homoginization of the tomato.

Luckily, that’s changing rapidly as heirloom varieties are now becoming more readily avilable.

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This recipe is one of my favorites not only because of its ease of preparation and the fact that it’s delicious, but because of its long cooking time.

Yes. You read that right.

This is a recipe that requires a very long cooking time.  At least 6 hours.

I know what some of you are thinking. What?! That’s insane! What do you mean by this being a good thing?

Trust me.  It is.  Because I can put this in the oven on a low, slow cook, walk away, and forget about it for a few hours. I can get on with my day.

Now, admittedly, some of you don’t feel comfortable leaving your oven on all day without someone at home to monitor it.  And that’s fine.  You can certainly roast the tomatoes over a weekend day and save them until later in the week for a quick weeknight supper.

 

Now, to the recipe:

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A few notes:

a) I generally use Roma tomatoes in this recipe.  This particular variety of tomato is meant to be cooked because of it’s meatiness. (It’s typically used in sauces and pastes.) They’re also available year-round.

b) Feel free to use whatever spices and herbs you like for this.  However, due to the long cooking time, I recommend using dried herbs.  If you’d like to use fresh herbs, mix them into the roasted tomatoes and pasta at the end.

c) Feel free to use what ever pasta you like.  I like to use orecchiette (meaning “little ears” in Italian) because the shape of the pasta holds so much of the sauce that comes from roasting the tomatoes.  However, if you would like to use another pasta, I would recommend using a shaped pasta as opposed to a straight pasta like spaghetti or pappardelle.

d) You can roast the tomatoes in advance and keep them in the refrigerator for 4 – 5 days.  Just heat them up slowly as you cook the pasta, then, mix them together when the pasta is done.

e) If you like, you can mix in a little protein to the tomatoes and pasta just before you serve.  Spicy Italian sausage works well.

The ingredients

The ingredients

 

5 – 6 lb. Roma tomatoes, seeded, stem end cut out

1/2 c. olive oil

Assorted herbs and spices, as much or as little as you like

Seasonings I used. Clockwise from top: Sugar, Black Pepper, Salt, Red Pepper Flakes, Italian Seasoning Blend

Seasonings I used. Clockwise from top: Sugar, Black Pepper, Salt, Red Pepper Flakes, Italian Seasoning Blend

 

1 lb. Orecchiette, or other shaped pasta

Grated Romano cheese

 

 

1.  Turn on your oven to 200F – 250F (depends on how fast you want to cook your tomatoes). Take a very large baking dish (mine is 12″ x 18″), and, if you like, give it a quick spritz with some non-stick spray.

2.  Cut the blossom end off and cut the  tomatoes in half along their equator. Give each of the halves a squeeze and use your fingers to remove as many of the seeds as possible.

Cleaning out the tomatoes. Not a pretty job.

Cleaning out the tomatoes. Not a pretty job.

The cleaned tomato.

The cleaned tomato.

Take the discarded seeds and use them in the compost pile or save for seeds for the garden.

3.  Place the cleaned halves in the baking dish.  Try to make sure you have a single layer.

Tomatoes in the baking dish ready for seasoning.

Tomatoes in the baking dish ready for seasoning.

 

4.  Drizzle the olive oil over the tomatoes.

Drizzling over the olive oil

Drizzling over the olive oil

Sprinkle over the seasonings.  Again, use as much or as little of what you like.  Carefully toss the tomatoes to completely coat them in the oil and seasonings.

Tomatoes ready for the oven.

Tomatoes ready for the oven.

5.  Now, bake the tomatoes for at least 6 hours.  You can go as long as you like, depending on your oven temperature and how roasted you want your tomatoes.

I generally bake my tomatoes at 225F for about 8-10 hours.  I like them pretty well reduced.

With the amount of tomatoes you are roasting, unless they are very dry (and some may be, especially in the winter), you will end up with a lot of juices in the pan.  Embrace that.  Makes a great natural sauce for the pasta along with the tomatoes.

6.  After the tomatoes have roasted for at least 6 hours, check them.  Stir if you like. At this point, you can take the tomatoes out of the oven or continue to roast further.

The roasted tomatoes.

The roasted tomatoes.

7.  After the tomatoes are out of the oven, cook your chosen pasta according to the package directions until al dente.  Drain and put back into the cooking pot.

