About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Waste Not, Want Not Soup

I've got plenty of food, in fact too much. Social distancing doesn't lend to sharing so much and with time on my hands I need to turn those leftovers that won't go away into something that will freeze or preserve.  Based on my post, Cold Zucchini Soup from the Union Square Cafe, I added to the zucchini and onion, the left over half head of cabbage from Colocannon of St. Patricks Day and the gremolata I used with Provencal Vegetable soup. The cabbage adds an earthy touch and boy, does gremolata pack some flavor!  Soup is a great way to use up leftover vegetables and gremolata or pesto makes great use of herbs that are so perishable.  I've quick-pickled onions, carrots and radishes to add to salads and made simple syrups with lemons and ginger to cut down on waste.  There are really many easy and useful ways to put what you have to good use and avoid the boring repetition of leftovers.  Get creative!  BTW, I used my high speed blender for this soup.

For the soup

4 cups cabbage, sliced thin
2 cups onion diced
2 cups shredded zucchini
3 tbls olive oil
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
salt & pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cream (optional)

For the gremolata

1 small bunch flat leaf Italian parsley, trimmed
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 tsp chopped lemon peel (preserved if you have it)
olive oil

In a large skillet with straight sides, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers.  Add the cabbage and onion and toss to coat with oil.  Reduce the heat and continue to cook stirring occasionally until the vegetables are wilted but do not brown.  Season generously with salt and add the red pepper flakes.  Grate the zucchini and add to the cooked vegetables.  When the zucchini has softened, cut the heat and allow the vegetables to cool for 10 minutes.  Add the vegetables to the blender and purée.  Add half the chicken stock slowly.  Don't fill up to the top, just half way.  Wipe out the skillet and return the purée then add the rest of the stock.  Correct the seasoning and add the cream if you like.

Put the parsley, garlic and lemon peel in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 5-6 times to break down the parsley.  Then stream in about 1/2 cup olive oil or more with the processor running until a paste is formed.  Scrape down the sides as necessary.  Gremolata can also be made simply by finely chopping the ingredients with a sharpe knife and mixing in the oil.

Swirl in the gremolata to the soup or serve separately to taste.  I like to finish this soup with a drizzle of truffle oil and sourdough croutons.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Pandemic Pizza

Image result for pizza
At last, I've got everybody where I want them.  At home, in the kitchen, cooking for themselves and their family.  There's no excuse, the restaurants are closed.  I was actually glad to see there was no flour left on the shelves.  That means you think you might need to make something yourself instead of eating processed, packaged foods.  I'm having a blast using all my kitchen toys, the bread machine, the multifunction cooker, the vacuum sealer, the sous vide and the usual pots and pans.  Most of what I see on the food web sites are quick and easy, one pot dishes, which is fine.  We may all put on a few pounds with these high carb pantry recipes but there's a time and place for everything and this is that time.  So don't panic - eat pizza!  Just think of our Italian friends.  Let's empathize and make a great homemade pizza and STAY HOME.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup water @ 100 degrees
1/2 tsp instant yeast

Combine the flour, sugar and salt.  Dissolve the yeast in the water for 5 minutes then add to the dry mixture.  Knead by hand for 5 minutes until the dough forms a smooth elastic ball.  Lightly oil a bowl and put the dough in then cover with plastic wrap sprayed with baking spray (or a bit of oil).  Allow to rise 1-2 hours until dough is double in size.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees for 1 hour.  If you have a pizza stone put it in while the oven preheats.

In the mean time, prepare the sauce.

28 oz can of peeled tomatoes (scrape out the seeds if you prefer)
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbls olive oil
salt to taste
 1 tsp sugar
small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Combine in a blender until smooth, then strain.  You can reduce the sauce over heat if you want it thicker.

Once the dough has doubled in size dump it out onto a surface lightly dusted with half flour, half corn meal.  Divide it in half and shape each half into a taught ball by moving the dough in a circular pattern between your cupped hands.  Keep tucking the bottom under.  Place the dough on a floured baking sheet or covered in parchment paper and cover with plastic wrap sprayed lightly with cooking spray to keep it from sticking.  Let the dough rest for 30 minutes covered.

