Showing posts with label family meals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family meals. Show all posts

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Ready. Set. Time to Pickle - Kosher and Moroccan-Style Pickles for Thanksgiving and Anytime


Pickles are delicious anytime of the year. For many years I have made my two favorite kinds of pickles for Thanksgiving. Kosher dill pickles and Moroccan-style pickled vegetables. Part of our Thanksgiving tradition is to post these recipes to share them with you. That way, our tables will connect on this very wonderful holiday.






No doubt the people who made the first pickles thought they had made a mistake. Somebody accidentally forgot about some raw vegetables in a pot with an acid and salt. Surprise, surprise. A week later, the vegetables weren’t moldy, no bugs had eaten them and, deliciously, they had a nice crunch and tang. Thus was born, the pickle!
In the 1920s, my great-grandfather made pickles on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Grandmother Caroline used to tell stories about working in their little grocery store as a child. When customers would want pickles, she would hop off the counter and go out front to the pickle barrels and fish out the ones they wanted.
I never knew her parents. I never ate their pickles, but I must have brine in my veins because wherever I travel, I am always on the look out for pickles.

Moroccan pickled veggies

In Morocco at a cooking class in Marrakech at La Maison Arabe, Amaggie Wafa and Ayada Benijei taught us to make Berber bread, couscous with chicken and vegetables, chicken tagine with preserved lemons and clarified butter, tomato marmalade, eggplant-tomato salad and preserved vegetables.
The cooking class lasted four hours. The time it took to show us how to make preserved or pickled vegetables: five minutes.
To Wafa and Benijei, the process was so easy, there were no pickle recipes. A little of this, a little of that, throw the vegetables into a jar, shake it up, put it in a cupboard and in a week, voila, you have pickles.

Pickle recipes tip from Grandma

From my grandmother I learned that making kosher dill pickles was a little more complicated. In retrospect, I think that’s because pickling cukes are more prone to decay than are the carrots, parsnip, fennel and green beans used in Morocco.
Every Thanksgiving I make both.
Pickles are very personal. What one person loves might be too salty or vinegary to another. It may take you several tries before you settle on the mix of salt, vinegar and spices that suits your palate.

Garlic is usually added to brine. My grandmother didn't put garlic in hers and I don't put any in mine so I indicated garlic as optional.

Lower East Side Kosher Dill Pickles

When making kosher dill pickles keep in mind four very important steps:
1. Select pickling cukes, not salad cucumbers, and pick ones without blemishes or soft spots.
2. Taste the brine to confirm you like the balance of salt-to-vinegar. The flavor of the brine will approximate the flavor of the pickles.
3. Once the cukes are in the brine, they must be kept submerged in an open container.
4. When the pickles have achieved the degree of pickling you like, which could take three days to a week, store the pickles in the brine, seal and keep in a refrigerator where they will last for several weeks.
Ingredients
8 cups water
¼ cup kosher salt
1 cup white wine vinegar or yellow Iranian vinegar (my preference)
4 garlic cloves, skin removed, root end trimmed off, cut into thin strips (optional)
5 dried bay leaves
10 whole black peppercorns
10 whole mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes or 1 dried Sichuan pepper, split open
5 sprigs of fresh dill
5 pounds small pickling cucumbers, washed, stems removed, dried
Directions
1. In a non-reactive pot, heat the water and vinegar on a medium flame. When the water gently simmers, add the salt and stir to dissolve. Do not allow the water to boil.
2. Dip your finger in the brine, taste and adjust the flavor with a bit more salt, water or vinegar.
3. Place the garlic and spices in the bottom of a gallon glass or plastic container. Arrange the cucumbers inside.
4. Pour in the hot brine being careful to cover the cucumbers. Reserve 1 cup of brine.
5. To keep the cucumbers submerged in the brine, find a plastic cup that is not as wide as the mouth of the container. Place the reserved cup of brine into the plastic cup and put into the container to press down on the cucumbers.
6. Place the container in a dark, cool corner of the kitchen. Check daily to make sure the cucumbers are submerged. If the brine evaporates, use the reserved brine in the plastic cup, replenishing the liquid in the cup with water to weigh down the cukes.
7. After three days, remove one cucumber and sample. If you like your pickles crisp, that may be enough time. If they aren’t pickled enough for you, let them stay on the counter another few days.
8. When you like how they taste, remove the cup and seal the top. Refrigerate the container.