8.  Meanwhile, cut or chop the tomatoes.  I like doing this with a pair of kitchen shears.  It’s just easier and a whole lot less messy.

Cutting the tomaotes

Cutting the tomatoes

9.  Pour the tomatoes and juice into the cooking pot with the pasta and mix together.

Pasta and tomatoes ready to eat

Pasta and tomatoes ready to eat

If you like, sprinkle on some Romano Cheese.  I find it works well with the roasted flavor of the tomatoes.

Dinner!

Dinner!

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

The Inaugural Viva Big Bend Food Festival 1

Posted on February 26, 2013 by Sahar

Dear Fellow Food Lovers –

On behalf of the inaugural Viva Big Bend Food Festival, I would like to cordially invite all of you for food, music, and beautiful scenery April 4 – 6 in Alpine, Marfa, Marathon, and Fort Davis, TX.

All of the information for the festival can be found on the festival website: http://www.vivabigbend.com

There’s more information being added every day.

And, yes. I will be teaching 2 classes during the festival. I’m excited and honored to have been chosen to help kick off what will no doubt be a successful, annual, and kick-ass food festival.

Besides the food and music, who couldn’t resist enjoying the scenery?

Chisos Basin. Big Bend.

Chisos Basin. Big Bend.

Ocatillo cactus. Big Bend.

Ocatillo cactus. Big Bend.

Granada Theater. Alpine.

Granada Theater. Alpine.

Gage Hotel. Marathon.

Gage Hotel. Marathon.

Chinati Foundation. Marfa, TX

Chinati Foundation. Marfa, TX

Telescope at McDonald Observatory. Fort Davis, TX

Telescope at McDonald Observatory. Fort Davis, TX

 

Of course, some of the scenery includes food (obviously)…

Dinner at Cochineal. Marfa, TX

Dinner at Cochineal. Marfa, TX

Lunch at Food Shark. Marfa, TX.

Lunch at Food Shark. Marfa, TX.

Bison Ribeye. 12 Gage Steakhouse. Marathon, TX

Bison Ribeye. 12 Gage Steakhouse. Marathon, TX

 

…and music:

Paula Nelson at Padres. Marfa, TX

Paula Nelson at Padres. Marfa, TX

Joe King Carasco. Padres. Marfa, TX

Joe King Carasco. Padres. Marfa, TX

 

So, please. Make some room in your busy schedule and join us!  It’s the ultimate getaway so close to home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real Ragú Doesn’t Come from a Jar 0

Posted on June 14, 2012 by Sahar

Ragú.  The word has been part of the American food lexicon since 1969. (The brand was started by a cheese importer Giovanni Cantisano and his wife Assunta in 1937 in New York. They sold the brand to Chesebrough-Ponds in 1969 for $43.8M.)  Most people know it as the original sauce in a jar (other than Chef Boyardee).  It has, admittedly, been the lifesaver of many a harried mom trying to put a hot meal on the table, college students looking for a cheap meal, and a quick substitute for pizza sauce.

However, I’m here to tell you, that isn’t real ragú.  A real ragú, as any prideful Italian will tell you, is a meat sauce that originated in the Emilia-Romanga region of Italy.  It’s not a brand name.

There are literally thousands of written recipes now for ragú.  In fact, since the original recipe was never written down, no one can say for sure that they know what the original recipe even was. It comes in many variations that are specific to the region where the recipe is developed (a very common thing still in Italy).  Recipes can be with or without tomatoes, include all different types of meats or poultry, contain offal, and be made with or without wine and/or milk.

According to culinary historians, Ragù alla Bolognese follows the origin of ragús in Italian cuisine. The first known reference to ragù as a pasta sauce dates to the  late 18th century, and originated in Imola, near to the city of Bologna.  The first recipe for a meat sauce characterized as being Bolognese came from Pellegrino Artusi and was included in his cookbook published in 1891. Artusi’s recipe, Maccheroni alla bolognese, is believed to have originated from the middle 19th century when he spent considerable time in Bologna.

Artusi’s sauce called for predominantly lean veal filet along with pancetta, butter, onion, and carrot. The meats and vegetables were to be finely minced, cooked with butter until the meats browned, then covered and cooked with broth. Artusi added the sauce could be enhanced by adding dried mushrooms, truffle slices, or finely chopped chicken liver. He further added that when the sauce was completely done you could add as a final touch half a glass of cream to make an even more delicate dish.

