Archive for October, 2010

Baby food | Butternut squash

19 October 2010

This is a great way to cook smaller winter squash such as acorn or butternut. It’s perfectly easy and very tasty. To make (baby) mash or pre-roast for soups the squash should become very tender, but it can also be removed sooner from the oven, cut into wedges, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and becomes a vegetable side.

***

1/2 butternut squash

Olive oil

1 small garlic clove

Sprig thyme

***

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Smear olive oil over cut surface of the squash. Place garlic clove and thyme in the cavity made by removing the seeds. Turn squash over onto ovenproof dish, cut side down, and bake in oven for 35-40 minutes. Poke through the skin with a knife to test; the flesh should be very tender.

Scoop flesh out away from skin and mash with a fork.

Quince and apple tarte

18 October 2010

Having found quinces at the market last week I decided to organize dinner around the fruit. As planned, I prepared lamb and quince tagine and an apple and quince dessert, though rather than the crumble I initially had in mind I made pie, or rather a French version of pie: tarte. I improvised both dishes from a variety of recipes. The tagine looked beautiful and tasted very good, but it could still be improved and I would like to refine the recipe before posting it here. The tarte, on the other hand, was entirely delicious.

***

Puff pastry*

Juice from 1 lemon

3 medium quinces

4 Tbsp mild-tasting liquid honey

3/4 cup (150 g) brown sugar

1/2 vanilla bean

3 medium apples

1 cup (100 g) ground almonds (or almond flour)

***

If using frozen puff pastry, remove from freezer and set out to thaw.

Prepare a medium saucepan with 4 cups (1 liter) cold water and juice from 1/2 lemon. Peel, core, and cut quinces in slim slices. As you cut the quince, put the slices in the lemon water (quince oxidizes very quickly – placing it in water prevents it from turning black).

Bring the lemon water with quince slices to a light boil and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the fruit just starts getting soft (they should still be easy to handle; they will continue cooking later.) With a skimmer, remove quince slices and set aside.

Add the honey, 1/2 cup (100 g) of the sugar, and the vanilla bean to the quince poaching water, increase heat and let the syrup boil and reduce for 45 to 50 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

Thinly slice apples to the same size as the quince slices. (As you set the apple slices aside, sprinkle them with a little lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.)

In a small bowl, mix the ground almonds with the last 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar.

Prepare baking sheet (or pie pan) lined with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper and roll out pie crust. Sprinkle almond/sugar mixture evenly on crust, then place apple and quince slices, alternatingly. Using a spoon or pastry brush, coat the fruit with some of the thickened syrup.

Bake in oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until fruit is starting to color, taking care that the crust does not become too dark.

Before the tarte cools, glaze the fruit with more syrup. (There should be some left over, it will continue to thicken and can be used on toast like quince jelly).

* I have never made puff pastry. It is terribly time-intensive and I have often heard that it is one of the rare things that are not necessarily better home made, unless by an experienced pastry chef. Dufour frozen puff pastry is a very good brand available here in New York.

At the market | Quinces

14 October 2010

Quinces! Quinces arrived at the market yesterday so, inevitably, I bought a large bag. (As may be apparent from this blog’s name, I have a special fondness for the fruit.) Quinces are harvested in early fall and, unlike apples and pears to which they are related, can only be stored until December, so it’s a fairly small window of opportunity.

I am still undecided about what to make with these quinces. Last year I tackled quince jelly and fortuitously wound up producing kilos of quince paste with the leftover purée. I am tempted by apple and quince crumble or lamb and quince tagine. Whatever happens with the quince, I will record my endeavors here. In the meantime, the smell of the fruit sitting on my dining table is intoxicating and I realize that I don’t know much about the origins of quince, so I decided to do a little cursory research.

Quinces (cydonia oblonga) originated in the Caucasus and have been grown around the eastern Mediterranean for thousands of years. Cultivation spread before that of the apple, and many historical apples were actually most probably quinces. Apparently, for example, the apple by which Paris chose Aphrodite in the dispute that lead to the Trojan war was really a quince.

Quinces grow in temperate and subtropical climates and are important in the cooking of their native region the Caucasus, as well as Turkey, Iran, Morocco, and Eastern Europe. Quinces were brought to America by early settlers and now grow throughout the continent, but their popularity in the United States has declined over time.

Quinces keep for one to two weeks uncovered at (cool) room temperature – I should have bought more. Right now I am thinking quince dinner on Saturday, and hope there will be more quince at the market next week for jelly and fruit paste.

***

Related posts:

Quince and apple tarte

Quince jelly

Quince paste

Chicken liver terrine

8 October 2010

I love this recipe for many reasons: it’s absolutely delicious, quick to make, can (or rather should) be prepared in advance, and, well, it’s liver. I find all sorts of excuses to make it. Tomorrow it will be lunch in the country; it’s been good for parties or Easter brunch; but more simply it is the recipe upon which I fall back when we have friends for dinner and I am undecided about what to make. It helps unlock my imagination and inspires the rest of the meal. Most often I serve it with baguette as a tapas-style apéritif together with olives and nuts, radishes or cherry tomatoes – depending on the season.

***

1 lb (450 g) chicken livers

3/4 cup (180 g) and 2 Tbsp (20 g) butter

1 small onion (or large shallot)

Olive oil

1 large sprig each sage and thyme

1 Tbsp Madeira wine (Marsala also works well)*

1 Tbsp brandy

Salt and pepper

***

Trim fat from chicken livers and set aside.

In a small saucepan melt 3/4 cup butter over low heat. Once melted set aside.

Finely chop onion (or shallot). In a large skillet melt 2 Tbsp butter together with a little olive oil (the oil prevents the butter from burning). Add chopped onion, cook over medium heat, and as soon as it becomes translucent add whole sage and thyme and stir to mix flavors. Immediately increase heat to high and add chicken livers. After a couple of minutes the livers should be slightly brown, turn them over. Sprinkle Marsala and brandy over the livers and cook for a few minutes until the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

When the livers are cool enough to handle, remove sage and thyme, transfer to cutting board, and chop finely. Place livers in bowl, add scrapings from skillet as well as the melted butter and mix well. Transfer livers to a terrine dish (any bowl will do) and place in refrigerator for a few hours and up to two days. It gets better after a day or so.

*The absence of Madeira or Marsala absolutely should not keep you from making this recipe. Just replace with a little brandy. On the other hand, it creates an opportunity to buy the wines, which deserve to be kept in your bar or pantry and will come in handy, for example when making stewed pears (recipe to come later this year).

Baby food | Pears

7 October 2010

This is classic baby food, of course, but despite this fact – or precisely because of it? – and because Louise literally smacks her lips when she eats it, I think it does deserve a post.

***

4 pears

1/2 cinnamon stick

Thin, small slice (1 in – 2.5 cm) fresh ginger

Small piece (1 in – 2.5 cm) untreated lemon rind

***

Thinly slice pears. Place in small saucepan with just enough water so the pear slices don’t burn before they start releasing their juice. Add cinnamon stick, ginger, and lemon rind. Cover with lid and let stew for about 25 minutes. Let cool and mash with a fork.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 103 other followers

%d bloggers like this: