Archive for ‘Basics’

December 7, 2011

Diary of a Dinner | Anglian Soup

Tonight’s dinner wasn’t really planned, per se.

And lately I’ve been trying to formulate a way to express just how meals come together at our house.  Because I think it’s kind of important.  Cooking is a part of almost all that I do.  But not in an intrusive, takes-up-all-my-time kind of thing.  It’s easy.  I keep saying that because I think everyone can look at how they use their time and fill in a spare five or ten minutes with a few small tasks that really elevate meals into something special.  Even if a portion of it is takeaway from a grocery store.

Yesterday I picked up some crab cakes from Fresh Market (December is buy one get one free salmon fillets and crab cakes on Tuesdays).  And I knew that I had a good piece of butternut squash in the fridge.  A whole roasted pie pumpkin from over the weekend was in there, too. 

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August 20, 2011

Simplicity from the Farmers’ Market | On the Grill

Honestly in the summer I can’t be bothered with much.  Dinner of a meat and a veg.  Perhaps a second veg.  If it doesn’t require cooking.  And if Cherub loves it.   Only then.

So if you’re like me and don’t feel up to much, stop by the farmers’ market in your town on Saturday morning and pick up two or three things for a Saturday night grilled dinner: some chicken thighs with the bone removed but the tasty skin left on, some fresh sweet corn and some grape or cherry tomatoes.

If you buy your ingredients from reputable and local farmers, you can be assured of freshness and flavor you wouldn’t normally get at the grocery store.  And if you’re a lazy cook in the summer, these are the greatest things you can buy because you have only the slightest work to make something really tasty.

Spiced Chicken Thighs with Grilled Corn and Lime Butter, serves four

6 chicken thighs, bone removed, skin left on

1 garlic clove

1 T chili powder

1 T whole cumin seeds

1 T brown sugar

1 t salt

2 T olive oil

4 ears sweet corn

4 T butter

1 t chili powder

Zest from 1 lime, juice from 1/2

Salt

Prepare grill (I prefer a charcoal).

In a mortar and pestle combine garlic, all spices and olive oil and mash to a consistent paste.  Rub onto chicken and allow to marinate from 15 minutes to two hours.

Grill chicken for 15 to 20 minutes or until meat is no longer pink and juices run clear.

While chicken is cooking, gently peel back husks to remove silk from corn, carefully replacing husks to cover back over the corn.  Mix lime zest with juice and spices along with softened (not melted) butter to create an even mixture.  Place corn in husks over cooler coals after chicken is cooked and resting and cook for approximately 10 minutes, turning frequently.

To serve, eat outside, for God’s sake.

Remove husks from corn and slather with butter mixture.  Serve with chicken.  And perhaps some of those tomatoes that you didn’t bother to cook, merely wash.  And a wine, maybe an A to Z 2009 Pinot Gris.

Playlist included Thursday, the mixtape by The Weeknd.

March 20, 2011

Quick Flavor Boost | Dried Chile Paste

I have been using chile paste in a lot of my cooking lately, because it’s just so flavorful.

I make my own and use it in braises, sauces and marinades.  (In chili. Duh.)  It takes just a bit of time, and if you portion it out in ice cube trays and freeze it, you’ve got a little bit to add whenever you want a little kick in your cooking.  And a little kick is kind of nice.

Chile Paste

4 dried pasilla chiles

2 dried chipotle chiles

4 dried Guajillo chiles

In a tall container, combine chiles and cover with boiling water.  Allow to stand for 30 minutes.  Drain.  Remove the stems and the seeds.  Do a thorough job removing seeds if you don’t want your paste too spicy, leave a few if you love heat.  Add the cleaned chiles to the bowl of a food processor or a blender.

Now make sure you wash your hands really well.  PK tip: Don’t touch your eyes, for God’s sake, you’ll go blind.  At least temporarily.