In the century-plus since Artusi wrote and published his recipe for Maccheroni alla Bolognese (maccheroni being a catch-all word for pasta in Artusi’s time), what is now ragù alla bolognese has evolved with the cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna region. Most notable is the preferred choice of pasta, which today is widely accepted as fresh tagliatelle (a wide, flat pasta). Another reflection of the evolution of the cuisine over the past 150 years is the addition of tomato, either as a puree or as a concentrated paste, or both, to the original mix of ingredients. Similarly, both wine and milk appear today in the list of ingredients in many of the contemporary recipes, and beef has mostly replaced veal as the preferred protein.

While the number of recipe and ingredient variations are significant, there are characteristic commonalities. Garlic is absent from all of the recipes. So are herbs other than the limited use of Bay leaves in some recipes. Seasoning is limited to salt, pepper and the occasional addition of nutmeg. In all of the recipes meat is the principal ingredient, and while tomatoes are included they are only used as an enhancement to the meat.

(Some historical information from www.wikipedia.org; and The Food Chronology, James Trager, Owl Books, 1995)

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

Now, to the recipe.

 

The Ingredients

 

Ragú is actually quite easy to make.  It is a sauce that requires patience, however.  From start to finish, this sauce takes about 3 – 3 1/2 hours to prepare.  So, it’s not something you can start when you get home from work.  Nor would I recommend it for the crock pot.  However, you can make extra over the weekend or your days off.  It freezes beautifully.

This particular ragú recipe that I’m using is an adaptation of a recipe I love from Fine Cooking Magazine’s Real Italian Collection (Taunton Press, 2010).

 

3 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 lb. Prosciutto, thick cut, diced (keep the fat cap on.  It adds a lot of flavor to the final dish)

1 sm. onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

1 rib celery, diced

1 lb. ground pork

2 tbsp. tomato paste

1/2 c. dry white wine

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or to taste)

28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Fire Roasted)

1 c. beef or chicken broth

Salt & Pepper to taste

1/2 c. whole milk or half & half

1 lb. Pappardelle, Tagliatelle, or other flat, wide pasta

 

1.  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven.  Add the prosciutto and cook, stirring frequently, to crisp the prosciutto slightly and to help render the fat.

The prosciutto. Keep the fat cap. It adds a lot of flavor to the final dish.

 

Cooking the prosciutto & rendering the fat. Yummy.

 

2.  Add the onion, carrot, and celery.

The classic mirepoix. Or, in Italian, soffritto.

 

Saute the vegetables with the prosciutto until they are soft and slightly browned.  About 8 – 10 minutes.  Stir frequently.

Sauteing the vegetables.

 

Just before adding the ground pork. Note how the vegetables have softened and slightly browned.

 

3.  Add the ground pork.  Cook until the pork is no longer pink.  it doesn’t need to be browned.  Just have the pink cooked out.

After the pork has been added and cooked.

 

4.  Add in the tomato paste, white wine, and pepper flakes.  Cook until the paste has been mixed in and the most of the wine has evaporated, about 5 minutes.

After the wine, tomato paste, and pepper flakes have been added.

 

5.  Add the crushed tomatoes, beef or chicken broth, and some salt & pepper.

**Take care not to add too much salt.  The prosciutto and the broth (if you’re using commercially made) will already have salt.  If you want to omit it until later in the cooking process, go ahead.  You can always add more in later, but you can’t take it out.

Right after adding the tomatoes, broth, and salt & pepper.

 

Cover the saucepan or Dutch oven and bring the sauce to a boil.  Then, uncover, turn the heat to low, and simmer the sauce for 2 hours.  Stirring occasionally.  The flavors will mellow and mesh together as the sauce cooks.

After 30 minutes.

 

After 1 hour. This is usually the earliest point where I start tasting for seasoning.

 

After 90 minutes. Begin stirring more frequently. Again, check the seasoning.

 

At 2 hours. Notice how the sauce has thickened up and become darker in color.

 

6.  Add the milk or half & half.  Mix in and continue cooking the sauce for a further 30 minutes.  Stir frequently.

The ragú right after adding the milk.

