Posts Tagged ‘easy’

Stewed dried fruit

13 April 2013

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My intention was to make Louisa’s cake, which I’ve craved since I first saw it two years ago. And since I had no ricotta at home I thought making my own, as I’ve also been wanting to do for a long time, would be the perfect, lazy Saturday morning, we’ve-been-away-and-I-haven’t-cooked-in-a-week sort of project. So I set forth, resolutely and with a tinge of excitement, salting and boiling cream and milk, when I realized there was no cheesecloth at home, either.

Perhaps it was the slow pace induced by a gorgeously sunny, cold week by the sea, cycling, walking, eating, and generally just being, but I was completely stumped. Not for a moment; for many minutes, an hour maybe. Just standing there in the kitchen, wondering what in the world I might do with two liters of salty milk, and what dessert might be on a post-vacation weekend. The invitation was a last minute thing, too.

I thought about the stewed fruits, something I used to make often, in winter especially, but rarely do anymore, for no particular reason. We usually have dried fruit around the house, and though a bit short on prunes to my taste, there was a good enough mix for my purpose.

A few hours had gone by, the morning behind us, and the milk still on the stovetop, so I decided to make a very dense, creamy yogurt to go with the fruit, as I’d done before.

All went quite well from then on. I added bay leaf to my usual recipe, and was very pleased with the result. Of course, the yogurt was nowhere near being set in time for dinner, but I had some commercial greek yogurt handy, too.

My salty yogurt is still sitting in the fridge. I’ve been thinking of making cheese, but for that I’d need some cloth.

*

This dessert is very good and extremely easy. Adapted from Jüdische Küche by Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen.

200-250 g (1 1/2 cups) dried figs

200-250 g (1 1/2 cups) dried apricots, preferably unsulphured

200-250 g (1 1/2 cups) prunes

100-150 g raisins

(Also dried apples, pears, unsweetened dried pineapples, as desired, adjusting the quantities to have enough syrup to cover all the fruit)

2 lemons

4 Tbsps honey

6 or 7 cloves

1 or 2 cinnamon sticks (depending on their size)

About 20 peppercorns

1 bay leaf
*

Make a syrup with 2 l (8 cups) water, the rind and juice from the lemons, the honey, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the figs (and pears if using) and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the apricots (and apples and pineapple if using) and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Finally, add the prunes and raisins and simmer for a final 10 minutes (total stewing time 30 minutes).

Let the fruit cool in the liquid then refrigerate for a few hours at least before serving with thick yogurt or crème fraîche. (Remove peppercorns, cloves, and bay leaf before serving, or warn your guests.)

Baked shrimp with lemon, rosemary, and tarragon

12 May 2011

It’s surprisingly easy to grow tarragon.

I had always thought of tarragon as a fragile herb because it is often wilted and usually bland when bought, but I discovered it is actually a low-maintenance hardy perennial that survives the New York winter. Alongside chives, tarragon is the first herb to come up in spring, year after year, and I think it’s worth growing, if only for that optimistic quality.

A classic French use for tarragon is with chicken, it also goes nicely with fish, and gives an acidulated kick to salads. This oven-baked shrimp, though, is itself almost reason enough to grow tarragon. I was inspired by a recipe found on Oui, Chef (which uses different herbs and spices, but the idea and cooking method are the same).

It’s absurdly delicious, and ridiculously easy.

***

Adapted from Herb and Lemon Baked Shrimp by Oui, Chef.

If you don’t happen to grow tarragon on your balcony, fresh thyme and 1/2 tsp cracked coriander seeds would go well, as shown in the original recipe (added early with the lemon, rosemary, and cracked pepper to flavor the oil).

1 lemon

1/2 tsp peppercorns

Good olive oil

Few sprigs fresh rosemary

1 lb (450 g) shrimp*

Few sprigs fresh tarragon

Coarse grey sea salt

*

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

Trim the ends of the lemon, cut it in half lengthwise, place the halves cut side down on the board and cut into thin half moons. In a mortar, crack the peppercorns.

Pour enough olive oil to cover an ovenproof dish a generous 1/8 inch (1/4 cm) deep. Put the lemon slices in the oil reserving 4-5 very thin ones for later. Add the cracked pepper and the sprigs of rosemary. Put into the hot oven for about 15 minutes, until the oil is sizzling and fragrant.

Remove the dish from the oven, add the shrimp and tarragon, tossing them quickly in the fragrant oil, then sprinkle some coarse sea salt and place the few reserved slices of lemon on top and slide back into the oven.

Bake for about 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp. **Small shrimp are cooked practically as soon as they lose their translucence on the outside. Larger shrimp may take a couple minutes longer. (They will continue to cook when out of the oven.)**

Serve immediately, with a spoonful of the juices.

*Here in New York, nearly all shrimp has at some point been frozen. Usually, shrimp that is sold unfrozen is actually thawed. If the shrimp has been caught wild and never been frozen, it is specified. Therefore, unless very fresh wild shrimp is available, it is best to buy frozen shrimp and defreeze it at home just before cooking.

Spiced tomato soup

16 February 2011

Traditionally for Valentine’s we invite friends over for dinner. This year I decided to make a monochrome meal. It’s frivolous – precisely. And since I was in a kitsch mood, the meal might as well be red. So on Monday I made a red meal for Valentine’s day: tomato soup, steak tartare, roasted red potatoes with pimentón, radicchio salad, mimolette and Red Leicester Sparkenhoe (orange being the closest thing we found to red cheese), and blood orange sorbet with blood orange slices.

(I first made a chromatic meal 10 years ago, a memorably fun black and white dinner that started with Sophie Calle and ended in the early morning hours with a drive out to see the sunrise on Fire Island. But that’s another story.)

Back to the soup. It was my first tomato soup. And I thought it turned out quite well. I hadn’t made tomato soup before because I don’t buy tomatoes in winter. I checked my most trusted cookbooks but all required the use of the “best, ripest” tomatoes. So I had to improvise, and find a way to make the most of the canned variety – i.e. use lots of other good flavors.

I was quite happy with the result. Thomas – less so. “The flavor of the broth is too strong.” Hmmm, this might be the opportune moment to mention that, in addition to being, in my opinion, quite good, this soup requires no broth. Granted it may have been the celery, or the cumin; Thomas wanted a tomato soup that tastes like tomatoes. For that he will have to wait until next summer.

***

Serves 6

2 x 28 oz. (1 lb) cans good whole peeled tomatoes

2 large onions

Olive oil

3 stalks celery

3 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

2 bay leaves

Maldon sea salt

Cayenne pepper to taste

Crème fraîche or sour cream (optional)

***

Drain the tomatoes (reserve the juice), cut them lengthwise into strips, and set aside.

Peel, cut in half, and thinly slice the onions. Heat enough olive oil to cover the base of a large heavy saucepan. Brown onions in the oil, stirring regularly.

Thinly slice the celery stalks. Add to the onions when they start to turn golden. Continue browning, stirring regularly.

Thinly slice the garlic. When the onions and celery are deep golden (after about 10-15 minutes), add the garlic, cumin, coriander, turmeric, bay leaves, and stir well. Add the tomatoes. Cook for a few minutes over high heat. Add the tomato juice, reduce the heat, and cook at a low simmer for about 35-40 minutes. Remove bay leaves, season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper, and blend until very smooth.

Serve with a spoonful of crème fraîche or sour cream.


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