Archive for September, 2012

Prune Plum Clafoutis

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

 

Clafoutis – rhymes with “patootie” – may be the perfect dessert:  Impressive to look at, easy to make, light on the tummy, relatively short on fat and calories, made with local fruit but there’s a perfectly acceptable version of it made with canned peaches.  The French don’t even pit their cherries in the most traditional version of clafoutis, believing the pits add irreplaceable flavor.  This is the laziest route I know to a great French dessert that charms – even wows – in every way.

From the Limousin region of 19th century France, clafoutis is a simple batter made by whirring eggs, milk, flour and sugar in a blender.  This was probably almost as easy to make even in the 19th century.  Lighter than a custard, the batter is poured over the fruit in a pie pan, baked, sprinkled with confectionary sugar and served warm.  According to our friends at Wikipedia, the traditional clafoutis (from the verb “clafir,” meaning “to fill”) was made with, as mentioned, cherries and their pits, but many other fruits nestle happily into a clafoutis – plums, prunes, cranberries and blackberries.  The canned peach version is a delicious, just-sweet-enough, warm dessert to make mid-winter when fresh fruit is dismal.   To be accurate, I learned that when clafoutis strays away from cherries apparently it’s no longer officially clafoutis, but flaugnarde.

 

This seems to be a banner year for fruit in New England, and our local prune plums, which stay firm and sweet, without releasing a lot of juices when baked, make a version of clafoutis that is perfect, a certain challenge to those French cherries and their pits.

 

Prune Plum Clafoutis

Ingredients

6 tablespoons white sugar, divided

14 Italian prune plums, halved and pitted

3 eggs

1 1/3 cups milk

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 pinch salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Butter a 10 inch pie plate, and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over the bottom.

Arrange the plum halves, cut side down, so that they cover the entire bottom of the pie plate. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top of the plums.

In a blender, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, eggs, milk, flour, lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Process until smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour over the fruit in the pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Ratatouille from Mastering the Art of French Cooking and A Day of Julia

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

 

“You have a ratatouille garden!” Julia Child exclaimed to her Cape Cod hostess, Jane Thompson,“we’ll have ratatouille for dinner.”

Jane Thompson, one half with her husband, Ben, of the famous design team that created Design Research in Cambridge, was one of many friends and family who recalled Julia Child Stories to an adoring crowd in the Radcliffe Gymnasium last Friday, all celebrating what would be Julia Child’s 100th birthday.  (Called “Siting Julia,” the day fully subscribed online almost instantly; overflow crowds watched on video from the Loeb Theater.)

Ms. Thompson recalled the late summer day at her Cape Cod home, when she and Julia spent the afternoon peeling and slicing eggplant, zucchini, peppers and onions from that garden, stacking them, sauteeing them separately, laying them in sheets, layering them in a casserole, sprinkling each level with oil and herbs, and then letting the whole cook.  Thompson claimed the ratatouille then cooked for four hours, but I think that’s what it felt like in her memory; the recipes says a final 25 minutes.

 

 

Thompson paused, seeming to relive the fatigue, and said as far as she remembers they didn’t eat anything else for dinner.

I was smart enough to sign up early for this day of Julia, and what a treat it was:  three groups of speakers, the first reminiscing about her years in France, the second group recalling the impact she made on Cambridge society when she moved there, and the third recounting her years in television.

Beaming through his talk, his affection for Julia irrepressible, Alex Prudhomme, Paul Child’s nephew, remembered how difficult it was getting Julia to speak about herself when he first began interviewing her for the biography, “My Life in France.”

“I would say to her, ‘tell me about your apartment in Paris, Julia,’ and she would answer,   ‘well, it was an apartment – tell me about your place in Brooklyn.”

Child was 91 when Prudhomme began the project; they worked for eight months together, with him visiting her in Santa Barbara where she was living.  Julia, still mischievous, would suggest they get hamburgers for lunch, and “go find a view.”  They would drive, and she would direct him down a private driveway to a spot overlooking the sea.  Prudhomme would point out the “private” sign, to which Julia would say, “we’ll just tell them we’re looking for Mr. Smith.”  They were never caught.

About having children, Prudhomme asked Child once, “we tried; it didn’t work,” but Julia pointed out later, “I wouldn’t have had a career if I had had kids,” implying motherhood would have happily consumed her.

Mark De Voto, the son of Avis De Voto who was Julia Child’s great friend and editor, gave me the quote of the day:  De Voto’s father, writer and historian Bernard De Voto, had written, among his professional works, a handbook of cocktails.  When he learned that Julia kept a pitcher of martinis in her refrigerator, De Voto scoffed, saying, “you can no sooner keep a martini in the refrigerator as you can store a kiss there.”

Before Julia arrived in Cambridge from Paris, Kitty Galbraith, wife of the famed economist Kenneth Galbraith, and Marion Schlesinger, wife of Arthur, ruled Brattle Street society.

“These were Yankee ladies and food was not their thing,” Dorothy Zinberg, lecturer in public policy and faculty associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School and a longtime neighbor of the Childs in Cambridge, told the crowd.  “Julia changed all that.”

In the Cambridge of Julia Child, it was not unusual to spend a week making a dinner, and it might be whispered in Burdick’s that Julia had the nerve to leave a party before Arthur Schlesinger!  Julia had become the ranking guest.

Zinberg described a classic dinner from the new Cambridge:  invited by three Harvard graduate students who had decided they loved cooking, and were going to prepare a complete meal from “Mastering The Art of French Cooking,” Zinberg, her husband and guests showed up to the men’s humble Harvard Square apartment gorgeously prepared for the best wines and food.  The meal began with foie-gras en gelee, and went from there, dishes that required not one but two weeks of preparation.  At one point Zinberg slipped into the kitchen on her way to the bathroom, and discovered mountains and mountains of dirty dishes, far more dishes than were required for the meal that evening.  The men confessed that while they loved to cook they hated washing up, and simply threw everything out when the piles became too high, and then returned to the Salvation Army for more 5 cent plates when they needed them.  Zinberg then posted a photo of these hedonistic young men:  Jeffrey Steingarten, Dr. Andrew Weil, and their buddy, Woodward Adams Wickam, who, among many other accomplishments, became vice president of the McArthur Foundation.

This is what Julia did to Cambridge.  When asked what the attire should be for her New Year’s Eve Party, Julia said, “Oh, I suppose ‘high casual” would be fine.”  Indeed, this is what Julia did for Cambridge.

I had to leave before the television discussion began; the last bit of Julia wisdom I procured was this:  “When having your photo taken, don’t say cheese; say souffle!

Being September, and all those ratatouille gardens burgeoning with ingredients, I spent the next day making the infamous ratatouille.  We had it for dinner Jane Thomson style, with nothing but a hunk of warm bread and a wedge of Gruyere.

 

 

Ratatouille from Mastering The Art of French Cooking

serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 lb. eggplant

1/lb. zucchini

1 teaspoon salt

6-7 tablespoons olive oil, more if necessary

1/2 lb. (about 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced yellow onions

1 pound firm red tomatoes, or 1 1/2 cups pulp

2 (about 1 cup) sliced green bell peppers

2 cloves mashed garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8 inch thick, about 3 inches long, and 1 inch wide.  Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends, and cut the zucchini into slices about the same size as the eggplant slices.  Place the vegetables in a bowl and toss with the salt.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Drain.  Dry each slice in a towel.

One layer at a time, saute the eggplant, and then the zucchini in hot olive oil for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly.  Remove to a side dish.

In the same skillet, cook the onions and peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender but not browned.  Stir in the garlic and season to tastes.

Slice the tomato pulp into 3/8 inch strips.  Lay them over the onions and peppers.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes have begun to render their juice.  Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise heat and boil off several minutes, until juice has almost entirely evaporated.

Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of the casserole and sprinkle over it 1 tablespoon of parsley.  Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley.  Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini, and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.

Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.  Uncover, tip casserole and baste with the rendered juices.  Correct seasoning, if necessary.  Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes more, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil.  Be careful of your heat; do not let the vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole.

Set aside uncovered.  Reheat slowly at serving time or serve cold.

 

 

 

 

Husk Cherries, Ground Cherries, Cape Gooseberries

Friday, September 21st, 2012

 

These are husk cherries, yellow fruits fatter than a blueberry, sweeter than a gooseberry, and subtler than a cherry.  Taught-skinned rounds, they have great “pop;” they burst in the mouth like a cherry tomato but taste like a sweet, mellow grape.  They have no pit.

Husk Cherries are related to tomatoes and tomatillas; they grow on vines like the former and have the same cute papery shells as the latter.  In some places they’re called Ground Cherries or Cape Gooseberries, not for a penninsula but because their homegrown wrappers look like capes.  When they grow they tend to tumble all over the ground, but those wrappers keep them from rotting or mushing too quickly.

Everything about them is adorable; their flavor is old-fashioned fruity and accessible.  They are almost no work – that “cape” comes off with satisfying ease.

If you see a box of them – at your farmers market or farm stand – buy them.  I’ve seen recipes for husk cherry and plum tart.  I took a cup and a half of them, tossed them in a pan with two tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon of water, and made a quick topping which I put on Swedish Waffles, a New England variation on lingonberries.

 

 

 

Mandy, who skyped in on our Google Hangout (“Open Kitchen,” a live cooking show every Thursday from 12-6) says that in Montreal where she lives they put “Cerises de Terre,” on their breakfast cereal.

My stylish friend Jen Beauchamp, of the blog Jemil Beauchamp, http://www.jemilbeauchamp.com, dressed a jar of husk cherries in a ball gown and presented them as a gift.

 

lobster, corn, and bacon chowder

Monday, September 17th, 2012

 

 

“So, what are you going to do with those cooked lobsters?” I asked the man beside me at the Market Basket fish counter.

“Lobster and corn chowder, a little bacon on top.  You get some local corn over in the produce section,” he pointed to the far end of Market Basket, “ a loaf of Virgilio’s bread, and you’re all set.”  He gave universal sign declaring a meal perfect:  smack of lips and sideways toss of the head.

It sounded great to me, lobster and corn being one of the hallowed September marriages, like figs and honey, or apples and cheddar cheese, and I prefer my lobster shucked, in a steaming milk and wine-laced broth, dancing with sweet kernels of fresh corn.  There is no need for hammers or strength, just a spoon.  There are no explosive bursts of lobster-yuck from a suddenly released piece of meat.  The only muscle required is that which bends the elbow, bringing chowder from bowl to lips.  Everything is hot.

And corn, milk and potatoes are such great friends to the sweetness of the lobster, why leave them out?  And why not deluxe it all with a crumble of bacon?

 

 

I’m offering my adaptation of Ina Garten’s recipe here, only because she makes her own stock.  I usually think boxed broths are fine substitutions, but I don’t always have such a glorious show of carnality on my counter: flame-red lobster shells and yellow corn cobs.  It felt sinful not to turn them into stock, which Garten does almost as easily as she makes the rest of the soup.  I also used only whole milk in my chowder, as I have become accustomed to lighter soups, but feel free to substitute 2 cups of  heavy cream for my milk, the way Garten does in the original recipe.  She adds sherry and paprika, the latter gives the chowder a low-volume spice I liked.  You can leave out the paprika and add a teaspoon of marjoram if you prefer a more New England direction to your chowder, just don’t let those precious lobster shells and corn cobs go to waste.

 

 

 

Lobster, Corn, and Bacon Chowder

serves 6-8

Ingredients

3 (1 1/2-pound) cooked lobsters, cracked and split

3 ears corn

For the stock:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup chopped yellow onion

1/4 cup cream sherry

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

6 cups whole milk

1 cup dry white wine

 

For the soup:

1 tablespoon good olive oil

1/4 pound bacon, large-diced

2 cups large-diced unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes (2 medium)

1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)

2 cups diced celery (3 to 4 stalks)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives

1/4 cup cream sherry

 

Instructions

Remove the meat from the shells of the lobsters. Cut the meat into large cubes and place them in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reserve the shells and all the juices that collect. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs and set aside, reserving the cobs separately.

For the stock, melt the butter in a stockpot or Dutch oven large enough to hold all the lobster shells and corncobs. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat for 7 minutes, until translucent but not browned, stirring occasionally. Add the sherry and paprika and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk, wine, lobster shells and their juices, and corn cobs and bring to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer the stock over the lowest heat for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil and cook the bacon for 4 to 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until browned and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the potatoes, onions, celery, corn kernels, salt, and pepper to the same pot and saute for 5 minutes. When the stock is ready, remove the largest pieces of lobster shell and the corn cobs with tongs and discard. Place a strainer over the soup pot and carefully pour the stock into the pot with the potatoes and corn. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

At this point you can add the cooked lobster, the chives and the sherry and season to taste. Heat gently and serve hot with a garnish of crisp bacon.

For a more elegant presentation, I warmed the lobster separately, put it into the soup bowl, and ladled the chowder all around, then topping all with the chives and bacon.

The Hospital Food Revolution

Monday, September 10th, 2012

 

Walk into the Addison Gilbert or Beverly Hospital kitchens in the morning and homemade stock, the base for all the soups served to patients and visitors, is simmering on the stove.  Along with stocks, the kitchens make their own salad dressings, light mayonnaise, and breads.  The pizza alone – thin homemade dough with a draping of cheese and browned red onions – served in the Beverly Hospital cafeteria, is a sign that something seriously good is happening to hospital food.

“There’s a revolution going on in healthcare food service around the country,” Alan Hawley, MBA, CDM, District Manager for Undine Corporation, the food service provider contracted by Northeast Health Systems, says.  “Northeast Health System is at the forefront of this revolution in recognizing that the philosophy of ‘first do no harm’ extends to the food served to patients, families and caregivers.”

Composting, recycling, shopping locally, the anthem of well-meaning, globally-thinking food people, is now being sung by Addison Gilbert and Beverly Hospital chefs.

Beyond pizza, here are some of extremely visible changes you’ll see if you visit:

 

 

Herb gardens, growing French-country-restaurant-style outside at both hospitals, provide sage, parsley, thyme, two kinds of basil, oregano, and tarragon for their kitchens.  Dave Gauvin, the executive chef at Addison Gilbert, says he’s met many more employees now that he’s out in the garden cutting herbs when the morning shift arrives.

 

 

 

Bottled water has almost been eliminated in both hospitals.  Instead, free flavored-water stations, beautiful coolers filled with infused tap water, are posted through the buildings and in the Emergency Rooms. Fresh oranges floated in the coolers the day I visited Beverly hospital, but other days cucumbers with mint, and watermelon infuse that day’s version of “Hydrate For Your Health.”  A stack of paper cups stands beside it, a cold, fresh drink ready for anyone.  (Unidine is working towards a styrofoam-free kitchen and cafeteria.)

Vending machines in the hospitals offer water, seltzer, and naturally flavored tea, but no sugary drinks, no soda, no soft drinks.

Conor Miller of Black Earth Haulers might be spotted hauling away the hospitals’ kitchen compost.  Along with a single-stream recycling program, Unidine has hired this local composting firm to manage their compostable waste, 1500 pounds of it a week between Addison Gilbert and Beverly Hospital.  Composting these large amounts of commercial scraps, not dumping it into an oxygen-starved landfill, serious reduces methane production, a major source of green house gas.

One of the more important changes Unidine has made is to reduce their meat consumption by twenty percent, a healthy change for the patients and visitors.  Even more importantly for the community, all fish and shellfish served at Addison Gilbert and Beverly Hospitals comes from the local seafood company, Intershell; that’s $8,000 a month worth of seafood orders going right to Gloucester.

Here’s where the revolution began:  Health Care Without Harm according to their website, is “an international coalition of hospitals and health care systems, medical professionals, community groups, health-affected constituencies, labor unions, environmental and environmental health organizations and religious groups.”

