Sunday, November 17, 2019

Third Time’s the Charm

What’s cooking? Three-Bean Soup with Lemony Dill Pesto






My brain is as good as it ever was – it just doesn’t offer same-day service. That’s a line I heard not long ago that resonated with me as I put together this post.

So... a year and a half ago, I was food shopping and spotted a pile of what the grocery store called Romano beans. I love hanging out in the produce aisles, and, while the beans looked vaguely familiar, I’d never heard of the name “Romano beans.” So I bought some, then looked around the internet for an interesting recipe using this “new” veggie. I found a nice soup, tested the recipe – and loved it. Made it again and took lots of photos. Then because of the time of year – like right now – I got caught up in the whirl of Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas activities and never posted it.

Last week, as I shopped, I once again came across a bin of these Romano beans, and remembered that lovely recipe. I remembered cooking the soup, so figured it must be on the blog somewhere. But no. Back at my desk, I rummaged around looking for the photos and found... not one, but two files of photos for this same recipe. And the second file I found was dated six months before the one I thought was the first file. Which means I’ve now come across Romano beans three times in the same grocery store and have three times determined to write about them. I’m reminded of another line that circulated recently among my friends: “I haven’t lost my mind – half of it just wandered off, and the other half went looking for it.”

The good news is that I’m finally passing on this truly marvelous soup. I made it last night, but the process was lots faster and easier because I just had to take notes – no photos!

Before I start telling you about Romano beans, I should say that if you can't find them, the recipe will work just as well with your basic string beans. And now, about the Romano beans. Here’s a photo of the ones I brought home just this week. Impressive size, yes? According to wikipedia, they’re also called “snap beans,” and are in the family of “common beans” – sort of the teenagers of the bean family, in that they’ve been harvested before the seed development phase, so the pods are tender enough to eat. Other youngsters in the family are your standard string beans and French green beans (a.k.a., haricots verts). Romanos look a lot like overdeveloped snow peas, but snow peas are..., well, part of the pea family. (In the same way that string beans and snap beans are the youth of the bean family, snow peas and sugar snap peas are the youth of the pea family.) And this is the end of my research into beans.

Because I hadn’t done this research in my previous dealings with this soup, I didn’t realize why the beans seemed vaguely familiar. But as I chopped the Romanos for my mise en place yesterday, I decided – for the first time – to try a taste of the raw bean. Like emerging from a time machine, I remembered that flavor from Saturday afternoons at my grandmother’s house, when we’d sit out on her screened porch and “snap” these beans into small enough pieces to be cooked the next day for Sunday lunch. She called them “snap beans,” and I never made the connection. The notoriously strong olfactory memory – stronger even than visual memory – carried me back to that screened porch through a single bite of the raw pod.


Three-Bean Soup with Dill Pesto

Adapted from Molly Baz at epicurious.com (April 2018)

What an amazing soup this is: low-fat, high-veggie, and soooo savory. Especially the garlic pieces, which cook into these magical mounds of mild and sweet softness. The most time-consuming part of this recipe is the chopping. Even so, the Kitchen Goddess – who is notorious for careful, precise chopping and therefore takes way more time than most – managed the entire process, including the pesto, here in 2 hours. Speaking of the pesto, I’d say it’s a very good soup without the pesto, but why stop short when the view is so good from the top?

Kitchen Goddess note about the beans: Once again, if you can’t find Romano beans, basic string beans will work just as well.

Serves 8

Ingredients
2 medium leeks, dark green parts of the stalks removed and discarded
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and separated
3 slices bacon, cut in ½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small fennel bulbs, chopped in ½-inch dice, fronds reserved for pesto
1 celery stalk, chopped in ½-inch dice (about ⅓-½ cup)
3 sprigs of fresh thyme (or a rounded teaspoon of dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon kosher salt
6 cups well-flavored chicken or vegetable broth
2 ½ cups frozen lima beans (or ¾ cup large, dried lima beans, soaked overnight)
1½ teaspoons Aleppo pepper (or ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes)
8 ounces Romano beans/snap beans, cut into 1" pieces
8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed, cut crosswise (small ones in half; large ones in thirds)
¼ cup crème fraîche, sour cream, or light sour cream
4 teaspoons lemon juice (from the lemon used in the pesto; see recipe below)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Garnish:
thick shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano
Lemony Dill Pesto (see recipe below)

Directions
For the mise en place*, quarter the leeks lengthwise, then cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces. Rinse the leeks in a fine-mesh strainer and pat dry with paper towels. Using the flat side of a chef’s knife, smash the garlic cloves. Set aside 1 large or 2 small cloves for the pesto.



Cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium heat for 8-9 minutes, until starting to crisp.

Add the 2 tablespoons of oil and all but the reserved clove(s) of the smashed garlic and cook, stirring often, for about 4 minutes, until the garlic is just beginning to turn golden.

Add the leeks, fennel, celery, thyme, bay leaf, and 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.


Add the lima beans, Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes), and the broth. Bring the soup to a simmer, then partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low, and gently simmer until the beans are al dente but not quite creamy, 20-25 minutes.

