Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Trending Now ... Carrots!

What’s cooking? Cumin- and Honey-Roasted Carrots, Burnt Carrots with Brie, and Carrot-Onion-Ricotta Tart

Live longer! Stay healthier!! Look younger!!! It’s all about the carrots, folks.

When you read enough about the benefits of eating carrots, at some point you start to wonder what kind of Kool-Aid these people are drinking. Turns out, it’s not Kool-Aid. Carrots are truly one of the most beneficial foods you can eat.

But that’s not why we’re featuring carrots in today’s blog post. As you know, the Kitchen Goddess is all about keeping her readers at the forefront of food trends. Well, my recent sitings of carrots in food journals, culinary newsletters, and restaurant menus tell me that carrots are riding a wave that is just now building. You heard it here.

And just to remind you of what a swell friend I am, today’s post contains THREE fabulous dishes starring carrots. So you could say this is...[drum roll] a 24-carrot post.

I’ve cooked with carrots for years, mostly diced as part of the flavor base for literally hundreds of soups. Known as mirepoix – pronounced meer-PWAH – it consists of onions, carrots, and celery, in a ratio of 2:1:1. I’ve also sliced them long for crudite platters and short into coins for salads. I’ve cut them in jewel shapes and sautéed them for Thanksgiving, and puréed cooked carrots for twice-baked potatoes. But for all those dishes, I’ve used the kind that come in 1- or 2-pound bags at the grocery store.

Then last summer, I started buying carrots at the farmers’ market. The small carrots in bunches with huge handfuls of greenery. I don’t know why I hadn’t paid them much attention before – they always looked pretty with their feathery green crowns and the delicate orange taproots – but I hadn’t really discovered a way to use them in that small form. They’re more expensive than the bagged kind, so it’s a shame to buy them if, in the cooking process, they’re just going to end up looking like their overgrown brothers.

But I discovered this burrata salad recipe, and couldn’t resist trying it. I served it to friends visiting from Texas, and the dish not only looked gorgeous, it tasted the same way. Also, the accompanying pesto made use of the fronds. Just the sort of miracle that gets the Kitchen Goddess jazzed up. For that post, click here.

photo by Stephen Ausmus
So this year, with those carrot sitings tickling my food antennae, I’ve become obsessed with other ways to serve these orange beauties. And their purple cousins. In fact, carrots apparently come in lots of colors, though I’ve only seen orange and purple.

A couple of other nerdy carrot facts:

1. Long after purple, red, yellow, and white carrots became popular, the orange carrot was developed by the Dutch (my people!).

2. Orange carrots taste the sweetest, but the darker colors have more antioxidants.

3. A few carrot sticks a day can help strengthen and clean children’s teeth and may also help encourage lower-jaw development.

4. The vitamin A in carrots helps prevent vision loss; the vitamin C helps boost the immune system; and beta-carotene and carotinoids are linked to lower risk of lung cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and leukemia. OMG – hand me a carrot, please.

5. Carrots store well in water! KG did not know this, but she will continue to store hers in resealable plastic bags.

Kitchen Goddess note on buying and storing carrots: Look for carrot roots that are firm, smooth, relatively straight, with bright color. Color is directly related to the amount of beta-carotene in the carrot, so more color equals more nutrition. Avoid carrots that are limp or have big cracks or forks in the root. If the tops have been removed, look at the stem end and go for the ones lightest in color (darker stem end is a sign of age). If the green tops are attached, they should be brightly colored, feathery, and not wilted. Since the sugars are concentrated in the carrots’ core, you’ll find that those with larger diameters will be sweeter.

Store carrots in the fridge for up to a month. If you buy carrots with attached green tops, cut the tops off before storing, as the tops will draw moisture from the roots. Best is to cut the greens off 1-2 inches above the crown, wrap the greens and carrots separately in paper towels (dampen the paper for the greens) and keep in separate resealable plastic bags. Tops will last a week this way. Store carrots with other veggies, as the ethylene gas from fruits will speed the aging process.

Carrots can also be peeled, cut up, blanched, and kept in the freezer for a year.

Three Ways to Love Your Carrots

1.  Cumin- and Honey-Roasted Carrots

The KG found this first dish posted at a delightful blog called The Bojon Gourmet, with photos that will knock your socks off. At least, they knocked mine off, and so, dazed and barefoot, I wandered into the kitchen and started cooking.

This dish was a celebration of all I had found at the farmers’ market that day: the carrots, the fresh herbs, and the fresh ricotta (its first appearance at the market, plus it saved me from making my own – which if you want, you can do HERE).

Also, the Kitchen Goddess is a sucker for cumin and honey, so... The flavors in this dish are so clean that I recommend searching out the freshest ingredients – you won’t be sorry. And with the extra carrot tops – you won’t use it all in the gremolata – you can make carrot top pesto, from this LINK.