In 2007 Unidine Corporation signed the “Healthy Food in Health Care Pledge,” a promise put forth by Health Care Without Harm to make the production of their hospital and corporate food healthy in a universal way:  for patients, visitors, and the earth.  By signing this pledge, Healthcare Without Harm claims, food service providers are sending an important signal to the marketplace, that this 7 billion-dollar-a-year industry “is paying attention to local, nutritious, sustainable food, modeling healthy food practices for patients, staff, and visitors.”

“Due to its massive buying power, and its mission-driven interest in preventing disease, the health care sector can help shift the entire economy toward sustainable, safer products and practices.”

Here is a recipe for a seafood casserole served to Addison Gilbert patients.  Filled with Intershell seafood, it’s a luxurious dish almost free of butter and cream.  The deepest flavors come from the redolent lobster stock the Addison Gilbert kitchen prepares daily with Intershell lobster bodies, those sweet, flavor-packed vessels – the remains of the Intershell shucked lobster production –  and vegetables.  This recipe is a symbolic example of the virtues of keeping a small economic loop local:  it’s a great use for a local byproduct; it represents a good relationship with a local industry, and makes a patient’s dinner both healthier and more delicious.

Seafood Casserole (Seafood Casserole)

1 1/2 cups water

1 lobster body

1 small carrot

1 stalk celery

1/2 small onion

1 bay leaf, whole

2/3 tsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp minced shallot

3 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons white wine

4 ounces scallops

4 ounces shrimp

4 ounces haddock

3 tablespoons bread crumbs

1 1/3 tablespoon chopped parsley

1/8 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

lemon wedges

1.  For Lobster Stock: In a large sauce pan, combine lobster shells, water, carrot, celery, onion & bay leaf. Bring to a boil slowly. Simmer for 30-45 minutes. Strain and cool the liquid. Reserve to make sauce

2. For Sauce: heat butter over medium heat add garlic and shallots, cook until tender do not brown. Stir in flour to prepare roux. Cook the roux until it has a pale yellow (blonde) color, about 5 min. Whisk in cold lobster stock & white wine, bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15-20 min.

3.  To Prepare:  Place 1 ounce of Shrimp, 1 ounce of Scallops, and 1 ounce of cubed haddock in the bottom of an individual casserole dish.  Pour 5 tablespoons of lobster sauce over the seafood.  Top with breadcrumbs seasoned with parsley. Sprinkle with fresh thyme

4.  Bake at 350F to and internal 145F, and bread crumbs are toasted.
Garnish plate with lemon wedge

Old school vs. new school cookbooks.

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

 

True, reliable vs. sexy, fanciful have been competing in my kitchen recently.  The score to date is:  “the guy who always knows what he’s doing” 2, “the tease” 1.

Jacques Pepin 2; Yotam Ottolenghi, the British cookbook author and owner of “Ottolenghi,” the “Haute Couture To Go” food shops, 1.

From Jaques Pepin’s Fast Food My Way I made corn and hominy soup: spicy, sharp as barbed wire – in a good way – with southwest flavors, sweet with barely poached fresh corn, and surprising with the round, creamy textures of hominy, this was a winner.  Score one for Jacques.

I also made Pepin’s tomato tartar, pictured above, nothing but uber-seasonal chopped fresh tomatoes stirred together with diced bread, good olive oil, salt and pepper.  Pressed into a tin (an old tuna can with both ends cut out works well; I used an oval cookie cutter.), and the tin lifted off, the whole stands alone looking impressively chic.  The “tartar” round stands in a pool of nothing but pure, strained tomato juice from the chopped tomato, mixed again with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  This dish looks like you worked very hard, but is little more than a great homage to the local star of September, the sweet, sun-urged flavors of real tomatoes.  Pepin, 2

A browse through both books feels a little bit like, here’s the Sears catalog and here’s Vogue.  Pepin’s photos are pretty, but tidy.  Ottolenghi’s photographs send you running for post-it notes; soon the book is fluttering with yellow tabs marking twenty different recipes for dream dinner parties.  You’re checking the calendar for dates and imagining guest lists just so you can make the tomato, semolina and cilantro soup, the crusted pumpkin wedges with sour cream.