Add the Romano beans and the snap peas. Return the soup to a simmer and continue to cook about 15 minutes more, until the limas are creamy and the other beans are just cooked through.


While the soup is in this final 15-minute phase, make the pesto. (See below.)

Remove the soup from the heat and stir in crème fraîche/sour cream, black pepper, and 4 teaspoons of lemon juice. Stir well then taste and adjust the seasoning.

Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle with pesto, then top with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve with crusty toast and the remaining pesto alongside.

*I have harped on this before. Mise en place is French for “Get your shit together.” If you have the veggies and seasoning all chopped and measured and ready for the pot, you will not be cursing at yourself when you have to take the pot off the burner and let it cool down while you finish cutting up the damned fennel. Trust the Kitchen Goddess. Once you have your mise en place, you will dance through the recipe process like Fred Astaire. You might even have time for a glass of wine while you cook.




Lemony Dill Pesto


The bright flavors in this pesto offer the perfect finish to the creamy bean soup. The original recipe had no nuts in the pesto, but I thought it needed a little body. Here’s what it looked like without the nuts. It still tastes delicious, but... well, the KG likes the thicker texture of pesto with nuts. You should make it however you like.



Yield: 1½ cups

Ingredients
Fronds from 2 small fennel bulbs (can include some of the daintier stems)
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic (reserved from mise en place for the soup)
Small bunch dill, including thinner stems
1 cup pecans (or walnuts or pignoli nuts)
zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the fennel fronds with the reserved garlic, the dill, the lemon zest, and the pecans, until the mixture is well chopped and crumbly. With the motor running, slowly stream in ½ cup oil. Stop the motor to scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the ¾ teaspoon of salt and the 2 teaspoons of lemon juice. Process the pesto until well combined and relatively smooth. Transfer the pesto to a small bowl and set aside.




Saturday, November 2, 2019

Book-ish

What’s cooking? Zucchini Spirals with Mushrooms






I spent all day last Saturday at the Texas Book Fair, an annual event that takes over a sizeable portion of downtown Austin near the capital and draws upwards of 50,000 attendees.  I started my tour with barbecue king Aaron Franklin (of the legendary Franklin Barbecue), who talked about grilling steaks and his new cookbook, Franklin Steak. Next up, I heard Malcolm Gladwell interviewed about his latest book, Talking with Strangers; then I hotfooted it from one side of the fair to the other to hear Sean Brock, former chef at McCrady’s in Charleston and the Husk group of restaurants across the South, talk about his newest project in Nashville and his latest cookbook, South, as well as his passion for Southern/Appalachian cuisine.

My last stop was a conversation between two authors who are also copy editors: Mary Norris (Between You & Me and her newer book, Greek to Me), who is also a writer and copy editor for The New Yorker; and Benjamin Dreyer (Dreyer’s English), executive managing editor and copy chief for Random House. The topic of their talk was “Word Nerds: Famous Copy Editors on the Glories of Grammar Punctuation.”

I had thoughts that a session with that catchy title might not draw a single person, so I was determined to put at least one face (mine) into the audience. Imagine my surprise when, arriving a full 15 minutes before the start of said session, I learned that there were no seats left. Wait – not only were all the seats taken, but a fire marshall had posted himself outside the room because it was “at capacity,” with people sitting on tables and standing at the back. Amazing, right? Who knew that many people would care so much about punctuation? I considered leaving, but then the fire marshall got called away, so I sneaked into the back.

The conversation was about as riveting as you could imagine, with bits about the “Oxford comma,” writing tics (subconscious gaffes committed on the page by writers), and styles of punctuation and usage that determine a writer’s voice. I’ve written before about finding “my people” in a room of food writers or bridge players, but these were true “ word nerds,” and I felt included, happy, at home.

So what did I learn on my day at the Book Fair? Well,...

■ From Aaron Franklin, I learned that grass-fed steak always has a beefier flavor than grain-fed steak. Also that you should never cook a filet mignon on the grill: there’s not enough fat on it, and what’s there drips down onto the coals or gas burners, leaving the meat dry and tasteless. According to Franklin, the best way to cook a filet mignon is to cook it on the stovetop in a skillet with butter. This was big news to the Kitchen Goddess.

■ Gladwell spoke about his prevailing premise in this latest book: that humans “default to truth” in our communications with others. That is, that we tend to take at face value things other people tell us, even if we should know better. It’s a level of trust that con artists and cheats rely on. But in the modern world, we have no choice but to talk to strangers. To assume the best about another person is “the trait that has created modern society. ... the alternative – to abandon trust as a defense against predation and deception – is worse.”




■ Sean Brock has taken the past two years away from the restaurant business to investigate Southern cuisine. By his measure, the South covers an area equivalent to that of continental Europe, and has at least as many cuisines. Even within one state, the cuisine of, say, southern Virginia differs markedly from the cuisine of the Chesapeake Bay area. These microregions of cuisine have developed as influenced by the types of people who live there (natives, immigrants, Native Americans), the geography of the place, and the plants available in the area. His goal is to understand how these cuisines have developed and how they relate to each other. A food as simple as cornbread will vary widely from one community to the next because of the types of corn available, how it’s stored, and the cooking methods dominant in the area.

