September 29, 2010

Persimmon Lime Sorbet

4 cups peeled, cubed fuyu persimmon
juice and zest of 2 limes
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup water

Place all of the ingredients in a blender (I used my Vita-Mix) and pulse until very, very smooth. If possible, refrigerate the mixture overnight. Pour into an ice cream maker and churn until smooth. Serve immediately or freeze in a freezer safe container.

My thoughts:
It is persimmon season! I honestly haven't eat persimmons often, while they do grow here in Baltimore, they are not terribly common or I would think, popular. Weather fluctuates a lot this time of year. One day it seems like it is the hottest day in August then the next day it is like Thanksgiving is right around the corner. On one of those hot days, I took these persimmons and made them into an insanely creamy sorbet. It is not hyperbole when I say this sorbet is insanely creamy. It must be the persimmons (which I had never had frozen before) but this sorbet is as creamy rich tasting as ice cream despite basically being water + fruit + juice. It is absolutely the best sorbet I have ever had.

Note: Persimmons are pretty sweet. Add extra lime juice/zest as needed.

September 27, 2010

Black Mission Fig Muffins

2 cups flour
1 cup plain Greek or Mediterranean style 2% yogurt
1 cup diced dried Black Mission figs
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour one 12 well muffin tin. In a large bowl, mix together the  egg, oil, yogurt, and sugar. After it is thoroughly mixed, add in the flour, spices and baking powder. Stir to combine. Fold in the figs. Fill each well in the muffin tin 3/4 of the way full. Top with a fig quarter if desired.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the center muffin comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack, serve.

My thoughts:

I recently came into possession of some really thick, creamy Mediterranean style yogurt (Karoun brand) and really supple dried Black Mission figs. I love yogurt and figs together so I knew I had to make something that combined the two and muffins came to mind as the temperature suddenly dropped about 20 degrees today. Perfect for baking! These muffins are moist and studded evenly with fig, perfect for a fig lover like me.

September 24, 2010

Smoked Whitefish Spread

1 lb. smoked whitefish chub
8 oz. block of cream cheese (reduced fat is fine)
1/4 cup light or regular sour cream
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Carefully remove whitefish meat from the bones. The best way to do this is to find the spine, stick a fork into the fish on either side of the spine and gently pull the meat away from the bones. Then carefully flake the meat with your fingers. Pick through the meat and discard any bones. Mix the fish, cream cheese, green onions and sour cream in a bowl until uniformly combined.

Note: Whitefish is a very oily fish. To remove the fish smell from your hands, rub both hands with the open half of a cut lemon and then wash with soap.

My thoughts:
Whitefish spread and whitefish salad are deli staples. Smoked whitefish is smoky but not as smoky as say, lox and makes a great spread for bagels. It can  be rather expensive to buy ready made so I like to make it myself. It is somewhat of an acquired taste, whitefish spread is a bit on the pungent side but once you have it a good version of it (and  I think this is one of the best) it is highly addictive. I like it on a strongly flavored bagel like pumpernickel or everything the best.

September 22, 2010

Smokin' Hot Pickled Okra

3 1/2 lb medium sized okra
3 cups water
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup pickling salt
2/3 cup minced dill
6 large cloves garlic
6 teaspoons chipotle flakes
3 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons celery seed

Bring the water, vinegars and salt to a boil. Prep the lids/jars.  I highly recommend using wide mouth jars. Okra is bulky and I was able to fit more in the wide mouth jars than the regular ones. Fill each jar tightly with okra. Evenly divide all of the spices and garlic between 6 pint jars. Top with dill.

Pour in the boiling vinegar mixture, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Poke down any okra that has floated too close to the top. Close the jars and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. Allow to sit at least one week before eating.

Yield: about 6 pints

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

My thoughts:
While September is mildly depressing between memories of heading back to school and the knowledge that fall and its bitter cousin, winter is just around the corner, I do like September's produce. A lot of my summer favorites (peaches, nectarines, plums, tomatoes, berries) are still available but I am also able to find winter squash, Brussels sprouts, apples, pears and some of the best okra I've seen in ages. I know okra is some what polarizing but I love it. Cooked (or pickled) properly, it doesn't have any of the dread producing ooze and is incredibly fresh and crisp. This recipe is some what nontraditional but I love anything smoky spicy so I used chipotle pepper flakes rather than red and it added a whole new level of flavor to the okra. I added celery and mustard seed because they are two of my favorite spices and I think they added a fresh flavor which is always welcome when canning.

September 20, 2010

Slow Cooked Barbecue Brisket

for the dry rub:
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced (dried) onion
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon ground mustard
1/2 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon chipotle powder

6 lb beef brisket
2 large onions, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices

for the sauce:
1/4 cup thick Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup bourbon
2 tablespoons mesquite liquid smoke

The night before you want to make the brisket, whisk together the dry rub ingredients. Lightly score the meat on both sides with the tip of a knife. Rub the dry rub* into the meat on all sides. Place in a resealable bag or marinating container and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, line the bottom of a oval 6-quart slow cooker with the onion rings. Quickly sear the meat on both sides. Place the brisket on top. Whisk together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over the meat. Cover the slow cooker. Cook on low 8-10 hours. Slice the meat and discard the onions.