 

7.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta.  Use a pot large enough to cook the pasta properly (i.e. keep it from sticking together in the pot) and use salted water.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions to al dente (“to the teeth”).  Drain and set aside.

(I generally don’t rinse my pasta.  I think the starch is important to helping the sauce stick to the pasta. Plus, rinsing pasta loses some of the flavor.  If you want to rinse your pasta, please don’t tell me about it.)

8.  After the final 30 minutes of cooking, remove the ragú from the heat and taste for seasoning one more time.  Serve with the pasta.  If you want to have some Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano as well, go ahead.  I generally don’t.

 

Buon Appetito!

 

 

Key Lime Pie (with a bonus at the end!) 0

Posted on May 31, 2012 by Sahar

Key Lime Pie is the ultimate symbol of food from Florida. Specifically, the Florida Keys.  No one really knows when the first Key Lime Pies were made or who made them since there’s no documentation.  However, according to historians, the most likely candidate is a ship salvager turned millionaire named William Curry.  He had a cook known only as Aunt Sally.  She supposedly created the pie in the late 19th Century.

Other historians believe that fisherman off the Keys, off to sea for long periods of time, created the pie as a way to help preserve their supplies, especially eggs.

Sweetened condensed milk was used because, until the Overseas Highway was built in 1930, there was a lack of fresh milk, ice,  and refrigeration on the Keys.  To this day, it is the key to making the pie so creamy.

The other main ingredient is, of course, key limes.  The key lime tree is native to Malaysia and most likely arrived in the Keys in the 16th Century with the Spanish explorers.  They are about the size of a golf ball with a yellow-green skin.  Their juice is sweeter than the more common Persian limes.

As a fun little political aside, in 1965, Florida State Representative Bernie Papy, Jr. introduced legislation calling for a $100 fine to be levied against anyone advertising Key Lime Pie that isn’t made with key limes. The bill didn’t pass.

(Some historical information from whatscookingamerica.net)

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

Now, to the recipe.

The Ingredients

 

Of course, the purist, like Rep. Papy, would say that the only true Key Lime Pie is made with fresh key lime juice. And they would be right.  However, many of us don’t have access to fresh key limes, or, if we do, the time to juice & zest about 20 – 30 to make this pie.

I use a combination of fresh lime juice and bottled key lime juice.  The most common brand of key lime juice is Nellie & Joe’s.  However, if you can find fresh key limes, and have the time to prepare them, by all means, use them.

Another question is what kind of crust to use: pastry or graham cracker? My own personal preference is pastry.  More specifically, cookie.  Which is what I do in this recipe.  And, because the crust recipe here is essentially a cookie recipe, it isn’t going to behave like a regular pie crust.

Meringue, whipped cream, or plain?  Again, it’s up to the baker.  I like meringue.  It’s also most likely the original topping since heavy cream wouldn’t have been available in the Keys before the 1930’s.  In this recipe I use an Italian Meringue.  It’s made with a hot sugar syrup as opposed to granulated sugar.  It makes an excellent, stable meringue that is almost reminiscent of a fluffy cake frosting.

One more thing.  True Key Lime Pie doesn’t have green food coloring.  The color of the pie should be a light yellow-green color.  If you see a pie that has a fluorescent green hue, walk away.  It’s most likely a pre-made mix.

Also, I prefer a more tart pie than many people.  Many of the key lime pies I’ve tasted really put the emphasis on sweet rather than lime.  I feel I’ve remedied that here.  It’s more of a sweet-tart flavor.

 

Shortbread Cookie Crust

2c. (9 oz.) all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. citrus zest (optional)

1/2 c. light brown sugar

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

 

Key Lime Filling

2 cans sweetened condensed milk (don’t use non-fat. Yuk.)

3 egg yolks

1 1/4 c. lime juice (I use a combination of fresh Persian lime & bottled key lime in this recipe. However, you can use all fresh of one or the other)

2 tbsp. lime zest

 

Italian Meringue

1 1/4 c. sugar

1/2 c. water

2 tbsp. light corn syrup (keeps the syrup from “sugaring up” or solidifying)

6 egg whites, room temperature

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (if you don’t have this, it’s all right.  However, it does act as a stabilizer for the whites)

 

1.  Make the crust: Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a small bowl.  If you’re using the zest, toss that into the dry ingredients as well.