* * *


It will not surprise you that by the time I got home, the last thing I wanted to do was cook dinner. And fortunately, my prince was out of town on a golf trip. (Yes, the sport I hated most as a young mother because of the time it took is now a great gift for the time it takes. Not that I love my mate any less, but everyone needs a little alone time now and then.)

I didn’t want to cook, but I also didn’t want take-out. Hmmm... I stopped at the store on my way home and picked up these interesting veggie spirals I’ve been meaning to try, and a box of sliced mushrooms. That’s right – the Kitchen Goddess bought sliced mushrooms. Do as I say, not as I do. They’re not as fresh as if I’d sliced them myself, but when you’re really beat...

It was a perfectly wonderful meal, and embarrassingly simple given the Kitchen Goddess’s leanings. You have to be careful not to overcook the veggie spirals, but that’s easy if you just sample a piece occasionally. And some people will want their zucchini more al dente than others. That’s up to you, as is whether or not you add the chicken broth. I mostly did it for the Knorr flavor, and because I wanted a little liquid.




Zucchini Noodles and Mushrooms


Serves 2.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces crimini (a.k.a. Baby Bella) mushrooms, in ¼-inch slices
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 package (about 10 ounces) zucchini spirals (a.k.a zucchini noodles)
½ cup flavorful chicken broth, or ½ cup water with ½ teaspoon Knorr Seasoning Chicken Bouillon
Garlic salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Garnishes (optional): freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, chopped parsley



Directions
Heat the butter and oil together in a large, high-sided skillet, over high heat, until the butter foam begins to subside. Add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring, for about 4 minutes, until they begin to brown.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic. Cook 30 seconds, stirring, then add the zucchini spirals and continue stirring – gently, in a folding style, so as not to destroy the texture/shape of the squash – until the zucchini is al dente, another 3 minutes.

Pour the broth over the mixture and continue cooking about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and season to taste with salt/freshly ground black pepper, and serve. Garnish – if you want – with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or chopped parsley.

I served this to my husband a few nights later, and plated it with apple wedges and a nice slice of crusty bread toasted with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Outstanding.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Sunny Cookies for a Rainy Day

What’s cooking? Caramel-and-Potato Chip Cookies






It’s a gray day here in Jersey City. Only a couple of days past Labor Day, and it’s as if Mother Nature said to herself, “Well. That’s enough of summer.”  Overcast and intermittent drizzle all the day long. For those of us in the every-day-is-Saturday category, that makes it a great day for reading, relaxing, and indulging a bit.

I have just the thing for that indulgence, too. These cookies. And even though Labor Day is over, the gray days are not, so you might just have one any old time. I made the cookies on Saturday, as the finale to a dinner on the patio of our condo building. Turns out, the building has a couple of grills you can reserve – for an hour at a time – as well as the requisite tools. What a happy surprise for the Kitchen Goddess! Of course, I learned of this perk way too late in the season to make really good use of it, but now that it’s on my radar, next summer will be a whole new experience for my prince, who is the grillmeister.

Before we got married, he and I had both been living on our own. But once we’d tied the knot, we realized – okay, I realized – that with both of us working full-time, we needed a methodology for distributing domestic labor, if you know what I mean. So I developed a system based on the categories of inside vs outside. Inside was my domain; outside was his. So... cooking inside was my job; cooking outside was his. Garbage inside was my problem, but once it got to the kitchen door, it became his. Cars inside the house were my issue; cars outside were his. I took care of snow removal inside; he took care of it outside. You got the idea?

Which is how my hubby ended up as the grillmeister. And on Saturday, he and my older son grilled a delicious salmon fillet. (I’ll be posting it, but didn’t get around to the photos this time.) We served it with a sugar snap pea salad with buttermilk dressing (another dynamite recipe to come) and sweet potato fries. Dessert was vanilla ice cream and these cookies. What a combo: salty, sweet cookies with creamy, cold vanilla... whew! Even the grandchildren were impressed.



Caramel-and-Potato Chip Cookies

Adapted from The Vintage Baker (May 2018) , by Jessie Sheehan, as shown at epicurious.com

I don’t think I’d heard of the concept of including potato chips in a sweet dish, but with the caramel flavoring, it was a salted caramel treat in a form you could eat with your hands. Mmmm... The original recipe called for butterscotch chips, and you should feel free to use them instead of the caramel sauce. But I hit two grocery stores, and caramel sauce was the closest I could find. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t make a big difference.