Moroccan Style Preserved Vegetables

In Morocco, virtually any vegetable can be preserved. In the class, we were shown green beans, fennel, parsnips and carrots. Experiment and see what you like, including asparagus, zucchini, beets, daikon, eggplant, daikon and broccoli.



For myself, over the years I have settled on onions, carrots, cauliflower florets and green cabbage.
Whatever you try, prepare the vegetable by washing, peeling and cutting them into pieces similar in size, about a 1/4"
The fun thing about pickling is you can personalize your pickles, making them any way you like.

Save the pickling brine. It is delicious poured over warm Japanese rice or mixed with olive oil to make a salad dressing.
Ingredients
2 whole carrots, ends trimmed, washed, peeled, cut into rounds, ¼-inch thick

1 medium yellow onion, washed, root and stem ends removed, peeled, sliced lengthwise (root to stem) 1/4" slices
1 small whole green cabbage, washed, any brown outer leaves removed and discarded, cut in half, cut out core and reserve for soup, cut into 1/4" squares

1 small white cauliflower, washed, leaves removed (instructions below)
4 bay leaves
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes or 1 dried Sichuan pepper, split open, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 garlic clove, skin removed, root end trimmed off, cut into thin strips (optional)
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1½ cups white wine or yellow Iranian vinegar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Directions
1. Sterilize two quart-sized glass or plastic containers.

2. Finalize the prep on the cauliflower by using a sharp pairing knife to create 1" long florets about 1/4" thick. Use the remaining stems for a stir fry or soup.


3. Toss the vegetables together to mix well in a large bowl.

4. Place the mixed vegetables into the two jars.

5. Add equal amounts of the aromatics to each jar.
6. Combine the kosher salt, water and vinegar. Mix well. Taste. If you find the mixture too acidic, slowly add water until you like the flavor. If not salty enough, add a small amount of kosher salt
7. Pour the water-vinegar mixture into the jars, making sure the liquid covers the vegetables. If more liquid is needed, make more brine and reserve any left over.

8. Top off each jar with equal amounts of olive oil.
9. Seal the jars and shake well to dissolve the salt and mix the aromatics.
10. Refrigerate. Wait one week and taste. Wait longer if they aren’t pickled enough. They will keep in the refrigerator for months.

  

Monday, November 20, 2017

Pickles, Pickles, Pickles for Thanksgiving, the Holidays and Anytime



No doubt the people who made the first pickles thought they had made a mistake. Somebody accidentally forgot about some raw vegetables in a pot with an acid and salt. Surprise, surprise. A week later, the vegetables weren’t moldy, no bugs had eaten them and, deliciously, they had a nice crunch and tang. Thus was born, the pickle!
In the 1920s, my great-grandfather made pickles on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Grandmother Caroline used to tell stories about working in their little grocery store as a child. When customers would want pickles, she would hop off the counter and go out front to the pickle barrels and fish out the ones they wanted.
I never knew her parents. I never ate their pickles, but I must have brine in my veins because wherever I travel, I am always on the look out for pickles.

Moroccan pickled veggies

Moroccan pickled vegetables
In Morocco at a cooking class in Marrakech at La Maison Arabe, Amaggie Wafa and Ayada Benijei taught us to make Berber bread, couscous with chicken and vegetables, chicken tagine with preserved lemons and clarified butter, tomato marmalade, eggplant-tomato salad and preserved vegetables.
The cooking class lasted four hours. The time it took to show us how to make preserved or pickled vegetables: five minutes.
To Wafa and Benijei, the process was so easy, there were no pickle recipes. A little of this, a little of that, throw the vegetables into a jar, shake it up, put it in a cupboard and in a week, voila, you have pickles.

Pickle recipes tip from Grandma

From my grandmother I learned that making kosher dill pickles was a little more complicated. In retrospect, I think that’s because pickling cukes are more prone to decay than are the carrots, parsnip, fennel and green beans used in Morocco.
For Thanksgiving I always make kosher dill pickles. This Thanksgiving I’m making both.
Pickles are very personal. What one person loves might be too salty or vinegary to another. It may take you several tries before you settle on the mix of salt, vinegar and spices that suits your palate.