Weighing the flour.

 

Zesting the limes. The Microplane is a perfect tool for this. It takes off the outer peel while leaving behind the bitter white pith. If you don't own a Microplane, go get one.

 

The dry ingredients and zest mixed together.

 

2.  In a mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes light and fluffy.

The butter & sugar in the bowl.

 

Beating together the sugar & butter.

 

You want a fluffy, aerated mixture. This will help with the texture of the crust.

 

3.  Turn the speed down to low and gradually add the flour mixture.

Adding the flour to the butter & sugar

 

Keep mixing until the flour is completely incorporated.

 

4.  Turn the dough out onto a large sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a slightly flattened disk.  Wrap the dough tightly in the plastic wrap, place in the refrigerator, and chill for at least 3 hours.

The dough ready for the refrigerator

 

Note: At this point, you can simply use this dough for cookies.  Delicious.

 

5.  After you’ve let the dough chill, take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit for about 15 – 20 minutes to let it soften slightly.  When you roll out the dough, you want it to be firm but not rock-hard.

Dough ready for rolling.

 

6.  Unwrap the dough and lay it on a floured surface and lightly sprinkle the top with more flour.  Alternately, you can sandwich the dough between 2 pieces of wax paper or plastic wrap.

7.  Roll the dough out, starting from the center and working out to the edges.  Turn the dough a 1/4 turn each time you pass the pin over it.  This will help make a more even thickness as well as, especially if you’re using a floured surface, keeping the dough from sticking.  Use more flour if you need to, but try to use as little as possible.  Too much flour will make the crust tough and dry.

Note:  Again, remember, this is a cookie dough.  It is not going to behave the same way as a regular pie dough.  Because of the high butter content, this dough will get very soft, very fast as you work it.  If the dough cracks while you’re rolling, just press it back together.  If you give up on trying to roll it out (and believe me, I have a couple of times), you can simply take pieces of dough and press them into the pie plate.  Trust me, though, the results are worth a little frustration.

Getting ready to roll the dough.

 

8.  When you’re done rolling, take a 9-inch pie plate and measure the dough.  There should be approximately 3 – 4 inches of extra dough around the outer edges of the pie plate.

Measuring the pie dough.

 

9.  Now for the fun part.  Carefully flip the dough onto the pie plate and shape the dough into the plate.  Trim any dough overhanging the edges to a 1″ overhang. (if you don’t have any overhang, it’s all right.) Use whatever scraps you have to patch up any holes, tears, or spots and the edge that are a little short of dough.

Save the scraps for cookies.

Getting ready to flip the dough

 

A not entirely successful flip

 

If your dough looks like this after you've flipped it into the pie plate, don't despair. All will be well.

 

After a little repair work. See? I told you it all comes together.

 

10.  Tuck under the overhang around the edges. (If you have any.  The most important thing is that the crust is as even a thickness as possible.).  Finish the edges as you like.  Use a fork to prick a few holes in the crust and place it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

Pie crust ready for the freezer. Freezing the crust will help to keep it from melting & burning in the oven when you par-bake it later.

 

11.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350F.  Grease a piece of foil or parchment paper on one side with spray.  Set aside.

12.  Take the pie crust out of the freezer, place it on a baking sheet, and press the foil or paper down into it.  Fill the foil or paper with pie weights (i.e. dried beans, lentils, or rice) and place the pie crust in the oven.

Raw crust filled with pie weights ready for the oven.

 

13.  Par-bake the crust for 30 minutes.  Take the crust out of the oven, carefully remove the foil or paper and the weights.  Wrap the edges in foil, if needed, and bake an additional 8 – 10 minutes.

Note:  There will be a bit of melting of the crust, especially the outer edge.  It’s inevitable given the fact this is cookie dough.  When the crust comes out of the oven, it will be very soft and fragile.  Hence, the cookie sheet.

Finished par-baked crust

 

14.  Take the crust from the oven and let it cool completely.  At this stage, of you like, once the crust is cool, you can carefully wrap it in plastic and place it in the refrigerator.

15.  While the crust is cooling, you an make the filling.  In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks to break them up.  Add the condensed milk, lime juice, and zest.  Whisk until you have an even, well combined mixture.  The filling will thicken upon standing.  Set aside or cover and refrigerate.

