Archive for the ‘Basic’ Category

Winter cabbage slaw with miso ginger dressing

1 February 2013

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Where has January gone? It disappeared in a few flurries of snow that sprinkled the city white and pretty and were swept away in a wink. It was devoured by raclettes and tagines, spicy lentil soups, and the best chocolate brownies.

And so, suddenly, hello February. Today you are my favorite month. After a couple of unnaturally warm days the cold is back, which is as it should be.

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It seems I wouldn’t make a very good Texan, because I prefer slaw without mayonnaise, This isn’t to say that I don’t like slaw with mayonnaise, I love coleslaw in general, even the limp overdressed versions of average diners. But, given the choice, I prefer a citrus-y, Asian-inflected variant. This miso ginger dressing is adapted from the beautiful blog 101 Cookbooks. I added fresh grated ginger, lime juice, and reduced the sweetness for something more assertive.

Winter slaw

1/2 small red cabbage

1/2 small white cabbage

1 fennel bulb

2 or 3 celery stalks

Fresh parsley leaves

Slice all the vegetables very thinly, using a food processor, a mandolin, or a very sharp knife.

Miso ginger dressing

A 1/2 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated

2 Tbsps white miso paste

1/2 tsp strong Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp mild runny honey

Juice from 1 lime

1/4 (60 ml) cup rice vinegar

1/3 (100 ml) cup olive oil

Mix together the grated ginger, miso paste, mustard, and honey until they are all well combined into a smooth paste.

Add the lime juice and rice vinegar, stir well, and finally the olive oil.

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Fettucini with immediate tomato sauce

4 October 2012

The last of the summer’s ripe tomatoes may be a little soft, a little blemished, they may not warrant much attention as heads will be turned by the arrival of bright yellow squash and orange pumpkins. What these tomatoes want is this sauce exactly. It is so quick, so easy that it will barely distract from the anticipation of slow roasts and apple pies. It is so good that those blemished tomatoes may soon be missed, as the creeping cold leaves heaps of unripened green tomatoes in its wake, with no better prospect but to be transfigured into chutney.

The sauce sort of made itself one night, and I was taken aback by how easy it was to create such a good sauce in so little time. I’d always supposed that good tomato sauce needs to simmer gently and reduce patiently. On that evening there was no time and, temptingly, in the kitchen, some good fettucini and a few roma tomatoes.

All I did was cut the tomatoes lengthwise in sixths, slice a few garlic cloves, heat some olive oil in a large skillet, throw in the garlic for barely a minute, add the tomatoes, and wait until most of the juice had evaporated and the tomatoes hinged on golden and in some places brown. It took perhaps 10 minutes, just about the time to boil the pasta.

***

For two

5 roma tomatoes

2 cloves garlic

Good olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

200 g good fettucini

Really good olive oil

Parmigiano-reggiano

Few basil leaves

*

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil for the pasta.

Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise then in half in thirds. Peel and thinly slice the garlic.

Carefully slide in the fettucini. Cook in a heavy boil.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large heavy skillet. **The skillet should be large enough so the tomatoes are in one layer only.** Cook the garlic for barely a minute over medium to high heat, until translucent, then add the tomatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Cook the tomatoes over high heat until a lot of the juice has evaporated and they start turning brown.

Start checking the pasta regularly after about 8 minutes (by carefully taking one out and eating it). Drain quickly in a colander as soon as the pasta is just al dente (or to desired consistency) and return immediately to the pot used for boiling the pasta (one could use another pot but it’s much simpler this way). **It is important not to overdrain the pasta. If it is too dry it will become sticky.** Quickly drizzle generously with good olive oil so the pasta doesn’t stick.

Transfer the pasta to individual bowls. Spoon over the tomatoes, add a drizzle of very good olive oil, tear up a few leaves of basil on each bowl, and grate some parmigiano to finish.

At the market | Ramps (Ramp pesto)

26 April 2012

       

I get excited about strawberries in June, quinces in October, and clementines at Christmas. So naturally, some years ago when I discovered ramps, the very first greens to appear at farmer’s markets here in spring, I talked about them a lot. Few of my family and friends in Europe knew ramps, and I somewhat precipitously made the connection with ‘ail des ours‘ in French and ‘bärlauch‘ in German. For years I’ve been talking about ramps, you know, ail des ours, bärlauch.

Well, Wikipedia has just informed me that I was wrong. Ramps are Allium tricoccum, and they are native to America, while the French and German (and English) ‘bear garlic’ is Allium ursinum. They are closely related but not the same thing. So the ramps we foraged in Haute Savoie last spring were not actually ramps, which explains why they felt different. If my memory serves me well the leaves were a little harsher, the taste a little coarser. In any case, that answers the question of their origin: ramps are Northern American. They are foraged and it is commonly assumed that, like wild mushrooms, they cannot be cultivated, but this appears to be a myth.

Ramps are sometimes called ransom (the common name of the European allium), but also wild leek, wood leek, or wild garlic, which gives a good idea of their taste, unmistakably in the onion/garlic family.

I’ve baked ramps with potatoes into very good and very pretty gratins; for Easter I tossed a potato salad with ramp pesto; just yesterday I made a ramp risotto with rosé wine that wasn’t half bad; ramps can also be woven into egg nests for breakfast; they can even be pickled. The pleasures are many, but the season is short — take advantage!

***

Ramp pesto

I started out with saenyc’s Wild Ramp Pesto on Food52. I found that raw ramps made the pesto too garlicky, while blanching them all made it too mellow, so I added a few raw ramps to give the pesto just the right kick. I also reduced the amount of walnuts and parmigiano and added parsley for a more vibrant taste.