 

 

I couldn’t stop myself, and made the goat cheese souffles with vanilla poached peaches.  They were the stuff of food dreams:  warm fluffy goat cheese topped with cool, vanilla-y peaches.  My only problem was that I couldn’t figure out quite where and how Ottolenghi intended to place the peaches.  He simply said “serve each souffle with a few slices of peach,” but sitting on top was a little precarious, not easy to do without peaches tumbling off.   They were a little awkward, with no help from Mr. Ottolenghi.

 

 

I also made from Plenty on often photographed “Surpise Tatin,” a caramelized potato, cherry tomato, onion and goat cheese tart.  The photo in the book is gorgeous, very easy to instantly love.  My version looked remarkably similar – it’s always satisfying when yours looks like the one in the photo, but when I tasted it, I decided the caramelized potato part was just weird.  The cherry tomatoes lost their freshness in the caramel and baking party; the goat cheese seemed to be the only flavor left standing beside a whiff of burned sugar.

My grandmother called certain people “French Pastry People” – they look great on the outside, but once you get to know them they’re kind of blech.  I could update her expression and call them  “Caramelized Potato Tatin” people.

Score:  Pepin 2, Ottolenghi 1.

 

Jacques Pepin’s Tomato Tartare with tomato water sauce

serves 4

Ingredients

 

Tomato Tartar

1 large tomato – about 12 ounces

2 tablespoons finely chopped sweet onion, such as Vidalia

1/2 cup diced (1/2 inch) day-old bread

3 tablespoons good olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

 

Tomato Water Sauce

tomato juice or V-8 if needed

5 tablespoons good olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon or chives

2 chive flowers for garnish (optional.  I used snipped basil leaves.)

Instructions

  1. Cut the tomato in half crosswise, and squeeze the halves into a strainer set over a bowl to release the seeds and juice. Press with a spoon to extract as much juice from the seeds as possible; set aside. Cut the tomato flesh into 3/4-inch pieces. (You will have about 1-1/2 cups.) Put the tomato pieces in a bowl and add the seeds in the sieve. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir to mix.
  2. Measure the tomato liquid; if necessary, add enough of the tomato juice, Bloody Mary mix or V-8 juice to bring the liquid to 5 tablespoons. Combine the tomato liquid and the remaining ingredients in a bowl, whisking to emulsify the sauce.
  3. At serving time, divide the sauce among 4 plates. Place a 1/2 cup ring mold (or a tuna fish can with both ends removed) in the center of one plate and spoon one quarter of the tomato tartare into the mold. Carefully remove the mold. Repeat this procedure on each of the 3 remaining plates. Sprinkle with the chopped tarragon or chives, decorate with the chive flowers, if desired, and serve.

Goat Cheese Souffles with Vanilla Poached Peaches from Plenty

serves 6-10

Ingredients

2/3 cup each water and white wine
3/4 cup sugar
½ tsp black peppercorns
½ vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped
3 medium peaches, peeled
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 bay leaf
½ onion, studded with a few cloves
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for brushing
1/3 cup all purpose flour
6 ounces goat’s cheese, broken up
5 eggs, separated, plus one extra white
½ tsp salt

Put the water, wine, sugar, peppercorns and vanilla in a pan and bring to a simmer. Add the peaches, cover and simmer for 15 minutes – they should be soft, but not so much so that they start to disintegrate. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/ gas mark 5. Pour enough cold water into a large roasting tray to come 2cm up the sides, and put in the oven. Brush butter over the insides of six 8cm-diameter ramekins. Sprinkle some hazelnuts into each, turn to coat, tip out any excess and chill.