Lower East Side Kosher Dill Pickles

When making kosher dill pickles keep in mind four very important steps:
1. Select pickling cukes, not salad cucumbers, and pick ones without blemishes or soft spots.
2. Taste the brine to confirm you like the balance of salt-to-vinegar. The flavor of the brine will approximate the flavor of the pickles.
3. Once the cukes are in the brine, they must be kept submerged in an open container.
4. When the pickles have achieved the degree of pickling you like, which could take three days to a week, store the pickles in the brine, seal and keep in a refrigerator where they will last for several weeks.
Ingredients
8 cups water
¼ cup kosher salt
1 cup white vinegar or yellow Iranian vinegar (my preference)
4 garlic cloves, skin removed, root end trimmed off, cut into thin strips
5 dried bay leaves
10 whole black peppercorns
10 whole mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes or 1 dried Sichuan pepper, split open
5 sprigs of fresh dill
5 pounds small cucumbers, washed, stems removed, dried
Directions
1. In a non-reactive pot, heat the water and vinegar on a medium flame. When the water gently simmers, add the salt and stir to dissolve. Do not allow the water to boil.
2. Dip your finger in the brine, taste and adjust the flavor with a bit more salt, water or vinegar.
3. Place the garlic and spices in the bottom of a gallon glass or plastic container. Arrange the cucumbers inside.
4. Pour in the hot brine being careful to cover the cucumbers. Reserve 1 cup of brine.
5. To keep the cucumbers submerged in the brine, find a plastic cup that is not as wide as the mouth of the container. Place the reserved cup of brine into the plastic cup and put into the container to press down on the cucumbers.
6. Place the container in a dark, cool corner of the kitchen. Check daily to make sure the cucumbers are submerged. If the brine evaporates, use the reserved brine in the plastic cup, replenishing the liquid in the cup with water to weigh down the cukes.
7. After three days, remove one cucumber and sample. If you like your pickles crisp, that may be enough time. If they aren’t pickled enough for you, let them stay on the counter another few days.
8. When you like how they taste, remove the cup and seal the top. Refrigerate the container.

Moroccan Style Preserved Vegetables

In Morocco, virtually any vegetable can be preserved. In the class, we were shown green beans, fennel, parsnips and carrots. Experiment and see what you like, including asparagus, zucchini, beets, daikon, eggplant, daikon and broccoli.
Whatever you try, prepare the vegetable by washing, peeling and cutting them into thick sticks (carrots, daikon, parsnips, zucchini, eggplant, broccoli), some cut thin (fennel, beets, parsnips) and others left whole but with the ends trimmed (green beans, asparagus).
You may prefer the vegetables cut into rounds rather than sticks. The fun thing about pickling is you can personalize your pickles, making them any way you like.
Ingredients
2 whole carrots, ends trimmed, washed, peeled, cut into pieces 4-5 inches long, ¼-inch thick
1 medium sized fennel bulb, washed, fronds removed, outer leaves and root end trimmed and discarded, cut into thin pieces 3-4 inches long, ⅛-inch thick
12 green beans, washed, ends trimmed, cut into pieces 4-5 inches long
4 parsnips, washed, ends and skins removed, cut into pieces 3-4 inches long, ¼-inch thick
1 medium yellow or red onion, washed, ends removed, thin sliced either into circles or slivers
4 bay leaves
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes or 1 dried Sichuan pepper, split open, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 garlic clove, skin removed, root end trimmed off, cut into thin strips
3 tablespoons kosher salt
1½ cups white or yellow Iranian vinegar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Directions
1. Sterilize two quart-sized glass or plastic containers. Carefully place the vegetables vertically in the containers. Divide the garlic, salt and dry spices and pour into the two containers.
2. Combine the water and vinegar. Mix well. Taste. If you find the mixture too acidic, slowly add water until you like the flavor.
3. Pour the water-vinegar mixture into the jars, making sure the liquid covers the vegetables.
4. Seal the jars and shake well to dissolve the salt and mix up the spices.
Refrigerate. Wait one week and taste. Wait longer if they aren’t pickled enough. They will keep in the refrigerator for months.

