Thursday, October 30, 2014

Just a few more weeks, please

I put in the ground more than 200 hundred days ago, and now we sit on the dusk of the first frost. I need more time.

This was my third year trying to get a chayote plant to establish itself. The first squash tried composted into the earth where it was nestled, and was a nutrient base for weeds. The next year, the chayote just never sprouted, it simply shriveled up and molded. Finally, this year I got the fruit to sprout, and grow an exploratory stem 150 days before the average frost for this area, which it needs in order to set its fruit and ripen. I was so hopeful.
to about 7-inches in a dark, dry cupboard and got it into the earth with more then

My dreams were very quickly dashed when either a rabbit or deer decided to nibble away the leaves on
the young vine one night. I was crushed but I could not bring myself to tear the plant up. And, I am glad I decided to let the plant remain because within a few weeks a whole new set of leaves had taken hold and new vines sprung from the ground grabbing onto the fence posted. Unfortunately, this restart was a harvesting setback. Okay, I can now say I have grown a chayote squash check that for the bucket list. That midnight nosh might have stolen the time for the chayote needed to set its fruit, but it has not taken my desire to one day pluck this cousin of the pumpkin out of the garden. Perhaps, fourth time really is the charm.

Chayote with Tomato - serve 4

1 medium tomato - charred
1-pound chayote squash
1 garlic clove - roughly chopped
2-tablespoons canola oil
1 small white onion - finely diced
2 Chilies de Arbol
¾-cup Water
Salt to taste
¼-cup cilantro - leaves only, roughly chopped

Place the tomato on a very hot cast iron skillet, and allow it char lightly.

Cut the chayote and into julienne, about ¼ inch thick. 

In the blender place the tomato (unpeeled), and garlic processing until smooth.  Hold to the side.

Heat a sauté pan over a medium high heat and add the oil, onion and chilies cooking for a about five minutes until the onions are translucent.  Add in the tomato puree, and cook to evaporate out the excess water.  Add in the chayote squash, water, salt, and cook covered for about 10 minutes over a medium heat.  Mix in the cilantro leaves and serve.

Monday, October 13, 2014

For the Love of Desire

I am not a huge fan of the changing of the season from summer to autumn and beyond. I never complain about the heat, and I am willing to suffer the thickness of a hot, humid day over a deep-set chill. I never used air conditioning until I moved in with my husband who starts whining about the weather as soon as it hits 75-degrees. I cannot stop the tilt of the earth, and I start layering on clothes once it hits 75-degrees. Why do opposites attract? The upside to the change of seasons is more time indoors which for me means more time in the kitchen – playing. And, this weekend was a perfect case for not wanting to venture too far – wet, cold and downright gloomy. I also knew I was going to have to bake something for it was our anniversary and I married a cold weather loving, sweet-tooth craving man. Did he want a carrot cake, cheesecake, chocolate ganache layer cake? The answer I got was, whatever you feel. With no direction I looked at my pantry and refrigerator for a suggestion. Not enough eggs for a layer cake. I have not replaced the last of the sweetened condensed milk so no “gook” for a carrot cake. And, cream cheese is not an item I tend to keep on hand. So, the go-to satisfiers where not going to be made.

It was our anniversary weekend, let the creation of a new idea be his gift. A stollen popped into my head, most likely prompted by the packet of yeast in the side door of the refrigerator. An odd thought for me given I am not a fan of these styles cakes. Anytime I get a Christmas stollen or panatone I confess to re-gifting it, or using it for a bread pudding. Nevertheless, I got stuck on the idea and maybe, I’ll create something that won’t get re-gifted.

Yeasted Fruit Cake – yields 1 cake

1½ cups warm water
1-packet dry instant yeast
4-cups all-purpose flour
1/8-teaspoon salt
½-cup sugar
2-tablspoon unsalted butter – at room temperature
1-tablspoon vanilla extract
½-cup golden raisins
1-cup chopped dried apricots
1¼-cups ground almonds

In the bowl of a standing mixer pour in the water, and then mix in the yeast, a pinch of flour and sugar. Allow this mixture to stand for about 10 minutes in order to bloom out the yeast. Once you notice the yeast’s activation mix in the flour, salt and sugar and beat until smooth – about 5 minutes. Then beat in the butter and vanilla to thoroughly incorporate. Mix in the raisins, dried apricots and almond to combine.

Cover with a clean towel and allow it sit at room temperature for 45 to an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 375-degrees.

Grease a Bundt or stolen mold and pour the dough into it.

Bake the cake for 45 to 60, or until a cake tester comes insert in the cake of the cake comes out clean. Remove to a cooling, and allow it sit for 15 minutes, and then unmold. Let the cake completely cool. Once the cake has cooled pour over the glaze (recipe below).

