Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hot Sides

Soy/Sweet chili glazed haricot vert, mid stir

Broccoli in cream sauce is a must for me at thanksgiving and also for some of my kids. I do not believe they had broccoli in 17th c. Massachusetts. But I love it while I am cooking it, at the table and as leftovers mixed into my potatoes (yes, I love it when my food touches).

This years creamed broccoli is already cooked and awaiting reheating, so I moved onto another side which I expect will get better with a few hours rest. I got a large package of small green beans/haricot vert, and sauted then in a little olive oil and sliced fresh garlic. Then as they got somewhat cooked, I added a good large splash or two or three of soy sauce. The soy sauce added some steam, some salt and also on its own will get a little caramelized. I nudged it along with a couple Tbl. of water, and some additional salt, and as soon as the green beans started to get softer, I threw in about 1/4 cup of thai sweet chili paste. Then I continued to saute, letting the beans get a little more tender and the chili sauce to get sticky and coat the beans. I stopped them just short of done, and will reheat them right before we eat this evening. Salty, spicy, sticky, with a nice subtle crunch.

Oh my, Pie

I posted some pie recipes earlier last week, as I started thinking ahead about what I wanted to cook this year. Pie is always a major part of Thanksgiving. In fact, I often made a huge amount of them before heading over to Plimoth Plantation to spend a shift Thanksgiving day telling people we had our harvest fest a month ago, and this was not when the pilgrims would have had their fall feast. At home, we always had lots of hands to cook, and lots of friends who brought more. I am not in anyway claiming to have made all the pies, but they were my favorite to make, and so I made a lot. I remember one year making a dozen full sized pies before heading off to challenge people's Thanksgiving perceptions. I must say I enjoyed both activities.

And like years past, today we have a wonderful treat coming with a guest. Sara's roomate is bringing an eggnog pie. YUM. I made a traditional pumpkin pie this morning and opted for a cherry fruit pie with a secret layer of diced mixed fruit (cocktail ;-) in the middle. I topped it with a crump topping studded with dried cranberries.

 I will also readily admit that in years past, I have been more than happy to use rolled-and-ready pie crust. However, because I recently was shocked to see most major brands use lard (which makes a wonderful crust, but renders a pie inedible to vegetarians) I am making my crust from scratch again, using butter. Ironically, in my teenage years cooking at home and at work, we always made homemade crust, even if the filling was more packaged and premade. As an adult, I usually make my fillings from scratch. I think I got out of the habit of making my own crust when I lived in Tucson and the dry air made it very challenging.

I have made many versions of pie crust, this one is super easy and should work well for anyone. The trick is to not get the shortening or butter too small, and to have the water very, very cold.

Flakey Pastry Dough (recipe adapted from Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook, a fabulous collection if you can find it)

This makes two 9" crusts

2 c. sifted, all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. of butter or lard, or a combo of both (have it slightly softened, not quite room temp)
4 to 5 Tbl. of icy cold water

Put flour in a mixing bowl with the butter, cut into smaller chunks). Add salt and pinch the butter with the flour using your finger tips until you get a coarse crumbly mix. Add the water a couple tablespoons at a time. You want just enough to allow the crust to hang together in a ball. At this point, handle the dough as little as possible.  Divide into two balls.

Lightly flour your counter or work surface and roll out dough to about a 10 or 11 inch circle, and use according to your favorite recipe. This makes a nice flaky crust.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

oooooooooh Hot Bread (with obligatory !!!!!!!)

Baked, but not totally browned, that will happen tomorrow right at dinner time

My favorite cooking method is baking. And I do not really agree that it is more any more scientific or any more in need of precise measurements than top of the stove methods. It just doesn't allow you as many places along the way to correct your course.