Egg yolks & lime zest.

 

After adding the lime juice

 

After adding the sweetened condensed milk. Yummy stuff.

 

16.  Once the crust has cooled completely, wrap the edges in foil (to prevent any further browning)

Wrapped edges.

 

Carefully pour in the filling.

Ready for the oven.

 

Place the filled pie on the baking sheet (if you haven’t done so already) and put the pie back into a preheated 350F oven for 35 – 45 minutes. If your oven has a hot spot, and most ovens do, rotate the baking sheet about halfway through the initial baking time.

The center should be a bit wobbly when you take it from the oven.  It will firm up as the pie cools.

 

Note:  This is a very important thing to remember.  When you are making ANY type of cream pie, you must pay attention to the baking time & doneness of the filling.  I didn’t the first time around when I was making the pie for this post.

I had workmen in my house that day and became distracted.  So, here is what happened:

What you don't want to see. An overcooked cream pie.

 

The overcooked proteins have basically squeezed out all the liquid causing the filling to separate.

 

So, what you’ll end up with, if you aren’t paying attention, is essentially sweet-tart scrambled eggs.  And I’m fairly certain none of you will be going for that.  The pie will still taste good, but the texture will be, well, funky.

Eat the pie yourself or dress it up and give it to someone you don’t like very much.

Here is what you want to see:

A smooth, creamy pie

 

Let the pie cool completely.  (I usually cover it once it’s cooled and place it in the refrigerator overnight.)

 

17.  Make the meringue: Separate the eggs using the 3-bowl method (see my blog post “Mom’s Favorite” on how to do this).  Place the egg whites & cream of tartar in a mixer bowl and set aside.

Egg whites & cream of tartar ready to go.

Make the sugar syrup:  In a medium saucepan, mix together the sugar, corn syrup, and water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil.

Sugar syrup getting ready to boil

 

18.  Once the syrup reached 240F on a candy thermometer (soft ball stage):

Syrup at 240F

 

begin whisking the egg whites on high speed until they are frothy:

Frothy egg whites.

 

19.  Once the sugar syrup reaches between 245F & 250F (firm ball stage), remove the saucepan from the heat.

Syrup at 250F. You don't want it to get any hotter than this or the whites will too stiff to work with later.

 

Turn the mixer down to medium speed.  CAREFULLY AND SLOWLY pour the hot syrup into the whites, avoiding the whip.

Carefully pouring the sugar syrup into the whites.

 

(A hot syrup burn is really, really painful.  There’s a reason pastry chefs call this stuff napalm.  Do not give this to the kids to do, be sober, and pay attention.)

Once you have poured in all the sugar syrup, turn the mixer speed up to medium-high and continue whisking the whites until they are firm and shiny.  The bowl should be just warm to the touch when they’re done.

Whisking the egg whites after all the syrup has been added

 

The finished egg whites. These could be used as a cake frosting at this point.

 

20.  Turn your oven on to broil (you may want to take a rack out) or have a torch ready to go. I usually set my oven on “Broil” setting and turn the temperature to 450F.

21.  Pile the meringue on top of the pie.  Spread it all the way to the edge of the crust and smooth or spike it out as you like (there will be A LOT of meringue).

An almost comical amount of meringue.

 

Ready for the oven.

 

Place the pie in the lower part of the oven and let the meringue brown.  Watch it carefully, though.  It can burn quickly.  About 60 – 90 seconds is all it will take.

If you have a torch, brown the meringue with that if you like.  You can direct the heat more directly and make the browning more even.

PIe! Yummy!

 

A cross section. It was really, really good.

 

Store any uneaten pie, covered, in the refrigerator.  It’ll keep for about 3 – 4 days.

 

Enjoy!

 

P.S.  Remember what I said about saving the scraps for cookies?

1.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Have your oven preheated to 350F.

2.  Roll out the leftover dough into a 1/8 – 1/4″ thickness, depending on how crunchy or soft you like your shortbread cookies.

3.  Cut the cookies out into your desired shape.

Cutting out cookies

 

4.  Place the cut cookies onto the baking sheet about 1″ apart.  If you like, sprinkle them with a little turbinado (raw) sugar before baking:

Ready for the oven

 

5.  Bake the cookies for 8 – 10 minutes.  Depending on the thickness and how brown you like them.  Turn the baking sheet about halfway through the initial cooking time.