Ms. Taylor-Tobin recommends preparing the gremolata (a chopped herb condiment, used as a garnish here) right before you serve the dish, as she claims the mint will blacken. The KG made hers while the carrots were in their initial roast and didn’t have that problem with the mint. But I squeezed a bit of the lemon juice on them, so that may be a factor. Also, I knew that if I waited one minute longer to serve Grumpy, he’d have a hissy fit.

Important Kitchen Goddess note: The lemon zest goes in the gremolata, and the juice goes on the finished dish. Be sure to zest your lemon half before juicing it, or you’ll be really sorry. Zesting a juiced lemon is an activity fraught with slips and the occasional bit of human flesh. And cursing.

Cumin- and Honey-Roasted Carrots with Ricotta and Gremolata

Adapted from Alanna Taylor-Tobin at The Bojon Gourmet (bojongourmet.com)*
*Check out the website for links to Ms. Taylor-Tobin’s new cookbook on gluten-free baking.

Serves 4-6 as a first course, 2-3 as a main course

For the carrots:
1 pound carrots (maximum 6 inches long for best results; cut larger ones in half lengthwise)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or substitute ¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
12 ounces good quality, whole milk ricotta
½ lemon
finishing salt, such as Maldon flake (If you don’t have finishing salt, use kosher salt.)
freshly ground black pepper

For the gremolata:
¼ cup mint leaves (no stems), chopped
¼ cup carrot greens (thin stems only), chopped
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
zest of half a lemon, finely grated

Preheat the oven to 375º. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Line a rimmed baking sheet with baker’s parchment.

Trim and scrub the carrots (no peeling, please!), reserving the greens. If any of your carrots are fat, slice them in half lengthwise; if any are longer than about 6 inches, cut them in half crosswise.

In a small bowl, combine the cumin, Aleppo (or chile flakes), and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, toss the carrots with the olive oil and honey, then sprinkle the spice mix on them and toss again. Spread the carrots on the prepared baking sheet (use a spatula to make sure you capture all the spices from the bowl) and roast in the center of the oven for 20-30 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice to get them evenly roasted. (Don’t turn off the oven.) The carrots are done when they’re golden and lightly shriveled. If you’re unsure, test with a fork for tenderness.

While the carrots are baking, make the gremolata. Toss together the herbs in a small bowl along with the finely grated garlic and the finely grated zest. Squeeze a few drops of the lemon juice to keep the colors fresh.

Spread the ricotta in the bottom of a medium-sized casserole dish. Top with the roasted carrots and any of the fond that’s stuck to the baking parchment. Bake another 8-10 minutes, until the ricotta is warmed through.

When the ricotta and carrots are done, squeeze the lemon half over the dish and sprinkle the gremolata (you may not need all of it) on top. Season with a couple of pinches of finishing salt and a few fresh grinds of black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

2. Burnt Carrots with Brie

The Kitchen Goddess experimented a couple of years ago with a trend that chefs all over the world were embracing: burning vegetables in order to achieve the ultimate in rustic, earthy flavors. And I know that technique is still in vogue, because I came across this dish in another of my regular readings, an email newsletter called Tasting Table. The recipe is the brainchild of Chef Tim Love, a Fort Worth-area restaurateur best known for urban western cuisine. And my prince, whose list of faves in the veggie world is rather limited, pronounced it “Very good.”

Kitchen Goddess note: Astute readers may have noticed by now that the KG likes to leave a couple of inches of the tops on her carrots. This is a pure indulgence on her part, as she thinks they look more “natural” that way, and make a nice presentation. If you are not similarly obsessed, do what you want with those tops.

On the other hand, the use of red carrots is less superficial. The red carrots have a little less sugar in them, so the use of both red and orange carrots in this dish and the next gives both dishes a little more nuance in flavor. When pressed, the KG will confess that it’s also a presentation thing...

The Kitchen Goddess served hers with sauteed scallops and a salad.

Burnt Carrots with Brie

Adapted from Chef Tim Love and Tasting Table (tastingtable.com)

Serves 4 as a side dish.

15-20 small-to-medium sized carrots, greens cut 2-3 inches from the root
2 tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
4 ounces triple-cream Brie (rind mostly removed), cut in ½-inch dice
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat your broiler to 500º.

Lay the carrots out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Using a basting brush, cover the carrots with a thin layer of oil. Sprinkle on the Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes), as well as the salt and pepper.

Cook at 500º for 10-12 minutes, until the exposed side of the carrots is beginning to char. (Because you’re not turning the carrots, the underside won’t char, so they won’t taste burnt.)

While the carrots are cooking, mix the honey and lemon juice well in a large bowl, and toss the Brie with it. When the carrots have finished cooking, immediately add them to the bowl, and let them sit for 1½-2 minutes – to let the Brie melt – then toss the whole mixture well. Serve immediately.