1-tablespoon hazelnut oil
2-tablespoons half-n-half
4½-ounces chopped white chocolate 

Place the oil, half-n-half and chocolate in a bowl, and place over a pot of simmering water. Once the chocolate has melted remove from the pot, and whisk the mixture together until smooth and cooled. Drizzle the chocolate glaze over the cooled cake. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Starchy, Starchy Night

For the years I've lived in New York City I was one of the loyal denizens of the Union Square Market -- Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday -- rain, shine, snow, and bitter winds. I readily admit the market is one of the best shopping destinations in the city and I am a rabid exponent of the foods you can find there. My calendar it set to the comings and going of the stuffs that can be gotten there. Tender, crisp, thin asparagus; flats of violets and pansies waiting for fresh earth; blushes of vibrant chervil grown to perfection on the northside of oak trees are absolute signals of spring, the time my palate and everything else seems to come alive again.

By mid-August I am chomping-at the-bit waiting for the first new potatoes.  Not the golf ball or larger sized ones we all use but tiny marble sized beauties.  I excitedly dig through baskets filled to the brim to get to these gems that always seem to end up on the bottom -- Yukon Golds, Red Bliss, Purple Peruvians -- none are safe from my probing hands. 

On one particular visit a farmer spied my working through her large heap of potatoes and asked me what was wrong that I had to search so deeply.  I explained that my expedition was not just for potatoes, but for the exclusive and elusive marble-sized ones.  With a hearty laugh,  and a look like I was half cooked, I found another pair of hands mining for those starchy nuggets.  After we managed to retrieve about five pounds worth I thanked her dearly for the help and indulgence.  Of course, the big question was what do I do with these special spuds.  Well, since it was the beginning of the season, and my desire to eat them great I gave her my simplest application.  That is, I just toss them with virgin olive oil, coarse salt and black pepper, and then roast them in a hot oven until they are crisped. Then I eat them like popcorn, I said.  The following week she had already pulled five pounds waiting for my arrival ....and so it was for the many years.

My curiosity about these starchy tubers went beyond rummaging around the market for the smallest first-of-the-season harvest, but who are they? There are French and Russian fingerlings, German Butterballs, the blushing Desiree, and the always dirt encrusted Corolla. After years of knowing what to expect to find, and what the possibilities were someone new arrived to the party -- Papa Amarilla. The particular variety is a South American native that looks more like a waxy potato but will work for you like a starchy. The most exciting part of the discovery is that it tastes like chicken! I had never before tasted a potato with such a deph of flavor that required very little to bring it to the table. I was smitten.

I was celebrating one of those birthdays that ended with a zero, and decided it was the year to treat myself to an adventure I had always dreamed of – a sail through the Galapagos Archipelago. Ever since I was a little guy when my Dad I spent Sunday nights bonding, watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom I have dreamt of visiting all the places Merl took us to weekly. My eight day jaunt through these islands was one of those expectations that was even better in reality. Ecuador is home not only to the theory of evolution but my latest obsession, the Papa Amarilla. I knew the potato was a native of the Andes Mountains of Ecuador and Peru, and since I was going to be in the neighborhood I could not pass up the opportunity to stop by for a visit. I put together an intinerary that had me traversing the Avenue of Volcanoes down the center of the country stopping in towns on their market days. My first market was in Machachi, about an hour drive south of the capital Quito. It was held in an expansive paved over area of town sandwiched between the railroad tracks and town central.  There was nothing romantic about it, the market in fact it seemed like a utilitarian necessity for the town – their Safeway without the brick and mortar. There was much to choose from: Amazonian oranges, papayas, yucca, plastic wash basins, corn, tomatoes, onions, toilet paper, and piles of potaotes. I bought a kilo of potatoes and two rolls of toilet paper. One of purchases I could work with the other I had to figure out what to do with. In my 9-grade Spanish I got the kitchen back at my pension to boil up my purchase, which allowed me to have a potato tasting that night – of course, everyone thought I was just a bit off. But I was eating a Papa Amarilla right from its native earth.

Curried Potatoes  - yields 4 to 6 servings
2 pounds baby new potatoes
1/4 cup sesame oil
2 tablespoons curry powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion - sliced julienne

Preheat the oven to 425 degree.  Wash the potatoes, and pat dry. If your new potatoes are larger than golf-ball size cut them in half or quarters.  Toss with the oil.  Sprinkle the curry powder, salt and pepper over the potatoes, and toss to coat all the potatoes well.  Lay them on a roasting pan, and place in the oven.  After 30 minutes distribute the onions on top of the potatoes, and roast for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.  The potatoes should be very crisp, and the onions caramelized.