 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Anchovies and Chicken Livers Make a Home with Pasta

Surf and turf with penne pasta with caramelized chicken livers and anchovies. Credit: David Latt
For Zester Daily, I wrote about two ingredients I love: anchovies and chicken livers.  Not every one likes both (or either, for that matter). As with so many foods in our lives, dishes served when we are young put strong imprints on our adult palates. Most nights when my father came home from work, he would settle into his leather recliner and watch wrestling on TV. While my sister and I set the table, my mother would serve him an appetizer plate and his cocktail of choice, a 7&7 (Seagrams & 7-Up). His favorite appetizers reflected his Russian Jewish background. There would be plates of pickled herring with sour cream, chopped chicken liver, pickled beets and onions, anchovy fillets and pumpernickel bread that he ordered from a mail-order outlet in New York. 
Wanting a father-son moment with my father, who was decidedly old school and not much into father-son moments, I would sit next to him and share the appetizers (and steal a sip of his 7&7 when he wasn't looking). I definitely developed a taste for the anchovies and chicken livers but not for the pickled herring with sour cream! 
One day, with very little in the refrigerator, I wanted a lunch with a lot of flavor that wouldn't take much effort to create. With a box of pasta, a couple of chicken livers, a tin of anchovies, an assortment of aromatics and a few other ingredients, I put two and two together and made a dish that was light and delicious.  I wonder if my dad would have liked it?
In many Italian, Spanish and French dishes, anchovy filets supply a deeply nuanced umami that turns the ordinary into the passionately delicious. Italian puttanesca, Tuscan chicken liver paté and French tapenade are but a few examples that come to mind. Without anchovies they are good. With anchovies they are delicious. Combine skinless anchovy filets with caramelized chicken livers, toss with pasta and dust with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and surf dances with turf in the most beautiful way.
Pasta is wonderful and infinitely variable. Pasta can be complex or simple. For many cooks, the best pasta dish is one that allows the ingredients to shine through with a minimum of sauce. Toss penne with fresh English peas, a bit of oil and garlic, a dusting of cayenne and a fresh grating of Romano and all that is necessary to complete the meal is a crisp Fumè Blanc, a farm-fresh green salad and a dessert of fresh fruit with a nice selection of cheeses.
Chicken livers and anchovies are as different as can be. When cooked properly with a charred exterior and an interior still moist and pink, chicken livers are creamy and earthy with a hint of sweetness.
Anchovies on the other hand have a sharper impact on the palate — salty, raspy and tangy. Combined, they bring out the best in one another.
As with any simple recipe, this dish is only as good as the quality of the ingredients. Whenever possible, buy organic chicken livers to avoid the chemicals and antibiotics that can accumulate in birds that are raised in industrial coops. Skinless anchovies packed in olive oil are not overly salty. Because the fish are caught all over the world, experimenting with different brands will lead you to the one you like the best.
Spanish and Italian anchovies are especially good, whether packed in glass jars or in tins. The price can vary from an affordable $2 a tin to well over $15 for a glass jar of the same weight.

Pasta with Chicken Livers and Anchovies

Before using chicken livers, wash and pat dry. Using a sharp paring knife, cut away any fat, sinews or veins and discard. Separate the two lobes. Cut each lobe in half, making bite-sized pieces to facilitate even cooking of the livers.
Serves 4
Ingredients
1 tablespoon kosher salt
¾ to 1 pound pasta (penne, ziti, spaghetti or angel hair)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, washed, stemmed and skin removed, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley, leaves only, washed
4 to 8 anchovy filets (the number depends on how much you enjoy anchovies)
1 pound chicken livers, washed, lobes separated, each lobe cut in half
¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley, leaves only, washed
1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
⅛ teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1 tablespoon olives, pitted, finely chopped (optional)
¼ cup cherry tomatoes, washed, quartered (optional)
Directions
1. In a 2-gallon pot, fill with water to within 3 inches of the top. Add kosher salt and bring to a boil. Put in pasta and stir well. Allow to boil 10 minutes, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Taste and when al dente, place a small heat-proof cup in the sink next to a colander and drain the pasta, capturing 1 cup of pasta water in the process. Return the pasta to the warm pot and set aside.
3. In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil. Sauté onions, garlic and Italian parsley until lightly browned. Using a fork, add the anchovies, dragging them along the bottom so they break apart. Stir well with the aromatics.
4. Add the chicken livers to the pan, using a large spoon to move them around the pan so they lightly brown all over. Be careful not to overcook and dry out the livers.
5. At this point you have some options. You can season with cayenne for heat, add chopped olives for another layer of flavor, stir in quartered cherry tomatoes to contribute liquid and a bit of acid to the sauce and sweet butter for creaminess.
6. Or keep it simple and do one, some or none of the above. In any case, add ¼ cup of pasta water to the frying pan and stir well.
7. Just before serving, add cooked pasta to the frying pan over a medium flame and toss well until heated. Top with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese and serve.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Little Bit of Planning Makes Thanksgiving a Lot More Fun

Every year I look forward to Thanksgiving. A time to celebrate what is good about our life, to see family and friends we don't see often enough and to have a really great feast. Because we host the meal at our house, there is a lot to do.
Being prepared means less stress and more fun on Thanksgiving. The first step is to make lists. 