To compensate for the difference between caramel (made with white sugar) and butterscotch (made with dark brown sugar), I substituted dark brown sugar for the original’s light brown sugar. Then I liked the results so much, I think I’ll just keep making them this way. You, of course, can make your own choice. I expect my dough was a bit more moist than the ones with butterscotch chips, but they baked up just fine, as you can see. And the caramel version might even produce a chewier, more evenly flavored cookie.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Ingredients

2½ cups [325 grams] all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ cup (180 grams) caramel sauce
Two 5-ounce bags (5-6 cups) kettle-style potato chips

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350°. Line two rimmed half-sheet baking pans with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, use a fork to stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt. (Or sift them together into the bowl. Either way, the goal is to aerate the flour.) Set the dry ingredients aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until thick, light, and glossy, 3 to 5 minutes, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and add the egg and yolk, one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and caramel sauce, mixing well to combine.

Add the dry ingredients all at once, stirring carefully by hand to get the dry ingredients lightly moistened. (This is a large batch of dough, so if you turn the mixer on before getting the wet mixture at least sort of combined with the dry, you can end up with flour all over the place. Trust the Kitchen Goddess on this point.)

Take a minute to crush the potato chips. The Kitchen Goddess prefers to do that in the chip bag, cutting a small hole in the top of the bag to release the air inside. She then uses a glass measuring cup or a large-bottomed drinking glass or even a rolling pin to turn the chips into tiny pieces – most less than ½ inch square.

Once the dough is evenly mixed, add 3 cups (about 105 grams) of the potato chips to the dough, and run the mixer on low to combine well.

Pour the remaining crushed chips into a small bowl. Using a cookie scoop or measuring spoon, scoop the dough into blobs (the original recipe calls them balls, but only someone with a very loose definition of balls would find that term acceptable) equal to 1½ tablespoons, then roll each blob in the bowl of leftover crushed chips. Place the chip-encrusted blobs onto one of the prepared baking sheets. The cookies will spread, so don’t try to manage more than 12 to a sheet.

Photo alert: This is fake news -- I wanted to show you how large the cookies are so you don't try
to fit more than 12 on a half-sheet. So these didn't just come out of the oven, ok?

Bake 10-12 minutes, rotating at the halfway point, until lightly browned. Remove the pan from the oven and, using a large spatula, press gently down on each cookie to slightly flatten them. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then move them to a baking rack to firm up.

The Kitchen Goddess recommends filling one pan with dough blobs, then filling the second while the first is baking. That way, the first pan is then available for the final 12

blobs while the second pan is in the oven.

These cookies are swoon-worthy while they’re still warm, but still delicious – and reasonably moist – if kept in an airtight container on the counter for up to 3 days.

Kitchen Goddess note on using butterscotch chips instead of caramel sauce: If you like butterscotch better than caramel – or just want to try the other version – you’ll need to make the following adjustments:
● Use 1 cup (180 grams) butterscotch chips, and stir them into the dry ingredients at the beginning.
● Use light brown sugar instead of dark.
● Watch the baking time. The caramel sauce version – because it is so moist – needed to bake for about 12 minutes total. The butterscotch chip version will likely only need 9-10 minutes.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Tripping the Light Clam Chowder

What’s cooking? Rhode Island Clam Chowder





One of the few soups I associate with summer is clam chowder. That’s because the clams and other seafood I find at my favorite farmers’ market are so fresh and sweet tasting, the experience spoils me for the rest of the year. So I feast all summer on fresh clams and scallops, as well as the tuna, flounder, fluke, etc. I can get at that stand. Once I’m back in Texas, I focus on salmon, Gulf shrimp, and the other seafood from my local grocer. But I only buy clams and scallops from Jimmy.



The Kitchen Goddess loves a food expert, and Jim LaPrete, owner of Shore Catch, is the most knowledgeable guy I’ve met when it comes to seafood. He sells his fish fresh from the dock on Long Beach Island on the Jersey shore, and in his words, “The fish was swimming in the ocean two days before I get it to market.” Which means they stay fresh for way longer than whatever you get at a grocery store. (I can keep clams and scallops unfrozen – but in a cold part of the fridge – for a week, with no off effects.) He is ably assisted by Cindy, who is kind enough to store my order in the giant freezer so that I can go off to coffee without worrying about whether my fish will stay cold enough. A Kitchen Goddess’s BFF.

Clockwise from top left: swordfish, cod, squid, scallops.

Jimmy's clams and oysters. Yum!

Kitchen Goddess note about safety: My hubby occasionally worries about buying shellfish in the months without an “R.” That was the conventional wisdom in the days before rampant refrigeration and commercial fishing. Today, this warning applies only to oysters and shellfish you might harvest on your own. On modern commercial fishing boats, refrigeration is de rigeur; and commercial oyster farms employ scientific methods to control spawning, so that commercially sold oysters stay safe year-round.

In years past, the Kitchen Goddess has made all manner of seafood chowders. Tomatoey Beach Chowder made with canned chopped clams, chunky Salmon Chowder, and creamy Clam and Corn Chowder. This summer, she learned of a new variation, one that originated along the southern coast of Rhode Island, where it’s a local delicacy. What makes it different? No tomatoes, no cream. Just the clams, a few veggies, and a simple broth with some wine. As you know, the Goddess loves adding wine to a soup.