Put the milk, bay leaf and onion in a pan, bring to a boil and immediately set aside. In another pan, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the flour, cook for two minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, then remove the bay leaf and onion, and pour the milk into the butter paste, still stirring. Cook and stir for three minutes, until it thickens and leaves the sides of the pan. Off the heat, stir in the cheese – it should melt in quickly – followed by the egg yolks and salt. Transfer to a bowl.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, then fold into the cheese bowl. Divide among the ramekins, filling them almost to the brim. Put in the water-filled tray and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown and well risen.

You can serve the soufflés directly from the oven, still inside their ramekins. Alternatively, turn off the oven and leave the soufflés inside for 10 minutes. Remove the tray, leave the soufflés to cool down a little, then run a palette knife along the sides of each ramekin and carefully take out the soufflés. Place on a paper-lined oven tray. When ready to serve, return to the oven, preheated to 160C/325F/gas mark 3, and reheat for eight minutes.

Serve with a few pieces of peach and a tablespoon of their juices.

 

Janis Tester’s Ethiopian Food: Berbere and Doro Wat

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

 

 

Janis Tester is an earth mother with an Ipad.   Slinging tweets while Chinese plum sauce simmers on her stove, declaring on facebook “I wanna live on a farm” as the homemade kimchee goes into jars, Janis Tester is beloved in certain food circles because the pleasure she gets thinking about what she’s going to do with a goat shank or a regal globe of a homegrown cabbage cannot be contained on a computer screen.  Janis’s blog, Bite Me New England, a name only a woman transplanted to Marlboro, Massachusetts after living a full life-time in California is allowed to use,  cannot be resisted by bloggers from Los Angeles to Gascony.  As California as a surfboard, as re-tweetable as Deepak Chopra, as authentic as Alice Waters, as process-smitten as Grant Achatz, as warm as a Jewish grandmother, Janis Tester is a food blogger’s food blogger.  

Follow her on Facebook and twitter and you, too, will soon be sipping a Manhattan, and downloading her recipe for Malaysian Spatchcocked Spicy Grilled Chicken,  “This would not be my blog if I didn’t give you ANOTHER chicken recipe,” Tester declares.

One post begins with Janis thinking about doing something with spherification, a favorite process of the Molecular Gastronomists in which unusual ingredients become caviar shapes by messing with negative and positive charges in an un-ionized solution.  Janis had intended to make lime, cilantro and tequila spheres for topping salmon, and maraschino cherry spheres to go in those manhattans.  Something didn’t work out; she made chicken instead, this one coated all over, even beneath the skin, with cilantro, garlic and chiles, filled with salsa, covered in Mexican beer, and baked.  Just another argument for real food when choosing between that and ions.   Vietnamese pork neck stew, Banana Blossom Salad, Morrocan Meatball and Egg Tangine – these are just some of the recipes you’ll find coming out of her kitchen and into the blog.

All this sounds nice, right, yet another foodie blogger willing to gut a fish and cure a duck?  The story gets better.

“You see, when my neighbors told me they were adopting two little kids from Ethiopia, the first thing I thought was, ‘what can I make them?’

Tester started with dabo, a honey bread, and went on to full Ethiopian dinners.  Staining pages from Jeff Smith’s “The Frugal Gourmet on our Immigrant Ancestors,” Tester made berbere, almost the whole spice drawer – from cumin to fenugreek –  in a toasted paste, a fundamental flavor in Ethiopian cuisine.

 

She made tibs, lamb stew with cardamon, cumin and more berbere.

She made doro wat, the tradtitional chicken stew with – yes, berbere  – and hard boiled eggs.

 

She made shiro, a spicy spread made with chickpea flour and berbere, which the kids spread thickly on injira and gobbled.  Yes, Tester even made injira, the foamy disks of dough made from Teff flour, a native Ethiopian grass.  Tester walked me through the recipe, multiple stages of adding and waiting and resting and watching it separate into layers, all with the hopes of achieving the wondrous foamy textured bread that scoops and wraps Ethiopian cuisine.

“Water is different in Ethiopia,” Tester said.  She thinks that accounts for injira’s variability even over Ethiopia; for Tester that fabled texture was just short of impossible to achieve, but her neighbor declared it just what she’d eaten in a home in Ethiopia.

