Friday, June 25, 2010

June 25 2010

Today was the first day I got to use my new gas stove. Jon and Jenny installed it for me this spring and it got hooked up last week. I was able to make a turnip tian, which is sort of like a gratin, but no dairy. It comes from Provence, in the south of France.
I also made a puréed bean soup--with chickpeas and white beans--garnished with bacon and olive oil. Yum.

We made two vegetable braised dishes, my fave way of making vegetables. I always start with some sort of aromatic like onion, shallot, garlic or ginger. Then I cook it over medium heat till soft, adding each vegetable from hardest to most tender and finish it off with seasonings or herbs, salt and pepper--and maybe a little chicken stock, oil or butter.

* Olive oil, shallots, baby carrots, turnip greens and sugar snaps, chive, salt and pepper.
* Olive oil, garlic, broccoli, hot chili flakes and salt.

Maureen and Eli helped this week and we had lunch by noon, a record for me.
The turnips are very very sweet when made this way:

Turnip Tian
6 servings

Olive oil or butter
3 pounds turnips without greens
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (from toasted bread makes it tastier)
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Oil or butter a 9" by 12" two-inch deep baking pan or 3 quart oval gratin dish and set aside.

Trim and scrub turnips. Halve or quarter them. Toss them into saucepan with stock and bring to a boil. Simmer turnips until slightly tender, but not overcooked, 4 minutes.

Remove turnips with slotted spoon to gratin or baking pan. Spread in one even layer.

Toss thyme, 1/2 cup chicken stock, salt and pepper with turnips. Mix breadcrumbs with olive oil and spread in an even layer over turnips. Drizzle with more oil if you like, or even melted butter. Place pan in the oven. Bake until crumbs are evenly browned and turnips are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

Italian Puréed Bean Soup (Vellutata di Fagioli)
Cooks all over Italy make this simple bean soup. It’s typical of Southern cucina povera cooking. Fava beans (a sort of lima bean) grow primarily in the south, but have found favor in northern kitchens. The reverse holds true for chickpeas, borlotti and cannellini or white beans. Northern cooks might top bean soup with a gremolada (a fresh chopped mixture of parsley, garlic and lemon zest). Southern cooks don’t often use strong seasonings with beans—allowing the bean flavor full rein.
6 servings

1 pound dried cannellini (white kidney) beans, chickpeas or borlotti beans
Sprig large fresh sage
Sprig large fresh rosemary
6 to 8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta (or bacon), diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, 8 ounces, about 1 cup finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Optional Soffritto Ingredients
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 large stalk celery, finely diced
3 to 4 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

1. Pick through beans and discard stones. Soak beans overnight in water to cover by 2 inches and 2 teaspoons kosher salt or quick-soak.

2. Drain beans; add, sage, rosemary, and 2 quarts cold water, cover, and bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook until beans are tender, 1 hour. Cool beans and cooking liquid to warm. Scrape herb leaves into soup, but discard stems.

3. While beans cook, heat 2 tablespoons oil in 9-inch skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta, and fry until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove pancetta with slotted spoon to a bowl; set aside.

4. Reheat pan with 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat and add soffritto. Cook vegetables until tender and slightly golden. Scrape into cooked beans.

5. Drain beans and transfer to blender or food processor, but reserve cooking liquid. Purée beans, herb leaves and some cooking water until smooth. (If purée is too thick, thin with cooking water.)

6. Scrape soup into saucepan and heat over low. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and keep warm.

7. Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with pancetta and parsley, and drizzle each bowl with a little of remaining olive oil.

This is a picture of August and his papa, Berkley in the strawberry patch. Berkley said that last week August came home after eating many strawberries and he smelled of them as one might if they ate too much Wouldn't you like to smell like a strawberry?

Monday, June 14, 2010

First Friday 2010

Since I'm working on a culinary textbook for Prentice Hall, I decided to use the Meadowlark work team as guinea pigs for recipe testing this summer. I made them two soufflés--asparagus cheese and broccoli cheese. Yikes, it's been several years since I made a savory soufflé and I do need to make a few more to get it down--one came out a little soupy. I think I had the oven temp too high and it browned before cooking through, common problem. I'm working on the France, Italy and Spain chapters. So the Meadowlarks and crew will likely get some interesting food this month.

Eli (see photo of him holding a Meadowlark asparagus) sliced radishes, sweet raw turnips and tossed them with leftover cooked asparagus and broccoli. We dressed them with some of my preserved lemons and their lemony-salty brine plus olive oil. It was very simple but powerful. I steamed the turnip and radish greens and just dressed them with oil and soy sauce. Not a rip roaring meal for the first. I need to get a head of steam up.

Going to Manhattan this Friday so that should inspire me! I'll miss cooking, but will return for the following Friday June 25 2010.

Here's a recipe for preserved lemons. I only use organic lemons, and instead of slitting each whole lemon and packing with salt, I cut them in half, juiced them and rubbed them with salt. More economical and you only use the rind anyway. Wonderfully bitter, lemony and salty.

Krcek-Allen Preserved Lemons
Makes 1 quart

7 to 8 medium lemons
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt (no other)

Cut lemons in half around their equators. Juice them, and set juice aside.

Pour 1 teaspoon salt on bottom of 1 quart glass canning jar. Rub juiced lemon halves with remaining salt and pack them into the jar.

Pour fresh lemon juice over lemons so they are immersed. Seal with plastic or canning jar lid and set jar on plate (it will overflow slightly). Leave lemons at room temperature for 4 to 5 days. Refrigerate up to 6 months.

Pull out inside skin from lemon before using. Slice lemon halves into thin jullienne or mince. Great on salad or on top of stewed or grilled meat--or in vegetable dishes. Especially good paired with toasted pecans.