3. Carrot-Onion-Ricotta Tart

The Kitchen Goddess has never been what you’d call adept at pie dough. Cookies, sure – even the kind that need rolling out. But pie dough, not so much. Then I spent a day in a dessert class at the Culinary Institute in San Antonio, where I learned about rustic tarts, which don’t require a beautiful, crimped crust and whose beauty is in the “natural” look, which is to say a bit haphazard, maybe even sloppy. And the dough can be made in a food processor, so I didn’t have to get my hands dirty. Eureka! It was a seminal moment in my evolution as a cook. So much so that now I look for every opportunity to make more rustic tarts. And here’s another one.

The original recipe called for puff pastry. Not a chance, said I. Then I realized the ingredients lent themselves perfectly to another rustic tart, and off I went. Now, you can make this with puff pastry – even the frozen, store-bought stuff. But I didn’t have that. If you want the puff pastry version, know that the original called for baking the crust 10-15 minutes before piling in the filling and baking another 30-35 minutes. My method takes less time.

Carrot-Onion-Ricotta Tart

Inspired by Alison Roman in Bon Appétit, April 2015

For the pie dough:
1⅓ cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons shortening (Crisco)
3 tablespoons ice water, more as needed
1 tablespoon vodka

For the tart:
12 ounces ricotta (Get the freshest you can buy, or make your own)
¼ cup heavy cream
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small onion, thinly sliced
9-10 ounces medium-sized carrots, scrubbed and sliced into coins ⅛-inch thick
2-3 tablespoons milk (whole, 2%, or skim)

For the garnish:
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped carrot tops
zest of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the pie dough:
Start by dicing the shortening and the butter into teaspoon sized bits, and put it into the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

Once the fats are chilled, combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and pulse 4-5 times to blend. Add the cold butter and shortening to the flour and pulse 12-15 times, or enough to get the butter down to the size of small peas. Drizzle the water and vodka over the mixture and pulse just until the mixture holds together when you squeeze a handful of it. (This should be plenty of water; if not, add water no more than a teaspoon at a time.) Gather and press the dough into a disk, wrap well in cellophane wrap, and chill at least 20 minutes.

Lay out a sheet of parchment paper and dust it with flour. Roll the dough on it to a thickness of ⅛ inch and trim the dough (if necessary) to about a 10-inch round. Move the parchment (with the circle of dough) to a baking sheet and refrigerate it again for 10-15 minutes.

While the rolled dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350º. In a small bowl, whisk the ricotta with the cream and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the tart: 
To a large skillet over medium/medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of the oil. Sauté the onion for 5 minutes – long enough that it begins to brown. Add the carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the ricotta mix into the center of the dough, leaving free a 2-inch border around the edge of the dough. Spoon the carrots and onion on top of the ricotta.

Carefully fold the edges of the dough toward the center, pinching and folding to create a pleated border. Brush the border with the milk to encourage the crust to brown. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Cool the tart in the pan set on a wire rack for about 15 minutes before slicing.

For the garnish:
While the tart is baking, toss the herbs with the lemon juice, the zest, and the remaining oil in a small bowl. Just before serving, sprinkle the garnish mix over the tart.

You can bake this tart up to several hours ahead. Once it cools, store it tightly wrapped in cellophane at room temperature. Add the herb garnish right before serving.

So what are you waiting for? Go buy some carrots!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Love with the Perfect Stranger

What’s cooking? Rhubarb Compote

Among the strange-looking products that pop up here and there in a farmers’ market, rhubarb is more likely than most to cause people scratch their heads and say, “But what do you do with it?” Which is an interesting thing to say about a plant that’s been in use for some 3000 years.

As with many off-beat foods, rhubarb was first used in China, as a medicinal plant. The roots were considered effective as a laxative. (Keep in mind that we’re going to cook with the stems.) In the 14th century, it was imported to Europe via the Silk Road and the ports of Aleppo and Smyrna. But in European soil, they had no luck getting roots with the medicinal effect, and as sugar became more available, rhubarb migrated into culinary uses. The earliest record of it in the Americas comes from botanist John Bartram, who grew both medicinal and culinary rhubarbs in Philadelphia in the 1730s.

I first came across rhubarb in my early married days, when a friend in Massachusetts cut some out of her backyard garden to go in a pie with her homegrown raspberries. Smitten as I was with the pie, it was many years before I found the rhubarb again – in my New Jersey farmers’ market. It starts showing up in early spring and is intermittently available throughout the summer.