One evening after the children had been here for a while, and their English was solid, Janice had prepared much of the above – doro Wat, injira, shiro – for a special dinner.  Everything was set; the house was redolent with all those spices; Berbere hung in the air.

The children came running in the front door, and the little boy called out, “mmmm, it smells good!”

“What’s it smell like,” Tester asked.  (They call her Auntie Janice.)

“Home.”

 

Janice and I discussed which recipe to include here, and we agreed that a recipe for berbere was the most important.   Without berbere, doro wat is chicken stew with hard-boiled eggs; Tibs is lamb stew with cardamon.  Make a batch of berbere, and your pantry is ready for Ethiopia.  Many of the recipes are available on Bite Me New England.

But I made Doro Wat, too, and am including Janis’s recipe for that.  I also made the spice-infused clarified butter, but Janis says you can easily substitute ghee.

I’d never had Doro Wat, or any Ethiopian food before, and the vote is it’s very spicy, no surprises when Ethiopian recipes seem to use cayenne like Indians use curry.  But the background flavors were delicious, too.  This was a complex spicy chicken, the way Mexican mole is complex, NOT the way buffalo chicken wings are one dimensional spicy.  By the way, Tester’s young Ethiopian friends love buffalo chicken wings.

 

Berbere

Yield: 1 1/4 cups

recipe by Jeff Smith in “The Frugal Gourmet on our Immigrant Ancestors”

Ingredients

2 Tsp Cumin Seed

4 Whole Cloves

1/2 Tsp Cardamon Seeds

1/2 Tsp Black Peppercorns

1/4 Tsp Whole Allspice

1 Tsp Whole Fenugreek Seeds

1/2 Cup Dried Onion Flakes

3 Oz Red New Mexican Chiles — Stemmed And Seeded

3 Small Dried Long Hot Red Chiles — Seeded

1/2 Tsp Ground Ginger

1/2 Tsp Freshly Ground Nutmeg

1/4 Tsp Ground Turmeric

1 Tsp Garlic Powder

2 Tsp Salt

1/2 Cup Salad Or Peanut Oil

1/2 Cup Dry Red Wine

Cayenne to taste

Instructions

Mix together the cumin, cloves, cardamon, black peppercorns, allspice and fenugreek seeds. Place in a small frying pan over medium heat. Stir constantly until they release their fragrance, about 1-2 minutes. Do not burn or discolor the seeds. Cool completely.

Combine the toasted spices and all the other ingredients except the oil and wine in a spice grinder or electric coffee grinder in several batches (I use the coffee grinder) and grind to fine consistency. Place the spice blend in a bowl and add the oil and wine. Add cayenne to taste (Jeff starts with 1 tsp and adds more as necessary). Stir until thick and store in a covered plastic container in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

Doro Wat Chicken from Bite Me New England

Ingredients

3 Lbs Frying Chicken Cut Into 8 Pieces

Juice Of One Lime

5 Cups Thinly Sliced Red Onions

1/2 Cup Spiced Butter

1/2 Cup Berbere Sauce

1/2 Cup Dry Red Wine

2 Cloves Garlic — Crushed

2 Tsp Cayenne

1/2 Tsp Grated Fresh Ginger

1/2 Cup Water

Salt To Taste

4 Hard Boiled Eggs — Peeled

1/2 Tsp freshly ground

Instructions

Marinate the chicken pieces in the lime juice for hour. In a heavy saucepan saute the onions in 2 tbsp of the spiced butter. Cover the pot and cook the onions over low heat until they are very tender but not browned. Add the remaining butter to the pot along with the Berbere sauce, wine, garlic, cayenne and ginger. Add 1/2 cup of water and mix well. Bring to a simmer and add the chicken pieces. Cook, covered, for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is tender, adding more water as necessary to keep the sauce from drying out. When the chicken is tender, add salt to taste. Add the eggs and heat through. Top with the black pepper prior to serving.

In my photo I sprinkled cilantro on top, but Tester says there’s no cilantro in Ethiopia; thyme or rue would be accurate.