Black Olive and Caper rolls, ready for a little more browning tomorrow

My mom would always bake bread in very large batches, and we would consume it like locust. Our bread bible was Fannie Farmer, and she usually made some variety of hot water bread made with lard or basic white, made with milk and butter. There would be multiple bread loaves, standard dome topped, crusty and course grained. And we would always make a large pan or two of cinnamom rolls (See late sept/early october in my blog posts). And we would always fill up the stray muffin pans with cloverleaf rolls. three balls of dough in each tin, with one surprise four leaf clover to a pan.

Black Olive and Caper dough, after first punch down
I have made these same rolls every year and my kids have made them with me. Sara and I just finished shaping the black olive/caper dough into rolls.

Rosemary roll dough, portioned and ready to shape

So the recipe?  At this point I do not bake most of my bread from a specific recipe, althouh they all fall directly from the breads I made with my mom. The ratio when I want to make some impromptu bread is one cup of very warm liquid, 1 scant Tbl. dry yeast, and 2-1/2 to 3 cups of flour.  Additional needs are a little sugar to encourage yeast growth, a little salt to add flavor and keep yeast growth in balance, and some fat.

Cloverleaf rolls, shaped and ready to rise. See the four leaf roll ? . . .
Want soft white bread? Use all white flour, and use butter or lard for the fat and at least half of the liquid should be milk. Want whole wheat, add in some whole wheat flour with the first addtion of flour. about 1/3 WW to 2/3 white. Want crispy small grained bread, use vegetable oil and water and need it a lot more than normal. Want sweeter bread, add more sugar, or use brown sugar and some honey. This will brown your crust more as well. Want crispy crusts? Use some rice flour with the wheat, or throw some ice cubes into the bottom of your oven during the baking. It will create a nice steam. Oatmeal?  Use some soaked oatmeal for the first cup and use flour for the rest.

Rosemary rolls at the top, plain white rolls knotted at the bottom
But I will give you the basic recipe here, which will make one loaf of bread, or 12 rolls:

1/2 cup of very hot water
1/2 c. of very hot milk
1 pkg. (about 1 tbl. yeast)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
2 Tbl. butter
2-1/2 to 3 cups flour

Dissolve yeast in hot water, stir and let foam up a little. Add salt, sugar, hot milk and butter and stir. Add one cup of flour, stirring to completely mix. Add more flour, a little at a time until dough is stretchy and does not stick to your hands. Go light, you can always add more flour as you kneed the dough.

Place dough on a floured board or counter and knead for about 5 minutes or until smooth and bubbles are starting to form. Place in a greased bowl, rolling around so it get the top and bottom evenly oiled. Cover bowl and let rise for about 60 minutes. Punch down when doubled in size. (You can use rapid rise yeast, in which case cut all rising time in half).

Knead a little and replace in bowl and let rise a second time. about 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Punch down dough and let rest for about ten minutes, covered. Shape dough and place in well greased pan. Let rise for another half an hour and then bake until done. Time varied depending on the shape and size of the loaf. Rolls about 18 minutes, loafs about 35 to 45?  I just watch them.

Remove from pans and let cool on a rack. Or eat hot.

Brussel Sprout Mania

Brussel Sprouts, the new Sexy
Who would think that people would be chasing brussel sprouts like they were cabbage patch dolls? not me. I have the good fortune to have kids who love brussel sprouts, and to live in a town with  Trader Joes. Every fall for the last few years has seen an increase in brusselsproutmania. Because TJs sells them fresh ON the STALK. When they are in-store, people have phone trees just to let other sproutfreaks know they are there. (But I suspect not until said caller has their sproutstash built back up first.)
I have never seen any other vegetable elicit "how-do-YOU-cook-thesebabies" conversations in the aisle like the sroutstalk. They are alien looking, and fresh and delicious, They keep very fresh on the stalk for quite some time. And everyone wants them. They have in the last three years become a standard at our thanksgiving table with the kids asking "are we having brussel sprouts this year?!?"
Here is how I prepare them:
Cut them off the stalk and cut them each in half.  Get about 4 cups of sprouts. Heat a large skillet (that has a lid) and melt some olive oil  and some butter, enough to coat the bottom of the skillet. Set to medium high? Add some minced garlic, maybe two large cloves. Place the brussel sprouts cut side down in the pan, and saute until the sprouts start to actually pop up and down in the pan. They should start to brown a little on the cut surface and I suspect steam gets up inside and pops them around a bit. Anyway, even if they do not pop (mine could well be magicalsprouts), once they start to brown a little, stir them over and around, and add about 1/2 cup of chicken stock to the pan and cover. Let steam for a few minutes until they are as tender as you like. Then throw in a handful (maybe a third of a cup), of parmesan cheese over the top, toss and serve. Salt and pepper to taste.