Then on a reunion of college friends in California early last month, I was in charge of dinner. But of course. I needed something easy for dessert, and I’d settled on Eton Mess, that strawberry/meringue/ fruit sauce/whipped cream concoction I wrote about a year ago. The only challenge was finding a fruit – preferably red – with which to make the sauce. And there on a table at a farmstand near San Luis Obispo, I saw... rhubarb, which I knew would be just the thing. Rhubarb sauce could not be simpler to make: a little water, some sugar, and lemon juice will turn the stems into a yummy compote in less than 15 minutes. But the most fun was when, at dinner that night, one of the women said, “Wow – where did you find rhubarb sauce?” I smiled and tried to look angelic as I said, “I didn’t buy it. I made it.This afternoon.” The Kitchen Goddess strikes again.

So on my first trip back to the New Jersey market this summer, I was heading to the car with my bounty when I saw... a bunch of rhubarb. I already had more fruits and veggies than I knew what to cook with, but the rhubarb looked lonely there at the side of a table. I snapped it up.

I had no particular plan, but knew I had to make that sauce again. This time, with my full larder available, I tweaked it a bit, adding ginger liqueur, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt to cut the sweetness. Even more yummy than before.

Only days later, the women of my old New Jersey writing group decided to reunite for lunch this week. “I don’t have time to make anything,” I said. “But I can stop at a bakery on my way.”

“Don’t buy anything,” said one of the hostesses. “You always have something you’ve made. What’s in your fridge?”

“Hmmm,” said the Kitchen Goddess. “I do have this tasty rhubarb compote. And a couple of ripe New Jersey peaches. If we put it all on some good Greek yogurt, it’ll be great for dessert.” And so it was.

Kitchen Goddess note on buying and storing rhubarb: Rhubarb is a vegetable, so no surprise that in its plain, raw state, it’s very tart. But you through it into a pot with sugar,  that generally gets treated like a fruit. Because of its high water content, it cooks down quickly, so it’s often used in pies, ice cream/sorbets, and sweet sauces. Though the stalks look like smooth celery, the plants aren’t related; but you should look for the same qualities – firm, crisp stalks – to determine freshness. The cut ends of the stalks should not look withered. The fresher stalks will also have a bit of sheen. They range in color from green to deep red, and while the red ones are younger, thinner, more tender, and slightly sweeter, it doesn’t make much difference if you’re cooking them in a pot with sugar – which, by the way, is how most rhubarb is treated, because plain, raw rhubarb is very tart. The leaves, which are toxic, are often cut off before the stalks are sold. Do not eat any leaves that remain on your stalks.

According to the clever Cook’s Illustrated people, the best way to store fresh rhubarb (and apparently celery as well – who knew?) is to wrap the stalks tightly in aluminum foil, leaving the ends of the package open, thus allowing the ripening hormone, ethylene, to escape. Wrapped thusly – or so they say – stalks will keep almost two weeks. If you need to keep it longer, cut the stalks into pieces ½-1 inch long, and freeze them in an airtight container. They’ll keep that way for a year.

By the way, it’s often easy to find rhubarb – chopped and frozen – in the frozen foods area of your supermarket.

Rhubarb Compote

Adapted from Mary Cech in Bon Appétit, April 2006.

Yield: Makes about 3 cups

1½ pounds fresh rhubarb, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon kosher salt
zest of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about ½ fresh lemon)
2 tablespoons ginger liqueur, or a 1-inch piece of ginger, or use Cointreau

Combine the first six ingredients – all but the ginger or liqueur – in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir the mix constantly until the sugar is well dissolved. Once the mixture begins to bubble, reduce the heat to let the rhubarb simmer. Cover the saucepan and let the simmer continue for 8-10 minutes, then check the consistency of the compote. (Some people like it chunkier than others.) If you want the consistency to be more like applesauce, continue cooking for a couple more minutes.

Remove the compote from the heat and stir in the ginger liqueur. If you are using raw ginger instead, grate the ginger into a small bowl, then transfer the grated ginger to a fine seive and press down on the ginger to release the juice. OR... Use a garlic press to squeeze the grated ginger into the compote. Stir well.

Let the compote cool, then store it in the refrigerator.

What to do with it now that you have rhubarb compote:

– Stirred into plain yogurt, for breakfast or dessert;
– Over vanilla ice cream;
– On pancakes or waffles, in lieu of syrup;
– Wrapped in crepes;
– With ice cream or whipped cream, in a parfait;
– If it’s still chunky, in Rhubarb Shortcake (instead of the strawberry variety);
– As the fruit sauce in Eton Mess (click here for recipe).

Love that rhubarb!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Home Alone

What’s cooking? Dave’s Baby Back Ribs and Cherry-Jalapeño Relish

My prince was at a college reunion a few weeks ago, so I spent 5 days luxuriating in the solitude – slothing around in jammies much of the day, working on the piles in my office, trying in vain to get my taxes completed, ... and an assortment of what my hubby calls “random strikes.”

But I wasn’t nearly as productive as I thought I’d be. That’s because I also seized the opportunity to indulge in the sorts of television shows that would elicit endless scorn were he here.

