Friday, October 30, 2009

quiet pleasure

Hearing the roar
I listen for the whisper
..................................rustling leaves
..................................sizzling skillets
..................................wafting nutmeg
the breath of autumn

Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onions – yields 6

1/4-pound sliced bacon – cut into 1/2” pieces
1-large onion – thinly sliced
4-galic cloves – thinly sliced
6-cups Brussels sprouts – halved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a 10-inch sauté pan over a medium heat, and add the bacon. Cook the bacon until crisped. Remove from the heat, and with a slotted spoon remove the bacon. Hold the bacon to the side on some paper towels.

Return the sauté pan back to a medium heat, and cook the onions in the bacon fat until golden brown then add in the garlic. Cook the garlic for a few minutes then add in the Brussels sprouts and crisped bacon. Cook for five minutes, and season with salt and black. Serve immediately.

Friday, October 23, 2009

a lost bite

Securely tucked into our collective consciousness there is a story of good and evil, and the wakening to reality. All brought upon us by a simple bite of some dangling fruit weighted down by its maturation, shimmering with the beauty and temptation of the moment. Now, I personally am not one to embrace this yarn as fact but do appreciate its moral tale. There are a few reasons I cannot fully live this story, and one reason in particular throws me completely off course.

If in fact this story of woe is true then it would be impossible for the apple to have been the source of desire and the subsequent bite that forever banished us from a blissful earthy existence. For historic tracing plants the icon of the autumn season somewhere in China traveling out from there transforming pies forever. However, there is another fruit of similar size and shape of the apple that can claim the Fertile Crescent as its home – the quince.

Golden yellow when ripe with an aroma that could seduce the most jaded of noses. This fruit is not to be eaten raw. Bitten into prematurely and a tannic, sour note laces your tongue. To avoid this folly the quince is always cooked: baked, sautéed, boiled down revealing a sweet, rosy fruit. It even has the texture that is reminiscent of a cooked apple. So, perhaps I should not be so hard about this confusion as long as it does not cause another lapse in judgment.

In England one may have some quince cheese with some cheddar while enjoying a sip of port or visit Spain where membrillo (quince paste) is served with sliced manchego cheese. If the Tartin sisters had an orchard of quince that dropped tart would have a new topping. In the New World the Spaniards clearly discovered the possibility of guava to satisfy their need for a rich, fragrant slice of boiled down quince.

Is it the ease of access that the apple offers with its quick, crisp, snap right there in the market that allowed it usurp the quince’s rightful place in our history? I absolutely embrace this long ago discarded siren, and celebrate its temptation.

Quince Laced Cake – one 9-inch cake
1-1/2 pounds quince – peeled, cored and sliced
5-ounces guava paste – sliced
8 ounces unsalted butter
1-cup sugar
1/2-cup milk
1-teaspoon rose water
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven to 350-dgrees.

Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan.

Beat the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy.

Mix to together the eggs, milk and rose water.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Once the butter is beaten slowly beat in the eggs scraping down the side of the bowl a couple of times. Mix in the flour and beat to completely combine.

Lay the sliced quince on the bottom of the cake pan, and then disperse the guava paste over the quince. Pour over the cake batter. Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove the cake to a cooling racking. Cool the cake. Turn the cake out on to a plate.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Warming the chill

So, spring started strong with a blast of hot air readying a hopeful season of plenty. Then came almost a month of rain. Now, not even a month into autumn and an unexpected northeaster has pelted some areas with the earliest snowfall in ions. This is clearly the year of truncated expectations.

Trolling the market signs of the unwanted snap where evident on many of the leafy greens that wore patches of distress. I am still not sure if the Brussels sprouts will ride out the premature and unwelcomed cause for multiple layers unscathed.

All is not lost as the potatoes are blissfully dug in totally okay with the early blanket. And, that icon of autumn is fortunately faring well enough as pumpkins can be harvested and held – no need to fear a dearth of carved toothy faces sitting on neighborhood porches. Though for me, living vertically stacked, I bring home these hard-skinned squashed not as a decorative element but definitely meant for the kitchen. I will buy a few that will be peeled and cubed destined for a freezer bag and a deep winter meal –- perhaps a pumpkin chili with smoky bacon or even a pie. Today, with a wool sweater and shearing jacket helping me brace the morning a hot bowl of soup was all I could wrap my head around.

Pumpkin Soup – yields approx. 4 quarts
7-pound pumpkin
2-large onions – diced
6-carrots – peeled and diced
1 jalapeno pepper - diced
1/2-pound parsnip – peeled and diced
2-tablespoon olive oil
1-teaspoon fresh thyme leaves - chopped
2-teaspoons fresh sage leaves – chopped
2-teaspoons orange zest
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cut the pumpkin in half, and scoop out the seeds. Reserve the seeds to the side.

Pre-heat the oven to 375.

Peel the pumpkin, and cut the meat of the pumpkin into 1-inch pieces. Spread the cut pumpkin on a baking tray, and place in the oven. Cook the pumpkin for 15 minutes to lightly brown.

Transfer the pumpkin to an eight-quart soup pot, along with the onion, carrots, jalapeno and parsnip. Cook with four-quarts of water. Bring to the boil, and them reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot, and cook the soup for an hour.

After an hour puree the pumpkin mixture until smooth. Return to the pot, and season with salt and pepper.

While the soup is simmering free the pumpkin seeds from the fibrous meat it clings to. Wash the seeds clean. Spread the seeds onto a baking tray, and dry in the oven for five minutes.