According to wikipedia, the term “chowder” has no clear etymology. One possible source is the French word chaudron, for “cauldron,” which was the type of cooking or heating vessel in which the first chowders were probably made. From the cauldrons of coastal France, the dish migrated to kitchens across the English Channel in Cornwall, and eventually to the U.S., where it has become ubiquitous in almost every coastal area east or west.

Writing about this version of chowder, Sam Sifton of The New York Times said, “Eating Rhode Island clam chowder recalls the feeling of pulling into Block Island after a long day at sea, tired and scented with salt spray.” The Kitchen Goddess has been to gorgeously rugged Block Island, and so can testify to the windy, salty atmosphere; but she’s not a boat person, so that “long day at sea” is not a familiar sensation. On the other hand, the KG will say that this light, clear-broth chowder seems like the truest version of the dish. It’s the seafood-lover’s clam chowder.



Rhode Island Clam Chowder

Adapted from Daniel Gritzer of Serious Eats (seriouseats.com)

Serves 4.

Ingredients

2 pounds live littleneck clams*
Kosher salt
3 thick-cut slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 4 ounces)
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium carrots, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups broth, to include one of these:
– 8 ounces bottled clam broth + 3 cups water + 2 teaspoons Knorr chicken bouillon powder, OR
– 8 ounces bottled clam broth + 3 cups good quality store-bought chicken stock, OR
– 4 cups water + 3 teaspoons Knorr chicken bouillon powder, OR
– 4 cups good quality store-bought chicken stock
2 medium sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 bay leaf
12 ounces small red potatoes, quartered, or medium-sized fingerling potatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, choppped


*The Kitchen Goddess prefers littlenecks because they’re more tender, but it’s always acceptable to use cherrystone clams instead of littlenecks. Keep in mind that cherrystones are larger, so you need fewer, but they’ll take a bit more time to cook. You may want to roughly chop the cooked cherrystones before adding them to the finished soup. If you can’t get fresh clams in either size, try whole canned clams. Recommended brands include Bar Harbor, Cento, and Chicken of the Sea. Two cans should do it for this recipe. If you use canned clams, use bottled clam broth for at least half the broth.

Directions

Scrub the clams well under running water and place them in a large bowl with cold, salty water to cover for 20-30 minutes. After soaking the clams, lift them by hand out of the water – in order to avoid the sand which will likely have accumulated in the bottom of the bowl – and rinse. (See below for more elaborate instructions on buying/storing/preparing your clams.) Discard soaking water.


Add the olive oil to a large stew pot with the chopped bacon and cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes.

Stir in the wine, and bring it to a simmer, cooking about 4 minutes, or until any alcohol smell has cooked off. Add the stock mixture, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.

Gently ladle the clams into the simmering broth. Cover and return the broth to a simmer. Cook until the clams begin to open, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the clams to a large heatproof (glass, ceramic, or stainless) bowl once most of the clams have opened. (You can leave ones that haven’t opened in the broth a bit longer, to see if they’ll open, but do not use any that stay closed after 6-7 minutes. Cover the bowl while you finish the soup.



Add the potatoes to the broth and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. If you want, you may use this time to remove the clam meat from the shells and discard the shells. (The Kitchen Goddess doesn’t do that part – she likes the look of the shells in the serving bowl as well as that Popeye the Sailor feel she gets from scraping the clams out of the shells with her teeth. She’s funny that way.)

Serve the soup in bowls, along with the clams with/without shells. Garnish with parsley.

The Kitchen Goddess’s Guide to Buying/Storing Fresh Clams

Buy from a reputable seller. Best is to find someone who can tell you where the clams came from and when they were harvested. (By law, they have to be labeled when shipped out of state.)

Buy them alive. They should be closed, but if any are open slightly, give the shell a light tap; if the clam is still alive, it will shut immediately.

Store clams in a bowl with a damp towel or washcloth draped over them – in the coldest part of your fridge. NO water, NO plastic wrap – they need to breathe. Good fresh clams can keep this way in the coldest part of your fridge for 2-3 days. (I was told by a reputable fishmonger that they can keep fresh clams alive on ice for up to 2 weeks, but I’m not willing to try that for myself.)

Handle them properly. When you’re ready to cook them, scrub the outer shells under running water with a brush or plastic mesh scrubbing pad to remove residual sand. Then soak the clams in well-salted cold water for about 30 minutes – certainly less than an hour. This salt-water soak will encourage the clams to expel any sand inside. Then when you’re ready to add them to the pot, lift them out of the bowl using your hands to keep from disturbing the water, so that the sand the clams have expelled will remain in the bottom of the bowl.

Finally, don’t eat any clams that don’t open in the cooking process. Even in a restaurant.

KG Post Script: The KG is always finding little tidbits she wants to pass on. This time, it was in the final proofreading stage, so here goes... According to LEAFtv.com, clams  farm-raised or wild caught  are one of the best choices of seafood. (1) Among the sources of sea protein, clams have one of the lowest-known mercury levels. (2) Clams can be raised without polluting or damaging the environment, so they’re an ocean-friendly choice. And because clams are filter-feeders, they improve the quality of the water where they are farmed without compromising their quality.




Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Summer of Grandchildren

What’s cooking? Ham-Jam Sandwiches and Blueberry-Beaujolais Jam






It must be something in the water or the air, or maybe it’s just the age my friends and I have reached, but the bottom line is an explosion of grandchildren. Just this summer, my cousin and four of my friends have either become new grandmothers or have expanded their collections. Another friend has two of her three children bringing tiny people into the world this fall, and if I include last summer in the accounting, I can add a sister-in-law and three more friends into the club.

To the new Dee-Dees/Memaws/Nonas or whatever they’re calling themselves, I’ve passed along a copy of Anna Quindlen’s recently released book of essays, Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting (Random House 2019). As a writer, Quindlen has long been a favorite of mine, and this collection of inspiring thoughts has not disappointed me.

When that first grandchild arrived, I had only one issue: what will she call me? It will not surprise you that on this subject, I have fairly strong feelings. Many of my friends and family say they’ll let the little darlings come up with something on their own. And many of the resulting monikers are admittedly darling. (My brother’s children called their maternal grandfather “Honey” because that’s what they heard his wife call him.) I imagine that’s how my own grandmothers – “Mamo” and “Gam” – got their nicknames, as mishmashed versions of “Grandmother.”

But I prefer not to leave these things to chance. How do I know it’ll be something I like? And how will their mothers and fathers refer to me with the children if I don’t already have a name? These questions haunted me. It’s probably also the influence of my mother, who, once I became an adult, complained that she was tired of being “Mama,” and said my brother and I should call her something with more flair, like “Mumzy.” Which is what I called her ever after and what my children called her.

So I tested quite a few handles on my own before arriving at “Lita.” It’s short for “abuelita,” which in Spanish is an affectionate term for “grandmother.” Of course, my grandchildren couldn’t pronounce it early – a fact that my husband, who’s in the “whatever” camp, was kind enough to point out – but I was happy to be “Ita” until they could manage the “L.” I suggested they call him “Grumpy,” but he wouldn’t go along.

And now the mints I carry for them in my purse are known as “Lita mints,” and the cookies I send on Halloween, Christmas, etc. are “Lita cookies.” So everyone is happy.

* * *

One of my grandchildren’s favorite lunches is PB&J. And a few adults I know will occasionally indulge themselves in that. Now you can have the grown-up version of PB&J: the Ham-Jam Sandwich.

I spotted it in a recent issue of Food & Wine Magazine, and couldn’t wait to make it. Both the sandwich and the jam are from genius chef Gabriel Rucker, a two-time James Beard Award winner, a 2007 Food & Wine Best New Chef, and co-owner of Le Pigeon, Little Bird Bistro, and Canard in Portland, Oregon.

As in the classic PB&J, this sandwich is a perfect symphony of flavors – the high notes of sweet blueberry jam, the smoky, meaty low notes of the salty prosciutto, and the first two mellowed out with the cool creaminess of the goat cheese/butter combo. A truly sophisticated take on a truly simple treat. And you can play with the combo even more: serve thin slices as hors d’oeuvres, or pile the ingredients on crostini (goat cheese butter on bottom, prosciutto on next, dollop of jam on top).

I’ve included the recipe for the Blueberry-Beaujolais Jam because that’s what Chef Rucker uses; so, of course, that’s what the Kitchen Goddess used. But you can substitute whatever good blueberry jam you like best. I will say that if you aren’t averse to jam-making, this one is outstanding (note the full bottle of wine in the mix). If you don’t want to end up with 7 jars of the stuff, just cut the recipe in half and drink half of the wine.

Chef Rucker designed these sandwiches to be part of a summer picnic. The Kitchen Goddess served them to her prince, with a salad, for a light summer dinner, and he was mighty pleased.


Ham-Jam Sandwiches

Adapted from Chef Gabriel Rucker in Food & Wine, July 2019.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

3 ounces goat cheese, softened
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) of unsalted butter, softened
1 20-inch, good-quality baguette
5-6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
⅓-½ cup Blueberry-Beaujolais Jam (or any high-quality store-bought blueberry jam)

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the goat cheese and butter until the mixture is smooth. (You can make this mixture earlier in the day, and refrigerate it; but be sure to set it out for at least a half-hour, to bring it to room temperature, before assembling the sandwiches. Alternatively, you can leave it out, covered, for up to 2 hours before serving.)



Slice the bread in half lengthwise, and spread the jam liberally on one side. On the other side, spread the goat cheese butter and drape the ribbons of prosciutto on top. Season with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper if you like. Fold the baguette halves together and cut into even pieces to serve.





This jam is wonderfully fruity without being overly sweet. The Gamay-based wine adds a bright acidity to the fat, ripe summer blueberries. This sweet-tart jam also makes a fun addition to a cheese and charcuterie board.


Blueberry-Beaujolais Jam

Adapted from Chef Gabriel Rucker in Food & Wine, July 2019.