6.  When the cookies are done, let them cool slightly on the baking sheet then transfer to a rack.  The cookie yield depends on how much leftover dough you have and how thick you make the cookies.

All done!

 

Bonus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mom’s Favorite 0

Posted on April 30, 2012 by Sahar

Angel Food Cake has always reminded me of my Mom.  Why?  Because it’s her favorite.  Because it’s something that makes her happy. Because it’s something seemingly delicate yet strong.

Her mother made it for her birthday every year with chocolate sauce.  If I happen to be with  Mom on her birthday, I always make Angel Food Cake.

I also like it because it’s delicious.  It tastes a little like toasted marshmallows to me.

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

Some food historians believe that the Angel Food Cakes were likely baked by African-American slaves in the early to mid 19th Century, since making this cake required a strong beating arm and lots of labor to whip the air into the whites.  Angel Food Cakes are also a traditional African-American favorite at post-funeral meals.

In “Mrs. Porter’s New Southern Cookery Book, and Companion for Frugal and Economical“, published in 1871, has a recipe for “Snow-Drift Cake”. A similar recipe appears in 1881 in a book by Abby Fisher, the first Black American woman and a former slave from Mobile, Alabama, who recorded her recipes in a cookbook called “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking, Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc.”. Her book has a cake recipe named “Silver Cake”.

The Original Boston Cooking School Cook Book” by Mrs.D.A. Lincoln published in 1884 had a recipe for “Angel Cake” mentioning the name for the first time. In Fannie Merritt Farmer’s 1896 updated version of the “Boston Cooking School Cook Book“, she uses the same recipe and calls the cake “Angel Food Cake.”

(some historical information from Wikipedia)

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

There is the school of thought that Angel Food Cake was so named because of it’s lighter color and texture.  It is suitable for the Angels to eat.  On the other hand, it’s slightly more decadent counterpart, Devil’s Food Cake, is darker, richer, and is considered more sinful. Exactly what the Devil would eat.

It reminds me of Muhammad Ali’s statement, ” Angel food cake is the white cake, but the devils food cake is chocolate. When are we going to wake up as a people and end the lie that white is better than black?”

I just had to add that.  It’s always stuck with me.

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

Once again, now to the recipe:

Now, to be honest, an Angel Food Cake isn’t for the cake-making novice.  There are so many things that could, can, and will go wrong if you don’t have the confidence and expertise when you bake.

Hell, things could still go wrong even if you do have plenty of baking experience.  I can tell you that with all sincerity.

 

Angel Food Cake Ingredients

 

1/2 c. 10x, or Confectioners, sugar

1 c. Pastry Flour (I admittedly use bleached in this recipe.  Just this recipe)

10 ea. Egg Whites (be sure they’re room temperature)

1/2 tsp. Cream of Tartar

2 tsp. Vanilla or Almond Extract (be sure to get pure extract, not imitation flavoring)

1 c. Granulated Sugar

 

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F.

2.  Sift together the 10x sugar and the pastry flour.  Set aside.

The sifted 10x sugar & pastry flour

 

When you measure out the pastry flour and 10x sugar, be sure to use the scoop & sweep method of measuring (see “Baking the Perfect Biscuit”, 12/18/11).  Otherwise, your cake runs the risk of having too much dry ingredient weight and you’ll deflate the whites and end up with a heavy cake that won’t rise.

2.  In a large mixer bowl, pour in the egg whites.

The 3-Bowl method of separating eggs.

 

There is a kind of art to separating eggs.  When you want egg whites, that’s all you want, egg whites.  Any additional fat (i.e. yolks) in the whites will keep them from potentially reaching full volume. Hence the 3-bowl method for separating egg whites.

You break the egg into one bowl.  If the yolk isn’t broken, you carefully lift it out of the bowl  and place it in the second bowl.  Then you pour the white into the third bowl.  If the yolk breaks, you pour the whole egg in with the yolks.  If there is any yolk left in the first bowl, wash it out or get a clean bowl.

By using this method, you’ll always have pure egg whites ready for your cake.

Cover the yolks and use them for something else.  Like a very rich omelet or lemon curd.

 

3.  The next thing you want are for your egg whites to be at room temperature.  This allows for the proteins in the whites to relax and allow the strands to be broken so they will incorporate more air as you whip them.