Shape one ball of dough at a time into a 10-12 inch circle.  Flatten with your fist, then drape over your knuckles and carefully stretch and turn the dough until it's the right diameter.  Place on a pizza peel, ladle on a thin layer of sauce spreading in a circular pattern within 1 inch of the dough's edge.  Top with mozzarellas and your favorite toppings.  Slide onto the pizza stone or onto a hot baking sheet for 10 minutes then broil for 1 minute, watching carefully.  Remove from the oven and brush the edges of the crust with:

1/2 cup olive oil that has been heated with 2 cloves of slice garlic cloves and a pinch of crushed red pepper then strained.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Irish White Soda Scones

I've dreamed of attending Ballymaloe Cooking School in Ireland for years.  I've been charmed by Ireland and found the food outstanding, some of the freshest and best I've ever tasted.  I've published Brown Irish Soda Bread and Colcannon previously in honor of St. Patrick's Day so I have searched the Ballymaloe Cookbook for something new and simple.  I settled on these delicious scones for breakfast or tea.  They are a quick bread relying on baking soda as the leavening agent and it's reaction with buttermilk to form lactic acid, best served warm the day they are made.  Soda bread only takes minutes to make and has endless variations.  So add dried fruit or herbs if that suites you but be sure to serve with lots of rich Irish butter.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cup buttermilk

Sift the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center.  Pour in all of the buttermilk at once.  Using one hand, with your fingers stiff and outstretched like a claw, stir in a full circular movement from the center to the outside of the bowl in ever-increasing circles.   The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky.  When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface.   Roll the dough out to 1 inch  and cut with a biscuit cutter or a knife.  Re-roll the excess and cut more.  Makes a dozen 2 inch scones. Bake 15-20 minutes until tops are golden.  Serve warm with butter and jam.

Just a note.  This dough can be shaped onto a single round loaf, cutting a deep cross in the middle and pricking the edges to""let the fairies out".  The Irish are a superstitious lot and in ancient times they couldn't understand the rise of the bread and assumed it was due to mischievous spirits or "fairies".  Their bread was marked with the cross to exorcise the mischief makers and make their humble bread safe to consume.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Slow Cooker Pork Stew with Baby Kale, Cannellini Beans and Orecchiette

Delicious Pork Stew
My kitchen is being painted and my cooking time and space are really pinched this week so I pulled out my multi-cooker and used its slower cook mode to create this cozy dish that has moist and tender meat with rich, satisfying flavor. Braising meat this way breaks down the toughest cuts with slow steady heat and not too much liquid. A sprinkle of grated cheese and some grilled sour dough round out this simple dish without too much fuss. The tender baby kale leaves are added when served so they aren't over cooked and give a bit of texture without the stonger flavor of mature kale.  Like many stews the flavor improves with time and this is an excellent choice for something to pull out of the freezer at the last minute.

Thin sliced baby kale
2 lbs boneless pork ribs trimmed of excess fat and cut into one inch cubes
1 peeled large onion cut in half through the root and sliced thin
1 trimmed fennel bulb sliced thin
6 whole garlic cloves
1 14 oz. can petit diced tomatoes with juices
1 16 oz. can cannellini beans
2 cups orecchiette pasta
1 cup water
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt & fresh ground pepper
2 cups fresh baby kale cut in thin strips

Put the garlic and sliced onion and fennel in the bottom of the slow cooker. Season the pork cubes with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and place on top of the vegetables.  Sprinkle with the cumin,  oregano, coriander and paprika.  Add the can of diced tomatoes, 1 cup of water, sprig of thyme and bay leaf.  Cook on high for 2 hours.  The meat should be fork tender.  Skim off excess fat from the surface before adding the cannellini beans, with their liquid, and orecchiette. For a creamier texture, mash a cup of the beans before adding them to the broth.  Add salt to taste, it will take a good bit.  Reduce heat to warm, cover and cook another half hour.  To serve, put 1/2 cup loosely packed baby kale strips in the bottom of a soup bowl they ladle the stew over the kale.  Sprinkle with grated parmesan and serve.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Keep It Simple Salmon Cakes

Less is more for these delicious salmon cakes.  Stripped down to the essentials, they have just the right flavor and texture for a fish cake that holds together but tastes like salmon rather than filler.  A squeeze of lemon and some tartar sauce makes for a special meal.

1 and 1/4 pounds fresh salmon without skin, cut into 1 inch pieces
In 3 batches in a food processor, pulse the salmon into 1/4 inch pieces, about 2-4 pulses.  You don't want the pieces to be too small.  There should be some texture to the cakes.

3 tbls + 3/4 cup panko, divided
2 tbls mayonnaise
2 tbls finely chopped parsley
1 tbls finely chopped shallot
1 scallion sliced thin
4 tbls fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
dash of cayenne
1/2 cup canola oil

Combine the mayo, parsley, shallot, scallion, lemon juice, mustard, salt, pepper and cayenne.  Add 3 tbls panko then add the chopped salmon and mix well.

Using a 1/3 cup measure, scoop and pack the mixture and shape into patties.  Spread the remaining panko on a dinner plate.  Dredge the cakes in panko and shape into a disc about 1 inch deep.  Set aside on a parchment lined baking sheet.  After forming all the cakes, chill 15 minutes in the refrigerator.  Heat the oil in a 12 inch skillet over medium heat.  When the heat starts to shimmer, cook in batches 2 minutes a side.  Drain on paper towel and serve immediately.  If you need to hold them for a bit.  Move to a rack over baking sheet and leave in a warm oven until ready to serve.