Add a bit of water (1/4 c to start) and blend until smooth.  If the chiles need a bit of help blending, add a bit more water (a tablespoon at a time).

Portion out the paste into ice cube trays or small containers.  Freeze.  If you used an ice cube container, pop out the cubes once they’re frozen and put into a Ziploc.

Playlist included Oh My Heart, by R.E.M.

 

February 15, 2011

Snowville Creamery | Making Crème Fraiche

A little kitchen magic. After 24 hours, thick creme fraiche pours from the heavy cream container.

Slow Food Columbus recently held a free (yes! it was free!) workshop at the North Market as part of their taste education efforts.  It was so wonderful to see a room full of folks eager to learn how to make their own butter.   Warren Taylor, a.k.a., the Dairy Evangelist, lead the class and was a fireball of energy and information.  I learned the differences between the milk produced by the beautiful grass fed ladies Snowville cares for and the product from more intensive methods.  I learned about the difference between pasteurization and ultra high temperature (UHT) pasteurization (Why is UHT milk slightly sweet? Because it starts to caramelize at that high temperature. Eek).  Warren even convinced me to switch from skim to whole.  (I’ll move up to 2% first, but I’m doing it.)

But not only did I learn the difference between sweet cream and cultured cream butters (and made them) but I also learned something tremendous: how to make crème fraiche.  Oh yes.

Here’s how:

1 cup of cultured buttermilk

1/2 gallon heavy cream

Mix the two.  In Snowville’s carton, there’s enough room for you to add in the buttermilk and shake it to mix.  Let it sit on the counter for 24 hours.  Voilà ! Crème fraiche.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Then to make cultured butter, pour some of this crème fraiche into a food processor (no higher than the liquid fill line) and flip on.  Process until the butter separates from the buttermilk (it will happen rather suddenly).  Using your hands squeeze out all the buttermilk from the butter (do this over a bowl and save that buttermilk for pancakes or coleslaw dressing), then rinse the butter under cold water until it runs clear (it keeps longer if you do this).

Fun fact: If you make butter from heavy cream, the liquid you press out is not buttermilk, it’s skim milk!  Who knew?

Keep an eye out for crème fraiche in tonight’s dinner.  It’s divine.

Thank you Warren Taylor.  We love Snowville.  We love your pasture grazed cows.  We love their fresh milk and the heavenly cream that rises to the top.

January 11, 2011

Winter Kitchen | White Bolognese with Fresh Pasta

You can’t find a fresh, ripe, beautiful red tomato here in Ohio in January.  You just can’t.  So how could you possibly make a bolognese in the depths of winter?  Make a white bolognese.  Skip the tomatoes altogether and make a very Italian specialty.  In doing so, you will make my single most favorite thing to cook.

It is my most favorite of all favorites.  Really, truly.  The kind that my small family of three will piggishly devour an entire pound of pasta, with Cherub (remember, she’s three) helping herself to thirds.  It is, in a word, delicious.  Amazingly delicious.  Well, that’s two.  But I mean it: if you have yet to make a recipe from this blog, you should make this one.

White Bolognese, adapted from The Silver Spoon

1 T olive oil

2 strips of bacon

1/2 finely chopped yellow onion

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January 2, 2011

The Organized Kitchen | Why (and How) I Make Stock

I have an affinity for things that many other cooks find tedious.  I happen to love the prep work of cooking.  Give me a huge pile of carrots and onions to chop, a whole head of garlic to mince.  I will happily fill prep bowls to overflowing,  arranging all ingredients in order of use and within easy reach.  It makes the cooking itself – the searing and stirring and deglazing – all the more pleasurable.   Some may use the term OCD, they’d be partially right, but missing the point, too.

One of the things I really enjoy is making stocks.  Many might consider it a drudgery.   But I get so much pleasure from taking the dregs of the kitchen: vegetable trimmings, a pile of roasted bones, the shells from shrimp, and transforming them into something that

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