This time, even I would classify my entertainment as really bad TV: three Thin Man movies, several episodes of “Murder She Wrote,” and FIVE Perry Mason movies made back in the ’30s, before anyone thought of putting Raymond Burr into the role.

These starred a guy named Warren William, who wikipedia tells me was a big name on Broadway in the ‘20s, and a second-tier silent actor until sound came along and they discovered he had an amazingly resonant, velvety voice, at which point he became a star of the early talkies. And here he was as Perry Mason, my favorite champion of justice for all.

Genevieve Tobin as Della Street, Warren William as Perry Mason, Patricia Ellis as Margie Clune in The Case of the Lucky Legs (1935).

My love affair Perry probably goes back to the early days of the television series, which ran an astonishing nine years, beginning in 1957. And when I discovered the hardcover collection of Erle Stanley Gardner’s stories in my local public library, I tossed aside Nancy Drew and entered the world of grown-up mysteries. I absorbed every aspect of Perry Mason’s character; Raymond Burr’s surly, thoughtful demeanor as the lawyer was, to my pre-teen mind, perfect. (Apparently Mr. Gardner agreed with me: While watching Burr’s screen test, Gardner reportedly stood up, pointed at the screen and said, “That’s Perry Mason.”)

 Raymond Burr, William Hopper, Perry Mason, "The Case of the Restless Redhead

The Warren William character was totally different from the Perry I knew and loved. As played by William, Mason is suave, cheeky, very much a ladies man, and – drum roll, please... – an amateur gourmet cook. Hahahahaha... So I watched.

The “cooking” scenes were painfully bad. Early in the story, Perry celebrates winning a big case by taking over the kitchen at his favorite restaurant, where he sets out to make some crab dish with white wine and parmesan cheese. The head chef and other kitchen staff gather around to watch the great man cook, but then a woman shows up – an old girlfriend who says she needs to talk to him – so in the middle of cooking, he whips off his apron and dashes out to a table in the restaurant. And we never return to the kitchen. Ah, right – just the way you’d expect it to happen. The rest of it was fun in the way you’d enjoy hearing stories about an old boyfriend who’d been a scoundrel in his youth but now you know him as a responsible grown-up.

In the midst of all this bad TV, I was invited to a barbecue, featuring my friend Dave at the helm of his big green egg. Which, as you can see, is actually red. But Dave is a master at this piece of equipment – regardless of its color – producing sausages and ribs that have the Kitchen Goddess in awe. This particular performance featured only baby back ribs, but oh, man. So I have convinced him to share his m.o. with you lucky readers.

And because the KG can’t stand to be totally upstaged, she found a delightful relish starring cherries, which fortunately will be in season through August. It turned out to be a great accompaniment to Dave’s ribs, so the recipe is here, following Dave’s star turn.

Dave’s Ribs

Dave claims that his ribs are pretty simple. KG says he’s just being modest. But Dave is an engineer, and he has clearly experimented enough to get the process down to perfection.

Special Equipment

Aura Rib and Roast V-Rack, $19.95 at amazon.com.
■ Ceramic smoker like a Big Green Egg or a knock-off.

■ V-rack or rib rack, for positioning the ribs inside the smoker.

Akorn Kamado Smoking Stone, $39.78 at Home Depot.
■ Ceramic plate (also called a smoking stone) for keeping direct heat off the ribs.

■ Whole lump charcoal.

■ Wood chips – If you look around the web, you’ll see praise for a wide variety of wood chips used in smoking. The Kitchen Goddess found recommendations for oak, hickory, maple, mesquite, pecan, apple, alder, and cherry. Whew. Dave doesn’t think the type of wood makes much difference with ribs. He likes mesquite or hickory, but leans toward hickory because he finds that it works best for a range of meats. He says mesquite is a bit strong for poultry, so to keep life simple, he sticks to hickory for smoking everything.

■ Meat thermometer (or two, depending on whether you are an engineer).

Kitchen Goddess note on meat thermometers: Dave uses “a small cheap Taylor thermometer that has maintained accuracy and has survived a fair amount of abuse.” And like any good engineer, he keeps a spare as backup. The Kitchen Goddess likes to spend more for her equipment, on the theory that, well..., more is better. So she has a fancy-schmancy digital version: the ThermoWorks ChefAlarm ($59). It’s the favorite of America’s Test Kitchen folks, and you know how they torture a product before they commit. This gizmo is easy to operate, with clear and straightforward labeling of the various functions, but as far as I can tell, only available through the ThermoWorks company. And no, they did not give the KG a free one – or even a coupon for a few bucks off – though they certainly should now that I think about it... So no backup, but then I'm not an engineer.