Heat an eight-inch sauté pan over a medium heat, and add the olive oil and pumpkin seeds. Cook the pumpkin seeds until golden brown. Remove from the heat, and immediately toss in the thyme, sage, orange zest, salt and pepper.

Serve the soup garnished with the seasoned pumpkin seeds and a dollop of crème fraiche or a sprinkle of grated cheddar cheese.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Can't get it out of my head

I have found myself over the last month going for dim sum down in Chinatown with a bit more frequency than usual. Now, this is not new to my palate, and I have absolute requirements for the establishment I’ll take my midday weekend meal from. There must be a tofu skin stuffed with rice and vegetables, garlic chive stuffed dumplings and wilted Chinese broccoli with garlic. It is the latter that is haunting me.

I have been finding myself craving the taste of the browned, sliced garlic that laces those sautéed green. By mid-week I could not get the taste of this caramelized giant out of my mouth. Now, I grew up with garlic as an integral component of my mother’s cooking – and thankfully so. But never did she brown these cloves, which lessens its physical long-lasting effects, but in my case, leaves a potent desire.

It would be easy for me just replicate those drenched greens, however, it was not so much Chinese broccoli that sat at the front of my tongue. Going through the market it was Japanese turnips, a sweeter version of the more ubiquitous European variety that demanded I take them home and dunk in thin shavings of amber-hued garlic. While the autumnal weather keeps the hard frost at bay these colorless tubers will continue to fill my need to transport this aromatic candy to my ever-ready mouth.

Sautéed Japanese Turnips – serves 6
2 bunches Japanese turnips
4 garlic cloves – peeled, and sliced paper thin
2-tablespoons olive oil
1/4-cup fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Remove the green tops from the turnip bottoms, and save for another day.

Wash the turnips, and then cut in quarters.

Heat a 10-inch sauté pan over a medium heat and add the garlic and oil. Cook the garlic until golden brown.

Mix in the quartered turnips, and cook for fives minutes. Season the turnips with lemon juice, salt and pepper just prior to serving.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

by the light.....

There is so much to be inspired by: a mind full of desire, the anticipation of a lover’s return, and a market bursting with a transitional bounty. As the seasons kiss each other hello and good-bye there remains remnants that are just holding on while their replacement starts filling the developing void.

I could have grabbed a pumpkin or snapped the first Brussels sprouts from their thick broccoli-like stalk. But no, I had to snag the last of the peppers, and cherry tomatoes knowing that an evening frost is but days away which will definitely seal the fate of my favorite summer blooms rendering my meals from the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows of August’s peak to the burnt amber and verdant greens of winter’s precursor.

While I am an admitted fan of the hot, sweltering dog days I do welcome the cool for it allows me to turn on my oven, once again, without fear that walls of my home will start to sweat. If only this was the depth of winter’s assault. So, with the motivation of an intimate dinner I set out to employ all the pleasures I had found. Using my alchemistic and culinary powers that I possess I wooed out delight for the joy of another.

Surf and Turf Pie – yields 4 servings
2-tablespoons canola oil
1-medium onion – peeled and sliced
1 red bell pepper – seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 poblano peppers – seeded, and cut into 1/-inch pieces
2-medium carrots – peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1-pound smoked sausage – sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
1-pint cherry tomatoes - halved
1/4-cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
1-tablespoon chopped thyme leaves
1/4-cup chopped chives
1-teaspoon lemon zest
Pinch of saffron
2 1-1/4 pound lobsters
10-sheets phyllo
1/4-pound butter – melted

Heat a 10-inch sauté pan over a medium heat, and add the oil and onions. Cook the onions until lightly brown, and mix in the peppers, carrots and sausage. Continue to sauté the mixture for another five minutes. Remove from the heat, and mix the tomatoes, parsley, thyme, chives, lemon zest and saffron.

Place a skewer through the length of the lobster tail. This will prevent it from curling when cooked.

In a 4-quart pan bring 4-cups of water to the boil, and add the lobsters. Cook the lobsters for 10 minutes.

Remove the lobsters from the water, and crack the shell of the claws and tail. Retrieve the meat from the lobster, and slice into large pieces. Mix into the sausage mixture.

Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees.

Place the sausage mixture into a 10-inch quiche pan.

Lay a sheet of phyllo down on a clean work surface, and paint with the melted butter. Continue with another 4 sheets. Place the phyllo over the sausage mixture. Then repeat with the remaining five sheets of phyllo. Crimp and tuck the phyllo edge into the quiche pan. Paint the top of the phyllo with the melted butter.

Place in the oven, and bake for 45 minutes until golden.

Serve immediately.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I wait for a moon
......................... The full moon….that harvest moon

Love is served, join me

Split Lemon Roasted Chicken - serves 4
31/2 pound whole chicken
1/4 cup Italian parsley - leaves only
1/4-cup sage - leaves only
1/8 cup rosemary - leaves only
4 garlic cloves - finely diced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4-cup fresh orange juice
2-tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper to taste

Split the chickens down the back and remove the backbone. Flatten the chicken.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Mix all herbs, lemon and orange juice and olive oil together and let sit for 1 hour to overnight to infuse the flavors. Rub the chicken with the herb mixture and salt and pepper.

Lay the chicken down on a lined baking tray, and place a piece of parchment on top of the chicken. Place another baking tray on top of that. Put a heavy lid or brick on the baking tray and place in the oven. Cook for 40 to 60 minutes in the oven.