*Store any leftover dry rub in an air-tight container.

My thoughts:
It is still pretty warm here in Baltimore; not hot but not quite "almost autumn" weather yet. But thoughts do turn to more heavy, autumnal foods this time of year. The slow cooker is perfect for this occasion, it didn't heat up the house but it it made a lovely brisket. When I was developing recipes for my cookbook last year I discovered the trick of placing a layer of onions on the bottom of the slow cooker. They give off a fair amount of liquid so you don't have to add much (no one wants brisket soup) and they keep the meat from just sitting in its own rendered fat. The meat does look "dry" for the first few hours of cooking but by the end, you will have a brisket that is perfectly juicy.

September 17, 2010

Homemade Rice-A-Roni

1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup long grain white rice
1/2 cup broken vermicelli or angel hair pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley

Melt the butter in a saucepan that has a lid. Saute the pasta, rice, garlic and shallot until the pasta starts to brown. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered for 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.

My thoughts:
For this recipe, I did something I normally don't do; I made a homemade version of a food that has never been anything but a commercially made, shelf stable product. While the San Francisco treat can be oddly comforting and certainly quick to make, it is also on the salty and bland side. Making it at home is just as quick but much more flavorful.

September 15, 2010

Seedless Blackberry Vanilla Bean Jam

8-10 cups whole, picked over blackberries
4 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 box liquid pectin (3 oz., one of the little packets in the box)
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of one lemon
3 vanilla beans, scraped

Mash the berries through a sieve (use a whisk to get more juice out) or a food mill to remove the seeds. It should yield about 6 cups of pulpy berries. Add the sugar, vanilla bean scrapings and blackberries to a large pot. Tie the vanilla beans together with kitchen twine and attach them to the side of the pan or cut them up and stuff them into a tea ball. Allow to the beans to float in the pan. Prep jars/lids for canning. Bring to a boil. Boil for about 10-15 minutes. Stir in the pectin and lemon juice. Continue cooking at a low (rolling) boil for 5 minutes. Discard the beans. Fill the jars leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Process in the hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

Yield: about 7 8-oz jars (I ended up with 3 pint jars and 8 4-oz jars)
My thoughts:
I made this a little earlier in the summer but just opened a jar of it for the first time yesterday. I love the combination of blackberry and vanilla so I was extra interested to see if my jam experiment worked and I was excited to see that it had. I would say the jam is 70% blackberry-y and 30% vanilla-y, which I think is the perfect ratio.

Normally, I don't bother removing the seeds from jam but blackberry seeds are pretty big. I actually sort of like the seeds when I am eating a berry fresh from the bush but in jam, they sort of just make everything crunchy and stick in your teeth. It only took a few minutes to run it through the food mill. I had my husband do it while we watched British television on DVD. Alternately, I think you could mash them through a mesh strainer but that would take quite a bit more muscle. If you don't mind some seeds, de-seeding 50-70% of the berries and leaving the rest whole is another option. So, go hunt down some late summer blackberries and make this jam!

September 13, 2010

How to: Ham Stock


the basics:
cold water
1 large ham hock or the bone leftover from a roasted ham
3 carrots, cut up
2 onions, quartered
1 large shallot, quartered
1 bunch celery, cut up
1 head garlic
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole allspice
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon mace blades
1/2 stick cinnamon

Place the ham, spices and the vegetables in a large stockpot (I use my lobster pot). Add water until the pot is nearly filled. Bring to a rolling boil. After 4-5 hours, strain into a large bowl or smaller stockpot. Cool immediately by placing the bowl in an ice filled sink. Do not refrigerate hot stock. Refrigerate the cooled stock overnight, then skim off any fat that rose to the surface. Package in air tight containers or freezer bags to store. I like a mixture of 2 and 4 cup quantities.

I suggest freezing any stock you don't use right away. In using freezer bags, lay the bags flat so they freeze in a shape that takes up the least amount of room. To defrost simply remove the block of stock from the container and place it in a sauce pan. Heat on low for 3-5 minutes.

Yield: about 8 quarts

My thoughts:
I love making my own stocks. Not only are they more flavorful than store bought, they are incredibly cheap to make and I feel good about making something from something that I normally would thrown away. I always hesitate about posting stock recipes here but invariably every time I call for a stock I get an email from someone asking how they can make it themselves, especially for the more difficult to find stocks. So after a lot of requests for a ham stock tutorial, here it finally is. While you can a more neutral tasting stock similar to chicken or turkey stock, I like to use the flavors often found in ham dishes or spice rubs for ham in the stock because the foods I end up using the stock in are often enhanced by those flavors. Don't worry, the stock isn't too heavy spiced, it is just a wonderful background note.