■ 3 racks of loin back or baby back ribs will feed 10 people with 3-4 ribs each. According to Dave, if you followed his recipe and have ribs left over, you invited the wrong people.
■ Barbecue sauce: Unlike the Kitchen Goddess, Dave says most BBQ sauces should work – homemade or commercial. Use your favorite. Dave uses Head Country BBQ sauce from Ponca City, OK. The Kitchen Goddess prefers to make her own, which is her dad’s recipe, HERE.


Start by soaking your wood chips in water for 30 minutes.

Set up the smoker with the ceramic plate (for indirect heat) and the v-rack or rib rack (to ensure that the ribs are standing and not lying flat). Once the coals are hot, drain the chips and add them directly to the fire. Let the chips heat up for 10 minutes – to develop the smoke – before you add the food to the grill.

Low heat keeps the ribs moist. Shoot for 225º F.

At 225º, the 3 racks should take 6-7 hours to reach an internal temperature of 170º. [Kitchen Goddess note: Don’t mess around here – use that meat thermometer!]

Mop your ribs with BBQ sauce to start and then again every hour to two.  Dave says some purists like a dry rub; he has used one but finds the end product fine without.

Replenish the wood chips midway through smoking. (Again, soak the chips for 30 minutes before adding them to the fire.)

Some recipes suggest wrapping the meat in foil for the last hour or so, to retain moisture. Dave says the ribs should not dry out if you keep the heat low and monitor the meat temperature.

While the meat is slowly absorbing all that wonderful heat and smoke, make the Cherry-Jalapeño Relish.

Cherry-Jalapeño Relish

Adapted from Amy Scattergood and Donna Deane in the Los Angeles Times (June 25, 2008)

It’s high season for California cherries, which is why I wasn’t surprised when one of my foodie newsletters showed up with a link to an article about the fruit from the LA Times. I’m a big fan of cherries, so I followed the link. Wow – what a nice accompaniment it would be to Dave’s smoked ribs. It seemed a little mild, so I added a bit of jalapeño. Next time, I might also try chopping some cilantro with the cherries. If you try the cilantro and like it, let me know. The California authors of the original recipe say it’s a great accompaniment to grilled chicken, pork, sausages, lamb or beef.

Yield: 3 cups relish.

KG uses this tiny melon baller -- so cute -- to extract the cherry pits, but you
can also use... a cherry pitter!

1 tablespoon minced red onion
1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus zest from ½ lemon
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 pound cherries (large Bing cherries are easiest, but any sweet cherries will do), stemmed and pitted
2 teaspoons finely diced jalapeño pepper (seeds and ribs removed)
½ teaspoon minced tarragon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 mounded tablespoons of yellow bell pepper, in ¼-inch dice


1. Combine the lemon juice, zest, and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl and add the red onion. Let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes. This pickling process will take the pungency out of the onion.

2. Pulse the cherries in a food processor until coarsely chopped, then place the chopped cherries in a medium bowl. Stir in the onion, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and tarragon. Add the salt, and 4-5 grinds of pepper.

3. Gently fold in the yellow pepper. Cover and let stand at least 15 minutes for the flavors to meld. Adjust salt/pepper to taste.

And a happy July 4th celebration to you all!

Friday, June 1, 2018

A Spring Celebration, Still Good in Summer

What’s cooking? Whitefish en Papillote with Tomatoes, Snap Peas, and Herb Butter


In the runup to my husband’s birthday, I often focus on the foods he likes. We’ve been married just long enough that we’ve given each other just about every variation on a present – from wildly extravagant, like the year I took him to Pebble Beach to play golf, to the thoughtful-but-truly-unexciting, like a new book by one of his favorite authors.

And he’s not nearly as thrilled as I am to look for a hot new restaurant for the celebration, so that part often comes down to something from the Kitchen Goddess.

Back in our just-married days, when we lived in Manhattan, there was a darling little Italian restaurant in our neighborhood. (Frankly, there’s a darling little Italian restaurant in almost every neighborhood of NYC. It’s a New York thing.) We went there often, which is what you can do when you have two salaries and no kids, and his favorite dish was Striped Bass al Cartoccio.

These days, when he thinks about that dish, he always pronounces it “al car-TOE-chee-o” using his best Italian accent and arms open wide in his best Italian opera singer imitation. But for some reason, I’ve never tried to duplicate the preparation.

Then not long ago, among the daily onslaught of food-related emails I get – remember when it was actually fun and exciting to get email? – I came across one for “fish packets.” Ah, said the Kitchen Goddess, this will be just the thing. And so it was.

The concept is amazingly simple: fish baked in a tightly closed envelope of parchment (or sometimes foil), often with herbs, lemon slices, or other seasonings. The package holds in the moisture, to steam the fish. The envelope is generally opened at the table, so guests can smell the aroma when it opens. It’s called en papillote in French, al cartoccio in Italian – but whatever you call it, it’s a technique well worth learning.