Add the whip attachment to your mixer (or break out your hand mixer).  Add the cream of tartar to the whites (this helps with the stabilization of the whites as you whip them).  Begin beating the whites at medium-high speed until they form soft peaks. Add the extract.

Just starting to whip the egg whites.

 

Frothy stage.

 

Almost to soft peak stage. Notice how the whites are becoming shinier and the bubbles are getting smaller.

 

Egg whites at soft peak stage. When you pull the whisk or beaters out of the whites, there will be a distinct peak, but it will bend a bit. And the egg whites are still soft.

 

4.  Continue whisking the whites until they form stiff peaks.

Egg whites beaten to stiff peaks. The whites will have a bit of a shine and the peaks will stand straight when you pull the whisk or beaters out. The whites will also feel almost heavy.

 

When you get to still peak stage, you want to be sure not to over beat the whites.  If you do that, the whites will begin to separate.  The whites will dry and the liquid will seep out.  There is no saving it.  You have to start over if this happens.

 

5.  Lower the speed of the mixer to low and slowly pour in the granulated sugar.  You don’t want to put all the sugar in at once because you want to give the whites a chance to dissolve the sugar and mix in more evenly.

Incorporating the sugar.

 

Raise the speed again to medium-high and continue beating the whites until they become stiff and shiny.  Again, take care not to over beat.

The beaten, sweetened egg whites. Just lovely.

 

6.  Carefully turn the whites out into a large, shallow bowl.

The egg whites in the bowl. You have to be careful when transferring because you don't want to deflate the whites.

 

Sift the reserved flour and 10x sugar mixture in 1/3rd’s over the whites and fold the dry ingredients into the whites.

Folding is a method of mixing that is much more gentle (if done properly) that will keep the deflation of the whites to a minimum.  Because the millions of air bubbles in the whites are what make the cake rise (hot air rises), you want to deflate them as little as possible.

 

 

Folding: Step 1

 

To fold the dry ingredients into the whites, Step 1:  Take a rubber spatula and put it into the center of the whites.

Folding: Step 2

 

Step 2: Slide the spatula underneath the whites and begin to bring it up the side.

 

Folding: Step 3

 

Step 3: Bring the spatula up over the tops of the whites and fold the whites back down into the center.  Turn the bowl a 1/4 turn and repeat until you have all of the dry ingredients incorporated.  Try not to over mix. Be as gentle as possible.

 

 

After the dry ingredient have been folded into the whites.

 

7.  Carefully move the batter into an ungreased Angel Food Cake Pan:

2 pieces of an Angel Food Cake pan: The Bowl and Chimney/Base.

 

The pan together. The chimney is to help with more even baking of the cake. This cake pan belonged to my Great Aunt Arlene.

 

There are two main reasons you don’t want to grease the pan: a) because you don’t want any fat to impede the rising of the whites; and b) the whites will use the dry pan to hold on to and even use it to climb up the sides of the pan during baking.

 

The cake ready for the oven

 

8.  Bake the cake for 35 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched on top.

Cake fresh from the oven. The top will have a slightly crispy texture.

 

9.  As soon as possible after the cake is taken from the oven, invert the cake pan onto a narrow-necked bottle (a wine bottle is perfect).  This will help keep the deflation of the cake to a minimum (by keeping it it from collapsing under it’s own weight).  There will be some deflation as the cake cools no matter what because as the air in the cake cools, the lighter hot air dissipates and the heavier cool air takes its place.

Science!

Cooling the cake over a rather nice merlot.

 

Leave the cake in this position until it is completely cooled.

 

10.  When the cake is completely cooled, run a knife around the outer edge of the cake to help release it from the bowl of the pan.  Pull, carefully, on the chimney and pull the cake out.

Cake!

 

At this point, you can do one of two things to finish releasing the cake: a) Run a knife around the chimney and around the base to release the cake; or, do what I do, and, b) simply run a knife around the center and cut pieces off as needed.  Then I store the uncut cake in the pan and cover it.

Wish Mom was here right now.

 

Sorry about the lighting. My bulbs seem to be a little yellow.  I swear the cake is white.

This cake, by the way, is excellent with chocolate sauce and strawberries.  Mmm…

 

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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