Step 1 - invite the guests and see who will bring their favorite Thanksgiving dish
Step 2 - pull out the recipes we want to make
Step 3 - clean the house
Step 4 - borrow extra chairs
Step 5 - pull the extra table out of the garage
Step 6 - shop
Step 7 - cook
Step 8 - eat
Step 9 - clean up
Step 10 - lie down

As of today we've completed Step 1.

Tomorrow we'll start on Step 2 by pulling out favorite recipes, the ones that "it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without."

Which would include: kosher dill pickles, corn bread stuffing with Italian sausage and shiitake mushrooms, cranberry sauce with nuts and orange juice, shiitake mushroom-turkey liver pate and chocolate banana walnut cake.
To mix things up, I'm adding Moroccan style pickles that I learned to make on a recent trip to Marrakech. And because this Thanksgiving is also the first night of Hanukkah, Michelle is making latkas using Yukon Gold potatoes and also ones made with sweet potatoes from Yang Farms at the Sunday Pacific Palisades Farmers Market.

The recipe for the pickles and the kosher dills are at Zester Daily where I have also included a recipe for a delicious flourless chocolate cake with chocolate ganache by chef Jean Yves.
He and his wife, Yulia, own Patisserie Lenox (30A Church Street, Lenox, MA 01240, 413/551-9050), a cozy French bakery and cafe.

10 Delicious Holiday Recipes

Last year I published my first e-cookbook 10 Delicious Holiday Recipes.
The ten recipes are easy-to-make, festive and fun. With a recipe for roasting a perfect Thanksgiving turkey with stuffing.
Using the Kindle App you can read the recipes on any smart phone, computer or tablet. The app is free and downloads easily.

I hope you'll buy my book and let me help you plan your holiday meals with recipes for special cocktails, appetizers, salads, sides, entrees and really delicious desserts.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Buttermilk Fried Chicken and Potato Salad

When I was a kid, we didn't do many family outings. My dad wasn't into it. And yet, somehow my mom convinced him to spend a couple of days each summer at Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica. I don't know what they did on the beach because I spent the whole day in the water. The only time I took a break from body surfing was when we'd have lunch. My mom would open her Tupperware containers and we'd feast on fried chicken and potato salad.

Recently when I was putting together a menu for a dinner party, my mind must have reached back to those childhood memories because I instantly decided that the centerpiece of the meal would be fried chicken and potato salad.

The key to my mom's fried chicken was an overnight soak in buttermilk. My dad used to drink buttermilk, so there was always some in the refrigerator. The other important feature of her technique was a light dusting in seasoned flour. She talked at length about her dislike of heavily breaded soggy fried chicken. The goal, she always said, was a thin, crisp crust that contrasted with the sweet juiciness of the chicken. I've made a minor adjustment to her recipe by adding a touch of sugar, cayenne, and chopped onion. Her approach works well for onion rings and other vegetables like broccoli.

I remember her potato salad as a bare-bones affair of boiled potatoes, sweet pickle relish, and mayonnaise. For mine I add carrots and corn for sweetness, capers for a bit of acid, and a touch of cayenne for heat.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, washed, cut apart, wing tips and bones reserved to make chicken stock
1 quart buttermilk
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 quarts safflower or canola oil

Method

When you cut up the chicken, separate the two parts of the wing and cut the breast meat off the bone. Keep or discard the skin as you wish. The breasts can be left whole but will cook more evenly when cut into strips or tenders.

Toss the chicken pieces with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Put the pieces in a container, add the buttermilk, stir, cover, and refrigerate.

Using a wok or deep frying pan, heat the cooking oil to 325 - 350 degrees or until a piece of parsley browns immediately when dropped in the oil. Before you begin cooking, prepare your counter. Have a slotted spoon or an Asian style strainer ready. Lay two paper towels on top of a piece of brown grocery bag paper on a large plate.

In a brown paper bag mix together the flour, sea salt, pepper, cayenne (optional), sugar (optional), and onions (optional). Take the chicken out of the buttermilk, remove the excess, drop into the paper bag with the seasoned flour, close the top of the bag, and shake.