This particular preparation fairly sings “spring,” with the light flavors of herbs and tomatoes and sugar snap peas. The fish stays moist and light because it cooks quickly, so the veggies stay a tiny bit crisp; the smear of butter on top and underneath the fish makes sure those flavors go all the way through it. The parchment holds enough of the heat in that the dish is actually warm when you open it on your plate. Just the smells that come out of that little package will have you swooning.

Another amazon find
This is a dish that looks fancy, but is in fact incredibly easy. You can make the herb butter the day before, but if you do, be sure to let it sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, so that it will spread easily.

A little kitchen wisdom: butter is fine at room temperature (covered) for at least a couple of days, unless your kitchen is really warm. The KG often leaves hers out overnight in a dish like the one at the right, for easier spreading on toast in the morning.

Kitchen Goddess note about parchment paper: The hardest part about parchment paper is that it generally comes in a roll, and getting those sheets to flatten out is a challenge. But the KG has a solution or two for that little wrinkle: (1) crumple the sheets, then smooth them out (This is an amazingly effective method, as long as you’re not put off by serving slightly wrinkled packets); (2) follow the Kitchen Goddess’s example and buy pre-cut sheets that come already flat. KG buys hers at amazon.com, but your local baking supply shop may carry them.

Whitefish en Papillote with Tomatoes, Snap Peas, and Herb Butter

Adapted from Katherine Sacks on Epicurious (September 2017)

For the herbs, the Kitchen Goddess used thyme and dill and parsley, because that’s what was in the garden; cilantro and chives would also be good candidates.

To serve 4.

For the herb butter:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature (Let it sit out while you get your mise-en-place.)
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped tender herbs
1½  teaspoons kosher salt, divided
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning the fish

For the fish:
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 2½ cups), quartered
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
four ½-inch thick skinless fillets of white fish, like flounder or tilapia (about 6 ounces each)
Paprika (smoked or sweet)
¼ cup shredded fresh basil leaves (See my post on 50 Ways to Love Your Basil for step-by-step on chiffonade technique)

Special Equipment: four sheets of parchment paper (about 12 inches by 16 inches each)

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

For the herb butter:
In a small bowl, combine the butter, herbs, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Let it sit out while you prepare the veggies.

Assembling the packets:
Lay a parchment sheet flat on a work surface. Smear 1 tablespoon of the herb butter in the center of the sheet, in a streak about the length of the fish and an inch or so wide. Arrange one-quarter of the snap peas, tomatoes, and garlic evenly over the butter.

Place a fish fillet on top of the vegetables, then smear another tablespoon of the herb butter on top of the fish. Season the fish with ⅛ teaspoon of salt, a pinch of pepper, and a sprinkling of paprika.

The KG couldn't get 6-ounce fillets -- only very thin 2-ounce fillets -- so she used 3 in each packet. You have to be flexible.

Fold the long sides of the parchment together over the fish (like you would with a sandwich that you’re wrapping for a picnic lunch). Gather the ends of the paper, then fold and tuck them under the fish to form a packet. [KG Note: There are lots of ways – most of them more complicated – to fold parchment around the fish, but as long as the ends of the parchment are well tucked under the fish, the butter and moisture won’t escape and you’ll be fine.]

Carefully move the packet to a baking sheet, and repeat the assembly process for each of the other fillets.

Depending on the size of the fish, you may be able to fit all four on a single, large, rimmed baking sheet. If not, use a second baking sheet. Just make sure all four packets are resting solidly on the sheet in a single layer.

Bake at 400º until just cooked through, about 12-13 minutes. If you want to test, insert a skewer through the parchment and into the fish. If it slides through the fillet easily, your fish is done. Carefully unfold the packets (steam will escape), and sprinkle the tops of the fish with ribboned basil.

A final note: You can make the butter 2-3 days ahead, and refrigerate it; just be sure to let it come to room temperature before you try working with it. Fish packets can be assembled up to 4 hours ahead and chilled. Let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before cooking.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Germany

What’s cooking? Dulce de Leche and Spicy Pineapple-Tequila Sorbet

Yes, the Kitchen Goddess is in Germany, but that doesn’t stop her from wishing you a happy Cinco de Mayo! I’m not really sure if they recognize May 5 as having any special significance where I am – we’re just getting over celebrating King’s Day with the people in Amsterdam, and one national festival in a week is quite enough for me.

King's Day Revelers in Amsterdam
King’s Day in the Netherlands is a celebration of the King’s birthday, and the entire country parties, but nowhere as intensely as in Amsterdam. Everyone wears something orange, and many dye their hair orange, in  honor of the House of Orange-Nassau, which rules over the Netherlands. Orange plastic hats, orange synthetic leis, and orange wigs are everywhere – it’s sufficiently well-known that the population of Amsterdam doubles on that day. A day filled with eating and drinking and singing and drinking and parading in the streets and drinking and even a bit of marijuana smoking in the streets... Let’s just say that, unlike the Kitchen Goddess’s Dutch ancestors, these Dutch know how to party. The fellows in this photo are typical of the sort of over-the-top costuming that takes place.

