Archive for July, 2011

July 21, 2011

Roots | Tex-Mex Enchilada Gravy

It almost pains me to give up this recipe.  Almost.

But I think everyone should try hyper-local specialties: Texas style enchiladas with chili gravy; Taylor ham, egg and cheese; mirabelles.  It’s a taste of place.  It should be a bite that makes you say, “Yes, this is what it tastes like in San Antonio.”  “This is what it tastes like in northern New Jersey.”  “This is what it tastes like in Nancy.”  It’s one way of understanding the world in a deeper way.

This recipe harkens from my father’s mother, passed to my mother, passed to me, passed to Cherub.  (She still likes my Mom’s better than mine.  But she’s not wrong.)  To me, this chili gravy that smothers corn tortillas that cuddle spoonfuls of ground beef, chopped onion and cheeses tastes not only of San Antonio, but of childhood and tradition and family.  And love.  Lots of love.

Enchilada Gravy, makes enough for approximately 48 enchiladas

1/2 c flour

1/2 c vegetable oil (or lard)

1/2 c chili powder (what your powder tastes like will be the dominant flavor of the sauce, taste for sweetness, heat, etc.)

2 heaping T ground cumin

3 or 4 garlic cloves, finely minced

Salt to taste

2 bouillon cubes dissolved in 6 to 8 c very warm water

In a large pan (ideally a cast iron skillet) over medium heat, warm the oil or lard and brown the flour lightly.  Remove from heat.  Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic and salt.  Return to medium heat with enough water to make a gravy.  Simmer for twenty minutes.

{To assemble enchiladas, warm corn tortillas in oil, then roll, filling with any combination of grated cheese, diced white onion and ground beef.  Place in a baking pan in in close rows that had a ladleful of gravy covering the bottom.  Ladle more gravy over the tops of the enchiladas, sprinkle with cheese or whatever fillings you’ve chosen.  Cover with foil.  Bake at 350 for approximately 30 to 40 minutes.}

Playlist included Blisters May Come, by Centro-Matic.

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July 18, 2011

Sweet Bites | Sour Cream Cherry Pound Cake

This is the last of them.  I think.  Well, there are still some in the freezer.  But there were twenty pounds of them (just my portion).  And this cake – maybe – is my favorite way to eat them.  The cherries, that is.  But I do love them pickled, too.

I made this last night after Cherub went to bed.  It was my way of unwinding after kind of a tough day.  I find satisfaction – if not a bit of peace – in the measuring, pouring, mixing, folding, testing, cooling, wrapping that it takes to make this cake.  Or any cake, really.  It takes only a few minutes to measure things out, then an hour in the oven to home-baked goodness.  The crumb is dense, the cherries jammy, the crust golden and crisp.  It’s a classic pound cake.

I originally came across this recipe somewhere in the depths of the interwebs, but halved it to fit in one 9 1/4 x 5 1/4 loaf pan and subbed fresh cherries for (gasp!) jarred maraschinos.  A bit more fiddling and I had cake.

Sour Cream Cherry Pound Cake, makes one 9.25 x 5.25 loaf

1 1/2 c all purpose flour

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July 14, 2011

Summer Produce | Short Ribs Braised in Tomato

This is a Saturday meal.  Not because it’s hard.  (It’s not.)  Not because it takes a long time.  (It could.)   But because if you head to a farmer’s market Saturday morning, or happen to run across some really fabulous tomatoes while you’re doing your weekly grocery shopping, this is what you should make.  This time, I used some beautifully imperfect farmstand tomatoes from an unscheduled stop at a roadside market.

This is, without question, the easiest way to make a fresh tomato sauce.  And perhaps one of the tastiest.  What follows is not so much of a recipe, as a way of cooking.  Let your heart (and perhaps your tummy) lead you.

Braised Short Ribs in Tomatoes, Serves 4, inspired by Scott Conant

2 pounds of really lovely ripe tomatoes, cored

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July 12, 2011

Cherub in the Kitchen | Cherry Salsa

Whole Foods recently ran a contest for kid-friendly cherry recipes and honestly I can’t think of a better time for them to have done this.  This house has been overrun with cherries.  And Cherub’s always wanting to help in the kitchen.

Here’s a no-cook cherry salsa that we came up with together, that uses seasonal raspberries and tomatoes, too.  Her favorite task was to pit the cherries: smashing them lightly with a glass and removing the pit.  It was roll-y, juicy, slightly messy fun.  I recommend an apron for this part.

As for the final product, it was, in a word, devoured.  I love that she gets an extra boost of fiber along with a good amount of vitamin C.  She loves to scoop big, delicious mounds into her mouth.   Everybody’s happy.

While this recipe is super kid friendly, don’t let it stop you from serving it next time you’ve got a bar-b-q or a casual family get together.  It’s wonderful.  No chilies means it’s not too spicy and the hint of cumin lends it just a bit of sophistication.  And we all love that.

Firecracker Cherry Salsa, Serves 4

1/2 c. sweet red cherries, pitted and quartered

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July 11, 2011

Summer Salad | Pickled Cherries and Serrano Ham

I adore the big pots of mesclun that have been moved to the shadier spots in my backyard now summer is in full swing.  A few snips and I have the base for a fabulous summer lunch.

There’s no real dressing to make, just assembling a couple of ingredients, including a few slices of Serrano ham, shavings of Parmesan and a handful of yellow cherries pickled with Chinese Five Spice.  Somehow these three things paired with just picked lettuces and tender herbs result in a taste greater than the sum of their parts.

The cherries were the result of about an hour in the kitchen over the weekend.  Now preserved for the dark days of winter, I couldn’t help but crack into one of the jars for this salad.  And I’m glad I did.  I have to make more of these while cherries are still in season.  I did not make enough.  These cherries are not only wonderful in this salad, but perfection with a cheese plate.  I want to have plenty on hand to dish out with nibbles of cheese when friends pop in for a cocktail.

For the salad, combine

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July 10, 2011

Persephone’s Drinks Cabinet | Cherry Shrub

I couldn’t let cherry season pass with a cocktail of some sort.  And this one is so surprising and light: low in alcohol high in gorgeous cherry flavor.  It’s an ancient recipe out of Mary Randolph’s The Virginia House-wife originally published back in 1838.  And it’s perfect for sipping on the screened porch on hot afternoons.

I had a copious amount of a couple of types of cherries that were languishing with their pits still firmly inside.  I didn’t feel like pitting them.  I’ve been pitting them for days: for a few quick moments

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July 9, 2011

After the Preserves | Fruit and Herb Vinegars

I’ve got three different bottles of fruit and herbs steeping in vinegar in the dark recesses of my basement spice shelves.  Birthed out of a craving for something savory out of all the pounds and pounds of fruit Cherub and I have been picking with friends lately.  I’ve made cobblers, pies, and grunts.  I’ve made syrups, jams and jellies (albeit almost accidentally, but that’s another post).  What to do with the dregs from the blueberry syrup?  The excess from 20 pounds of cherries?  Toss them in vinegar along with some herbs.  Let it steep for a few weeks in a dark spot, shaking the jars every once in a while when you walk by.  It’s as easy as that, and the flavors are only limited by your imagination.  And honestly, can you think of a nicer hostess gift?  Just strain into a vintage bottle, and cork.  Present with a handwritten tag noting the contents or perhaps a recipe for a simple vinaigrette.  You’re most certain to be invited back.

From left to right: Blueberry Tarragon, Cherry Shiso, and Cherry Balsamic

A few guidelines: for deepest flavor use

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