Vegetarian Gravy

We always have had people with different eating habits and preferences. I started making an alternative choice in gravies a few years ago, as we had quite few vegetarians as regular guests. I am lucky to come from a family that cooks instinctively, and to have lived in Berkeley long enough to hone my vegetarian and vegan cooking skills. I never really make it the same each time, I just whip it together. The common denominator for me is to have a good vegetable stock on hand. I usually buy a packaged organic vegetable stock and go from there.  My daughter Jacki is a vegetarian, so I am making some this year. BUT Jacki can not stand mushrooms, which would normally be my first choice for gravy.

So this year I am making a green onion/garlic gravy, and it goes like this:


Start with about 4 Tbl. olive oil and heat in a skillet. Chop about 5 or 6 green onions, including a good portion of the green stems, and crush or mince two cloves of garlic. (Last year I did a combination of onion, leek and green onion. You could add mushrooms and other vegetables here, just add a little more oil so you have enough to mix with the flour).

Saute the garlic and onion until its starting to soften. Sprinkle in 2 Tbl. of flour and stir to incorporate it with the remaining olive oil. Add coarse ground black pepper, maybe a tsp. Leave the salt until after you add the broth and get a chance to taste it. Let the flour and oil bubble a little before adding a splash of the broth.  You could also add a splash of white wine here as well. Once you get a good smooth roux add the remaining broth. You will add about 1 cup total. Simmer until it thickens.
 Adjust the salt and seasonings, I added a little salt and some thyme, and added in about 2 Tbl. worth of finely grated carrot and let it bubble. Then, to add to the creaminess, I added one pat of butter and a Tbl. of sour cream. The thyme worked well to give it some richness and the butter and sour cream mellowed out some of the bitterness that comes from a rich vegetable broth.
Once you get the hang of sauteeing vegetables of your choice, adding some flour to your oil/fat/butter, and adding liquid (broth, wine, water, milk.cream), seasoning to taste, you can make a gravy out of almost anything.


Cranberry Sauce

We all have things we love dearly, even though we may have matured past them. Comfort foods are just that because they remind us of a time in our lives when we felt safe and fulfilled. I love thanksgiving and all the crazy food memories the Deetz family can share. We grew up in the belly of the holiday beast, rallied against misperceptions and championed many a meal that had not a bit of turkey. But we also love the standards.

Because my dad, Jim Deetz, is so closely associated with Thanksgiving, he was often racing to interviews, tv shoots, etc. on Thanksgiving morning. I remember once as an adult showing up at work in Southern California the week of Thanksgiving and hearing a coworker rant and rave about an interview she just heard on the radio.Who was this scholar who refuted all things holy? No turkey, no black hats with buckles, no mashed potatoes, no Norman Rockwell glow? Eel? really? turtle stew? eeew!   I loved it, and enjoyed talking it all through with her years after I had left the bosom of the plantation.