By contrast, Cinco de Mayo isn’t nearly as significant of a holiday in Mexico as it is in the States, where it has become widely recognized by Mexican-Americans as a celebration of their heritage. And since the rest of us enjoy a good celebration as much as anyone – especially if it involves food and alcoholic beverages – you’ll find a large number of non-Mexican-Americans joining in the fun.

There’s nothing like dessert to help you celebrate. I served these at a recent group dinner party where the theme was Mexican cuisine. I give you two ways to make dulce de leche [pronounced DOOL-say day LAY-chay], which is sort of like the Mexican version of Nutella – a delicious caramel spread made from (1) milk and sugar, or (2) sweetened condensed milk. The second way is so easy it’s almost laughable, but being the KG, I of course had to try it both ways. The first produces a deeper, darker, thicker caramel, but given the ease of the second way, I’ll probably choose that when I do it again.

Spicy Pineapple and Tequila Sorbet

Adapted from Max Falcowitz at SeriousEats.com

For this sorbet, there’s nothing tricky at all and you will love the sweet-tart flavor of the pineapple-lime combination. I reduced the amount of sugar from the original recipe and doubled the lime, but you should play with the flavors however you like. The KG couldn’t really taste the tequila, even after doubling the amount called for in the original recipe (on the theory that you can never have too much tequila), but the alcohol does help keep the sorbet from freezing too hard.

Makes 4-5 cups.

2 pounds peeled, cored, and chunked ripe pineapple (about 1½  pineapples before trimming)
kosher salt
¼ cup water
¾ cup sugar
1½  teaspoons Aleppo pepper
2 tablespoons silver tequila
Juice of two limes (or to taste), plus zest of one of the limes (using a rasp)

KG note on pineapple: I had no problem finding already trimmed, ripe pineapple at my grocery, but if you are not so lucky and find only semi-ripe pineapple, apparently you can toss it with ½ teaspoon of the kosher salt and bake it at 450º in a glass baking dish for 1-2 minutes, or until pineapple is sweet and aromatic. Do not overbake.

Load the pineapple chunks with the water into a blender and purée until very smooth (at least 2 minutes). You should have about 4 cups of juice. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until sugar dissolves. Add salt to taste.

Pour the purée into a bowl or plastic container and cover tightly. Chill in refrigerator for at least two hours, or until very cold.

Process in an ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Chill in an airtight container in your freezer for 2-3 hours before serving.

Dulce de Leche (two methods)

Adapted from Epicurious.com

I served this as a dipping sauce with churros – the Mexican equivalent to doughnuts, but you can also stir some into your coffee, or drizzle it over ice cream, or spread it on toast. You may find yourself eating it straight with a spoon – that’s okay, too.

Makes 1¼-1½ cups

For the classic method:

4 cups milk
1¼ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large (3-4 quarts) heavy saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, and baking soda.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat enough to simmer the liquid, uncovered, for 1½ to 1¾ hours, until it thickens and caramelizes. For the first hour, you will need to stir only occasionally and make sure the mix doesn’t settle on the bottom. After that first hour, the milk will begin to caramelize more intensely, and you’ll need to stir more often, to avoid burning.

After 30 minutes...

After one hour...
After 90 minutes.
When the mixture is well caramelized, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Kitchen Goddess Recipe for Disaster: If you are making dulce de leche in the condensed milk method and asking someone – like your darling husband – to pour the water into the pan for the water bath, be sure to let them know that it goes into the larger, roasting pan and not the pie pan containing the milk. Because there’s no way to cook it down enough to get rid of all that extra water and you will end up with a small marital crisis on your hands and no way to get a picture of the final product unless you start over with another can of milk, which you might not have. Just saying.

Sweetened condensed milk method:

One 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk (not the same as plain evaporated milk, which has no added sugar)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Move one of the racks to the middle of the oven.

Pour the contents of the can of sweetened condensed milk into a 9-inch pie pan (deep-dish if you have one) and place it in a roasting pan with sides at least 2 inches deep. Cover the pie pan tightly with foil. Add enough hot water to the roasting pan to reach halfway up the pie plate.

Bake the milk in the middle of the oven for 1½ hours, checking the water level at the 45-minute mark and adding additional water if necessary. Check milk at the end of the 1½ hours – if it’s not thick and brown, replace the foil and cook another 15 minutes.

Once the milk is thick and brown, remove pie plate from the water bath and cool, uncovered. Makes about 1¼ cups.

Dulce de leche will keep for a month, refrigerated. You can also freeze it. Even better, make Dulce de Leche Ice Cream, from this epicurious.com recipe.

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!