September 10, 2010

Pearl Mozzarella, Tomato & Fennel Pasta Salad

12 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
8 oz pearl mozzarella*, drained
1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cups cooked, small pasta

for the dressing:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, grated

In a lidded jar or salad dressing shaker, shake together the dressing ingredients until emulsified. In a medium bowl, toss together the salad ingredients. Drizzle the dressing then toss again. Serve at room temperature.

*The container I had was labeled "pearlini". The pearls were very small.

My thoughts:
I'm trying to make the most of late summer produce and this salad was one of my easier and tastier creations. It was sort of inspired by the ubiquitous caprese salad but I added pasta and fennel to make it more of a meal. I used these super cute tiny balls of cheese but I think diced fresh mozzarella would work as well.

It is quite good and even held up a for a few days in the fridge to no ill effect. It is better at room temperature so let it sit out a few minutes before serving.

September 08, 2010

Fresh Tomato & Zucchini Pasta Sauce

1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large zucchini, diced
4 cups diced roma tomatoes
1/2 cup minced prosciutto
1/2 cup minced fresh Italian parsley
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and garlic. Saute until fragrant. Add the zucchini and saute until softened. Add the tomatoes and cook through. Add the salt, pepper, parsley and prosciutto. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Serve over pasta.

My thoughts:
I am amazed and a little sad that we are already a week into September! While tomatoes, zucchini, berries and peaches are still in great supply, soon we will be solidly into winter squash, pear and apple territory and while I love them as well, they never fail to remind me that winter is just around the corner bringing with it no local fresh fruits or vegetables at all. So to cheer myself up and make the most of the truly lovely tomatoes I was finally able to procure, we made this simple sauce. It really is delicious and so fresh tasting. Just take care to use the very best and ripest vegetables you can find.

September 03, 2010

Smoked Salmon and Caper Grilled Flatbread

5 1/2 cups bread flour
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
olive oil for greasing the bowl

8 oz smoked salmon
2 1/2 cups shredded smoked gouda
1/4 cup capote capers


Place all ingredients a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Mix until the dough becomes a fairly smooth ball. At this point you can fold the dough onto itself a couple of times if you'd like. Coat the inside of a large bowl with additional olive oil, and place the dough in the bowl, smooth side up. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 40 minutes. Remove plastic wrap, and use your fist to push down on the center of the dough. Fold the dough in half four or five times. Turn dough over, folded-side down, cover with plastic wrap, and return to the warm spot to rise again. Wait until the dough has doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep your grill.

Punch down the dough and transfer to a clean surface. Divide the dough in fourths, and knead each half four or five times into a ball. Place one of the dough balls back in the oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Lightly flour a clean surface, place the dough ball on top, pat into a flattened circle, cover lightly with plastic wrap, and let rest at least 5 minutes. Begin to flatten and push the dough evenly out from the center until it measures about 7 to 8 inches in diameter. Leave a 1/2 inch border of unflatted dough around the edges of the circle.

Place the dough on the grill and cook until just starting to brown, then flip. Grill until it looks 3/4 way cooked. Sprinkle with cheese and top with salmon and capers. Grill until the cheese melts.
My thoughts:
I love smoky flavors and this flatbread is full of them. The gouda, the salmon, the smoky crisp dough all make for a savory delight. We had this as full meal, but I think sliced up it would be a wonderful appetizer. Just take care that your coals aren't too hot and that you keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn. Besides that, easy-peasy.

September 01, 2010

White Peach & Fresh Ginger Jam

8 cups finely diced white peaches
6 cups sugar
1/4 cup bourbon (optional)
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice*
1 6 oz box liquid pectin (2 packets)
2 inch chunk ginger, peeled

Add the sugar and peaches to a large pot. Prep jars/lids for canning. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Stab the ginger a few times with the tip of a knife. Add the lemon juice, bourbon and ginger. Boil for 15 minutes or until thickened. Carefully mash, using a potato masher, any remaining large chunks. Add the pectin (both packets!). Continue cooking at a low (rolling) boil for 5 minutes. Remove the ginger. Fill the jars. Wipe off the lip and sea Process in the hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: about 6 8-oz jars

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can. Here is a bunch of other canning books and equipment I find useful.

*I used bottled lemon juice instead of fresh because peaches, especially white peaches, are a low acid fruit and not every lemon has the same acid level. It is important to add an acid to low acid fruits so it is safe to water can.

My thoughts:
What is better than a fresh, in season peach? We went to a pick your own place and while Matt did most of the picking (peach fuzz makes my skin itch) we ended up with more than enough peaches to eat out of hand and to make some jam. Peaches, especially white peaches, are a low pectin, low acid fruit so even with the added pectin it is a softer jam and you need to make sure to add acid (lemon juice) to make it safe for water canning. But neither takes away from the wonderful flavor of this jam. It is as close to biting into a peach as you can come without actually eating the peach. The ginger adds a background note of spice that really accentuates the peachiness. I can't wait to have it on toast, swirled into yogurt or baked into pastries.