Cook the chicken in batches. The pieces shouldn't crowd one another in the oil so they cook evenly. Gently drop each piece into the hot oil, making sure that the pieces don't touch. Turn over when browned on all sides. Remove when golden brown and drain on the paper towels. The pieces will cook quickly: chicken tenders (breast) 2-3 minutes; wings 7-8 minutes; thighs & legs 10-12 minutes.

If you are making deep fried vegetables like onion rings or broccoli florets, they cook even more quickly: thick rings cook in 30 seconds, thin rings in 5-6 seconds; broccoli in 30 seconds.

Just before serving, lightly dust the cooked pieces with sea salt and pepper.

Potato Salad

Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients

2 pounds potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold, washed
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
3 quarts water
1 scallion, washed, ends trimmed, finely chopped
1 carrot, washed, peeled, ends removed, grated
1 ear of corn or 1/2 cup corn kernels
2 tablespoons olives, preferably Kalamata or cracked green, pitted, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained, finely chopped
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Put the potatoes, kosher salt, and water into a pot, bring to a gentle boil, and cover. Cook 30-45 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the potatoes. They should be firm, not mushy. The potatoes are done when a fork goes in easily. Remove from the salted water. Let cool. Peel off the skins.

In the summer, grill an ear of corn and cut up carrot seasoned with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Cut the kernels off the cob, finely chop the carrot and add them to the salad.

In the winter, canned corn will do. Saute the corn and finely chopped carrots with olive oil until lightly browned. Add to the potato salad along with the chopped scallions, olives, capers, and mayonnaise.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Variations

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley, leaves only.

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh celery.

Add 1 broccoli floret either grilled or lightly sauteed then finely chopped

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Jersey Shore: Mandolettes and Mandelbrot

Like many people, we're taking an end of summer trip. This time of year makes us appreciate those things that fill us with joy. Spending time with friends and family, having leisurely meals, taking long walks on the beach, and, special to this summer, watching the Olympics and following the political campaigns.

More than usual, the fall will bring big changes to our household because our son, Michael, is preparing to leave for his freshman year at college. So it was important to find time to take a trip to New Jersey to visit with Michelle's parents.

With few exceptions, Michelle's extended family has stayed on the East Coast. A few years ago they had a family reunion at a nearby resort and 75 aunts, uncles, and cousins came for the weekend. Sunday at Helen and Warren's means brunch for 20, setting up a table in the living room, bringing out the folding chairs, and sharing platters of bagels, lox, coffee cake, cold cuts, cheese, egg salad, tuna salad, fresh fruit, and lots of Helen's special iced coffee.

This trip Helen and Warren taught Michael how to play bridge because bridge is one of the intramural activities at UC Davis and Michelle's parents are bridge mavens. We ate lobsters, a rare treat, because StopRite, the local mega-supermarket had them on sale for $5.99/pound. And Helen made us mandolettes and mandelbrot from a family recipe.

During the year we're the happy recipients of Helen's cookies, but this time we enjoyed being in the kitchen while she made them for us. Luckily there were enough left over so we could take some with us, although not many survived the plane trip home. They are so delicious.

Mandolettes

Yield: about 2 dozen
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
Grated rind of 1/2 lemon
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots or dates
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a cookie sheet. Mix the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until thick. Using a spoon mix in the flour, lemon rind, and cinnamon, then add in the dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate chips. Mix well.

Put the batter on the cookie sheet, making 2 strips 2" wide.

Bake 16-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Slice into 1/2" cookies while still warm. Transfer to a rack and let cool. Store the cookies in an air-tight container and refrigerate. They can be frozen.

Mandelbrot

Yield: about 2 dozen
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 pound walnuts (roughly chopped)
3 cups flour

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat together the eggs, sugar, oil, salt, and vanilla until the mixture is smooth and custard colored. Add the baking powder and flour and mix well, then fold in the chopped walnuts. Form the dough into three logs about 2" wide and a foot long. Place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. While still warm, slice into 1/2" wide cookies. Place the individual cookies back on the cookie sheet and return to the oven for another 5 minutes and brown on both sides. Remove and let cool on a wire rack.

Keep the mandelbrot in an air-tight container. They can be frozen.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Omelets Strike the Right Note at Breakfast

Breakfast is all-important. We need to be energized to take on the world but all too often we have the same meal, day in and day out. Bacon and eggs. Waffles with syrup. Cereal. Toast. A bowl of fruit. Power shakes. What started out as stimulating gets tedious.