Yield: Makes 7 cups



Ingredients

1 (750-milliliter) bottle of Beaujolais wine
6 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
8 cups fresh blueberries (about 2½ pounds)
5 tablespoons (or 1 packet) powdered fruit pectin (I used RealFruit Classic Pectin)














Kitchen Goddess note on pectin: Pectin is a substance – a polysaccharide, if you must know, but the KG’s mind is already swimming with this tiny walk past a chemistry book – whose principal use is as a gelling agent, thickening agent, and stabilizer in food. Pears, apples, guavas, quince, plums, gooseberries, and citrus skins contain large amounts of pectin, though in declining levels as the fruit ripens. So if you’re making jam or jelly from any of these fruits, you don’t need to add pectin to get the mixture to gel.


Blueberries, on the other hand, have almost no pectin, so you must add commercial pectin to get your jam to set. (The tiny amount of zest in this recipe won’t do the trick.) Pectin is sold in liquid and powdered form, but they’re not exactly interchangeable, so if you’re making this jam, get some powdered pectin. I bought a plastic tub of it; it also comes in packets that weigh 1.6 ounces if you buy Ball RealFruit, or 1.75 ounces if you buy Sure-Jell. I don’t think the difference in weight can make a real difference in your jam. If you buy the tub, use 5 tablespoons, which is somewhere in between.






Directions

Using a large French oven (mine was a 5-quart Le Creuset) over medium-high heat, bring the wine, sugar, lemon zest, and cardamom to a boil. Maintain a low boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon for about 30 minutes. The mixture should reduce by about half.

Add the blueberries, and return the mixture to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to burst, which will take 5-7 minutes. Stash a saucer or other small plate in your freezer, for testing the jam. Then stir the pectin into the mix and continue to cook, stirring often, for 20-25 minutes, at which point the jam should be thick and syrupy. When you think it’s about done, turn off the heat.

Spoon a teaspoon of jam onto the plate from the freezer and let it sit for a couple of minutes. Gently prod the puddle of jam with your finger. If you can see a sort of wrinkled skin on the puddle, and the jam on the plate seems to be no longer runny, it should be done. If not, return the pot of jam to a boil for a few more minutes.




Once the jam is done, add the lemon juice and move the pan off the burner.

Option 1: If you aren’t planning to preserve the jam, let it cool for about an hour, until it reaches room temperature. Ladle the jam into jars or other airtight containers and chill at least overnight.

Option 2: If you are planning to preserve the jam, don’t bother to let it cool. Just load it into your prepared jars and process it. If you don’t know processing for preserves, check out my link HERE. The best thing about preserving jams and chutneys and jellies and whatever is that they will last for months – well over a year, in fact, without refrigeration. It’s what the Kitchen Goddess gives her friends for Christmas or hostess gifts or just about any occasion.




Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Toasts to Summer!

What’s cooking? Morel Mushroom Toasts with Parsley Salad and Flatbread Toasts with Fava Beans, Cucumbers, and Burrata







It’s July, and the Kitchen Goddess has been cooking like “a house afire,” as my Yankee dad used to say. So much so that I’ve neglected to write. Oh, yes, I’ve started pieces on all these delectable dishes, but can’t seem to get finished.

What have I been doing, you ask? Well, my prince and I have discovered that if you live in a place for 10 years, things start to go wrong, even in a house that was new when you moved in. This spring in Texas, for instance, those “things” were the ice maker, the sprinkler system, and the doorbell. Not everything needed a complete overhaul; the sprinkler system, for one, had just gotten a little out of whack and needed adjusting. The doorbell worked, sort of, but the sound was a thunk, not a ding-dong, and we could only hear someone ringing if we were standing right next to the box. The icemaker was in complete meltdown, so to speak, and has to be replaced.

So we fixed what we could and left for the summer in New Jersey, where we found:

■ a wobbly toilet paper holder that finally detached itself from the wall entirely;
■ two bathroom light fixtures that over the last two years slowly, excruciatingly, stopped working light by light, so that by this summer, we could barely see ourselves in the mirror;
■ hot water pressure in the kitchen sink that barely qualifies as more than a dribble;
■ an interior door handle that mysteriously has become so loose it threatens to lock some unfortunate soul into the guest bedroom; and
■ a dead printer, which failed to recover from being dropped on the floor during our Christmas visit.

These are not the sorts of problems that either of us enjoys addressing. One of us took the time to create a spreadsheet of the issues, with boxes for noting progress and next steps, and posted it on the refrigerator door; the other of us has studiously ignored that paper, relying on the creator of said spreadsheet to remind/nag him as to progress. It’s not a methodology I can recommend, but eventually, things get done. I’m hoping this gives us a reprieve for the next 10 years, but who knows.

So with those items mostly taken care of, I can get back to telling you about the exciting dishes the Kitchen Goddess has been preparing. Today’s recipes both feature Toast. Not the kind that goes with your eggs or your BLT or even a glass of champagne – although I can see toasting to these toasts with some bubbly. Both are amazingly simple preparations that can serve as lunch on their own, or a light summer dinner when accompanied by a hearty salad and a nice chilled glass of dry rosé or a New Zealand sauvignon blanc. And if you slice the bread into smaller pieces, either recipe can work well as an appetizer.