1 bunch (about 28 to 30) ramps

2-3 sprigs parsley

5 whole walnuts

1/3 cup (20 g) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

1/3 cup (100 ml) good extra virgin olive oil

2 tsps lemon juice

Good pinch sea salt

3-4 grinds black pepper

*

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Prepare another bowl with ice water.

Trim off the roots of the ramps, rub off any loose skins around the bulbs, and wash the ramps in cold water. Wash the parsley and cut off most of the stems.

Set aside 2 to 3 of the smaller, more tender ramps, and chop them coarsely. Blanch all the others in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer the blanched ramps to the ice water. Take them out and squeeze them to remove excess water.

In a blender or food processor, purée the ramps (blanched and raw), the parsley, walnuts, and parmiggiano, pouring in a steady drizzle of olive oil. Blend thoroughly to form a paste. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend again, taste, and adjust seasoning.

Use as you would any other pesto: with pasta, potato salad, smeared on bruschetta and topped with fresh goat cheese, etc…

Note: As is, this pesto will keep just one or two days. To increase its longevity, add some olive oil and/or freeze.

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Spaghetti with ramp pesto, walnuts, and parmigiano

At the market | Rhubarb (Rhubarb compote)

Mimosa (deviled) eggs

29 March 2012

The trees are blooming in New York; it’s showstopping. Forsythias, exuberant magnolias, Callery pears like downy street clouds, vaporous cherry blossoms. And yet.

It isn’t time! I am still anticipating winter; the snow, the stews, the spiked hot chocolates by the fire. I have a notebook full for recipes longing for freezing temperatures: braised short ribs, slow-cooked duck, a quick spicy lentil soup if you’ve come home late from the cold. I see they will have to wait.

The year is creeping ahead, chives and tarragon have pierced my balcony beds, and so, submitting to nature’s infectious enthusiasm, I have embraced spring — but not, I admit, without a pinch of regret for a winter that wasn’t really.

***

6 eggs

About 10 stalks chives

About 3 stalks tarragon

5 or 6 leaves parsley

3 tsps mayonnaise

2 tsps red wine vinegar

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Smoked Spanish paprika

*

Fill a small saucepan (just about large enough to fit the eggs) with water. Bring to a boil. Add the eggs to the water one at a time, carefully, with a large spoon so they don’t hit the bottom and crack. Boil gently for 12 minutes. (I decided not to adopt the method Michel Roux uses in his book Eggs, which starts the eggs in cold water. However I have taken note of his advice to make sure the water boils gently, in order to avoid rubbery whites.)

Meanwhile, chop the herbs very very finely.

Once the eggs are cooked, strain the boiling water and add lots of cold water so they cool quickly.

Peel the eggs. Slice each in half lengthwise, carefully scoop out the yolks, and place them in a plate or shallow bowl.

Mash the egg yolks thoroughly with the mayonnaise, vinegar, finely chopped herbs, a pinch of salt, and a grind of black pepper.

With a small spoon, scoop the yolks back into the egg whites as neatly as possible.

At the very last minute, sprinkle a pinch of paprika on each egg.

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Cuban bread

20 March 2012

In his New Complete Book of Breads, Bernard Clayton doesn’t elaborate on this bread’s name; he does, however, call it “… a beginner’s dream.” And adds “Often I have used it in baking classes to demonstrate the ease with which good bread can be made.”

He might also have pointed out that this handsome bread is just the right measure of dense and chewy on the inside, with a soft but assertive crust on the outside, and that the rising time is only 15 minutes, which means the bread can be made from start to finish within an hour and a half, which is pretty great if — like me — you leave bread making to the last minute.

I first made it last September, realizing there was no bread in the house a bare ninety minutes before guests were to arrive for brunch. The name had also caught my eye and indeed it complemented well the baked eggs with cherry tomatoes, basil, and dash of balsamic vinegar I was serving that day.

Back then I hoped this sudden baking impulse would set the tone of a home-baked-bread–filled year, and perhaps even lead to realizing the sourdough fantasy I’ve been chasing.

Well, there hasn’t been much bread baking in the interim, let alone a sourdough adventure. Not a single loaf, in fact, until I baked this same Cuban bread for brunch again recently. It was well complemented, this time, by fried eggs with sautéed leeks and mushrooms atop grilled polenta (or that was the intention — the reality wasn’t quite so neat, but delicious nonetheless).

Happy spring!

***

From Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads

5 to 6 cups white flour

2 packages yeast

1 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsps sugar

2 cups hot water (120°-130°F or 50°-55°C)

Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

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Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Place 4 cups of flour in a large bowl, add the yeast, salt, and sugar, and stir until they are well blended.

Pour in the hot water (using a thermometer is best here because if the water is too hot the yeast won’t work its magic, but, in the absence of such a device, a very unscientific gauge for right temperature is to place the little finger into the water and slowly count to ten. The water should feel quite hot at the end but below burning).

Beat with 100 strong strokes, or for 3 minutes with the flat beater of a hand mixer.

Gradually work in the remaining flour, half a cup at a time, until the dough is no longer too sticky and can be shaped into a ball. Kneed the dough for 8 minutes by hand on a floured work surface or in a hand mixer with a dough hook until it feels smooth, elastic, and “alive.”

Shape into a ball in a greased bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 15 minutes.

Punch down the dough, separate it into two equal parts, and shape each into a smooth round. Place onto the parchmented baking sheet and cut an X on each loaf using a sharp knife. Brush with water and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired.

Place the baking sheet with the loaves in the middle of a cold oven and place a large pan with hot water on a grate below, and heat oven to 400°F (200°C). **The bread will continue to rise in the oven as it is heating.**

Bake for about 50 minutes, until the bread is a deep golden brown. To check for doneness, knock on the bottom crusts; the loaves should sound hollow.

Let cool before slicing.

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