Because they're so versatile, omelets are an antidote to breakfast-boredom. Just about any favorite herb, spice, vegetable, meat, or cheese works well with eggs. The only limitations are what you like.

(All the recipes are for 2 omelets.)

Cheese Omelet

The cheese omelet sets the stage for more ambitious fillings.

4 eggs (or 8 egg whites)
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon half and half, whole milk, or low fat milk
2 tablespoons cheese (cheddar, brie, Swiss, Parmesan), grated or finely chopped
2 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley (or basil, tarragon, oregano), washed, stems removed, leaves whole or roughly chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

There are 2 essentials to making a good omelet: fresh eggs (ideally, Farmers' Market fresh) and a non-stick pan. The risks associated with Teflon are minimized if low heat is used and you avoid scratching the surfaces by using a rubber spatula.

The starting point for an omelet is to sauté the fillings. Too often in restaurants vegetables with high water content aren't cooked with a watery result. Sauté the shallots and parsley with the olive oil over a medium flame until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.

To make 2 individual omelets use an 8"-10" non-stick skillet. Even though I use a non-stick pan, I add a pat of butter for flavor. For an Italian touch drizzle a bit of olive oil. For low cal versions use egg whites, skim milk and low fat cheeses.

Melt the butter over a medium-low flame. Beat the eggs (or egg whites) together with the milk and pour into the pan. Cook a few minutes until the egg has set on the pan side. Spread the shallot-parsley sauté over half of the omelet. Add the cheese. Using a rubber spatula fold the "empty" side of the omelet onto the side with the sauté. Cook another 2 minutes then slide onto a plate. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

As they do in all good restaurants, offer yourself a choice of hash browns, fresh fruit, sausages or bacon, toast, or orange juice to go with your omelet.

Preparation Time: 5 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

Bacon and Cheese Omelet

Using the basic recipe, start to build up the layers of flavor by adding bacon (or another salty meat like sausage or ham).

4 eggs (or 8 egg whites)
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon half and half, whole milk, or low fat milk
Olive oil
2 tablespoons cheese (cheddar, brie, Swiss, Parmesan)
2 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, washed, stems removed, leaves whole or roughly chopped
2 tablespoons cooked bacon (or sausage or ham) crumbled
Sea salt and pepper

Use the Cheese Omelet directions above, adding the cooked meat at the same time as the cheese. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

Vegetable Omelet

Instead of using meat to add flavor, use vegetables. Just about any vegetable will work: spinach, zucchini, onions, carrots, kale, artichoke hearts, broccoli, asparagus, English peas, potatoes... Walk down the aisles of your local farmers' market and think "omelet" as you pass the row after row of fresh vegetables.

Sauté the vegetables for sweetness and the added flavor of caramelization but they can be steamed. Tomatoes can be used sautéed or fresh, although I prefer fresh.

The amount of vegetables you use depends on their final volume. 1 cup of uncooked spinach will yield 1/4 cup of cooked spinach. 1 cup of zucchini will yield 3/4 cup for the filling. If you like a thin omelet, 1/4 cup of sautéed filling per omelet is probably sufficient. For a plump omelet, 1/2 cup per omelet is probably more to your liking.

Sauté the vegetables with olive oil, garlic, shallots, and parsley until softened or lightly browned then set aside. Follow the Cheese Omelet directions above for technique. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

Chicken Livers Omelet

I love chicken livers but they aren't everyone's cup of tea (certainly not my wife's). If you do like them, you'll really enjoy this recipe.

4 eggs (or 8 egg whites)
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon half and half, whole milk, or low fat milk
Olive oil
2 tablespoons cheese (cheddar, brie, Swiss, Parmesan)
4 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, washed, stems removed, leaves whole or roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
2 mushrooms (brown or shiitake), washed, julienned
2 chicken livers, washed, cut into nickel-size pieces
Sea salt and pepper
Cayenne (optional)

Sauté the shallots (I doubled the amount of shallots for this recipe because their sweetness goes well with the livers), garlic, parsley, and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add the chicken livers and brown on all sides being careful to keep the insides pink. Season with sea salt, pepper, and cayenne (if you want some heat). Remove from the burner and set aside.

Make the omelet as described above, place the chicken liver sauté on one half and turn the "empty" side onto the side with the sauté. Let cook for 2 minutes and serve.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes. Cooking Time: 10 minutes.

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