As you’ll see, both assemblages are remarkably flexible. Just don’t skip the parsley salad on the morels.




Morel Mushroom Toasts with Parsley Salad

Adapted from The Tasting Table (tastingtable.com), May 2014

This whole thing started when the Kitchen Goddess stumbled across some fresh morels at her fabulous farmers’ market. If you can’t easily find morels, do not panic. The best substitutes are probably porcini or hen-of-the-woods, or really any variety of wild mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, maitake, etc.). Morels have a very woodsy, earthy flavor, which you won’t get with criminis, portabellas, or white button mushrooms; so avoid those.




Kitchen Goddess note: If you are lucky enough to find fresh morels, choose ones that are fresh, firm, and dry. Generally speaking, the larger ones have a tendency toward sponginess and rot; but if you find large ones in good shape, go for them. Inspect morels for dirt and debris before you begin to cook, and clean them off using a dry pastry brush.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

For the mushroom saute:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced (about ¼ cup)
1 fresh bay leaf ( or 2 small dried bay leaves)
½ pound morels, cleaned, trimmed and sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
½ cup crème fraîche (easy substitutions include heavy cream, sour cream, or plain 2% yogurt)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or ¼ teaspoon dried thyme)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the salad:
1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 teaspoons chopped chives
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon olive oil

For the bread:
1 medium whole wheat baguette (or whole wheat sourdough), sliced horizontally in half
1 clove garlic

Directions

In a large skillet at medium temperature, heat together the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the butter. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 2-3 minutes.

Add the bay leaf and the morels. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 7-8 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender. (This timing may change with other mushroom types, so you’ll have to judge for yourself. Mostly, you just want the mushrooms to be tender.)

Stir in the crème fraîche until it’s well combined with the mushroom mix, and adjust the heat if necessary to keep it from burning. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes more, to let the flavors come together.

Stir in the thyme and lemon zest and remove the skillet from heat. Season the mushroom mixture with salt and pepper.



In a small mixing bowl, toss the parsley, chives, lemon juice, and Aleppo pepper with the teaspoon of olive oil.

Toast the bread lightly under the broiler, and cut the garlic clove in half. Rub the cut side of the garlic clove on the warm toasts to scent them. Spoon the mushroom mixture over the toasts and slice in appropriately sized pieces. Top with parsley salad. Serve.

* * *


Flatbread Toasts with Fava Beans, Cucumbers, and Burrata

Adapted from Dave Muller & Lana Porcello in Bon Appétit, April 2016

Yes, fava beans take a while to make ready for cooking, but that’s never been an issue for the Kitchen Goddess, who dearly loves them. If you don’t want to use fava beans, by all means make this toast with fresh or frozen lima beans, or fresh or frozen edamame. Cooking times and quantities are the same as for favas.


To process fava beans (Click here to see more details with more photos):
Shuck the beans, discarding the pods. Bring a large saucepan (or soup pot, depending on how many beans you have) of salted water to a boil. Add the shucked beans and cook 1 minute once the water has returned to a boil. This will set the green color and loosen the skins. Drain the beans in a colander, then plunge them into an ice water bath for 1-2 minutes to stop the cooking.
Drain them from the ice bath and, using a paring knife or fingernail, pierce the outer skin of each bean and gently squeeze it to slip off the skin; discard the skins. Use them immediately or refrigerate for 1-2 days in a covered bowl, or blot dry then pack into a zip-top storage bag for freezing, first removing as much air as possible from the bag.

Yields 8 servings.

Ingredients

For the topping:
2 cups shelled fava beans (you’ll need about 2 pounds of pods), or limas or edamame
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium Persian cucumbers or 1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

For the assembly:
1 large naan bread (preferably whole wheat) or 1 small whole wheat baguette
2 8-ounce burrata balls or soft mozzarella, drained
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
Basil leaves, sliced in chiffonade, or mint leaves, roughly chopped (optional)
Flaky sea salt and pepper

Directions

Bring a medium saucepan of well-salted water (1-2 tablespoons per quart of water) to a boil. Add the beans (shelled and skinned) and bring the water back to a boil. Cook 4 minutes, until the beans are tender, then remove to an ice water bath.

Combine the cucumber slices with the vinegar in a small bowl and set aside for 10-12 minutes.

While the cucumbers soak, combine half the beans in a small mixing bowl with the lemon juice, olive oil, and pepper. Using a fork or other mashing instrument (the Kitchen Goddess used a small measuring cup), mash the beans enough to make a rough paste. Stir in the remaining beans and season to taste with salt and pepper.


If you are using naan bread, toast according to package instructions. If using baguette, slice it horizontally and toast lightly
under a broiler.

Remove the cucumbers from the vinegar and discard the vinegar. Tear the burrata/mozzarella into pieces and spread it along the bread. Pile the bean mixture evenly on top, and scatter the
cucumbers over the bean mixture. Sprinkle with basil/mint and toasted sesame seeds, then dust lightly with flaky sea salt and pepper. Slice the bread into appropriately sized pieces, and serve.