Our must haves at the thanksgiving table included many wonderful things, pork and sauerkraut for my dad, green jello with shredded carrots and cabbage, topped with a suspicious white dressing for my mom. And for me, the black olives that had to spend some time slighty stretched over my fingers before being eaten. AND, I would venture to guess that even as all of us Deetzes add and change what we make, we almost certainly will have a beautifully plated, intact log of ocean spray jellied cranberry sauce. My mom always put it on a cut glass serving tray, with a small knife, to allow each if us to choose our portion, cutting along the conveniently spaced rilling left by the can sides. If you have never done this, it is quite easy, you use a can opener on both ends of the can, and remove one lid. The other remains in place and is used as a way to push the jellied column out onto its serving dish. I think all our chefing started with that one glorious job.

I do have the one can of jellied sauce ready for tomorrow but I also have my basic homemade cranberry relish already cooling. Last year I made a jalapeno version, this year I am trying some with rosemary added to it.

I don't have a recipe, it is so easy without one. I start with two bags of fresh cranberrys, and put them in a saucepan with about a cup of orange juice. I simmer them and add in about 1/2 c. of white sugar. I grate in a good amount of orange zest, and sometimes some lemon. Add a pinch of salt. Simmer until the cranberries pop and start to soften. Once it gets soupy, I mash it a little with a potato masher, and remove from the heat to cool.

In years past, I have stirred in raspberry jam, for a sweeter version, or even bourbon/orange marmalade. Last year I sliced and sauteed a small jalapeno pepper in the pan before adding the berries. This year I sprinkled in a pinch of rosemary leaves to a portion of the larger batch. But I am actually looking forward to pushing that canned sauce out onto a pretty plate tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Jump Run!!!! (and pumpkin pie!!!!!)

When Margie Purser and I were young and sexy skydivers, we learned a term that suits many important life situations:  "JUMP RUN!"  As the small plane we were in would circle the drop zone to gain the right altitude and direction for our jump, the final approach was announced with the loud enough voice to be heard over the plane engine and through the helmets we wore. So,  "jump run!," indicating we were getting ready to climb out on the wing, and throw ourselves to whatever came next.

As we approach Thanksgiving next week, I am planning what I will make. Its often about making sure you have those special dishes that say thanksgiving to your family, and that they can all be staggered and prepared in just the right sequence to minimize havoc.

So I will step up my postings this next week to add some ideas you may want to use, or at least appreciate.

For me, it's the pies and the fresh rolls. My mom always had us make clover leaf rolls, homemade, shaped into muffin pans, and each one had three sections to a roll. We always had one per muffin pan that was the lucky roll, which of course had four sections.

As for the pies, I always have at least one pumpkin pie, often a traditional creamy, custardy one, but I have also made a frozen pumpkin pie, recipe included here. You can make these ahead of time, freeze them, and bring them out when needed during your day. This is a great option for a busy cook/host, or for someone bringing a dish to contribute. You can make full sized ones, but small individual ones in interesting dishes are also really fun.

The second recipe for pumpkin pie is from the Farm Journal Pie cookbook, one of my favorite old timey cookbooks, and it uses apple butter, another fall favorite of mine. The apple butter allows the pie to be cut and served warm, because it prevents the weeping that happens when you cut a regular warm pumpkin pie.

Frozen Pumpkin Pie

Baked 9" pie shell
1 qt. vanilla ice cream, slightly softened
1 c. canned pumpkin (or cooked and sieved fresh pumpkin, but NOT pie filling)
1/3 c. white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, mix together all ingredients except walnuts.

Pour into baked pie shell. Sprinkle with nuts. Cover well and freeze until firm.

Serve frozen, garnished with your favorite whipped cream or pie topping.


Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie

Unbaked 9" pie shell  (I love to bake in ceramic pie pans)
1 c. apple butter
1 c. cooked pumpkin (canned or freshly cooked and strained)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 c. evaporated milk

Combine apple butter, pumpkin, sugar, salt, and spices.  Add eggs, mix well. Add milk, gradually, mix,

Pour into pie shell. Bake in hot oven (425 degress F.) for about 40 minutes.