Archive for December, 2011

From Dish Danielle:

‘Tis the season for festive menus and cozy recipes. For our last round of Whisk & Ladle suppers, we decided to try our hand at a Pear & Chestnut Soup. We’d made Pear soup before… and we’d made chestnut soup as well, but had never combined the two. This, my dear dishes, is a culinary match made in heaven.

4 large leeks, tops removed, sliced and rinsed clean
3-4 tbsp butter
4 pears, peeled, cored, and diced
13oz peeled and cooked chestnuts (Trader Joe’s carries them ready to go!)
6c veggie stock (thereabouts)
1 ½-2c heavy cream
more salt

Place butter and trimmed leeks in large stockpot over med-low heat. Once leeks are soft and translucent, toss pears in and stir. Add just enough stock to cover the pears and allow to simmer for 20mins. Stir every so.

Chop up chestnuts and add to the pot. Add more stock — enough to submerge chestnuts. Let simmer for an hour or so, gently stirring here & there.

Add stock incrementally as it reduces. Add salt & pepper as well. Pour in remaining stock and heavy cream. Puree with hand blender or food processor.

Taste and season as you like. I added 1 ½c of water at the very end — after buzzing, to thin it out a bit, but this is up to you!

As you can see this soup is pretty dang easy, and I’m telling you our guests were raving. Several people have asked for the recipe since the dinners, so here it is! I am eager to try some alternate pear/chestnut formats so if you have some ideas, leave a comment and let this Dish know!

Happy 2012 y’all.

(Photographs provided by Frank J Florio, this Dish’s Dad!)

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From Dish Gwen:

This time of year all I want to eat is hot soup and buttered bread. It’s cold out and there’s something about a steamy bowl of soup that makes winter time feel right. My son is 10 months old and I want to share this experience with him, but chunky chicken soup and beef stew are a little bit out of his league still (even though he does have an impressive 7 teeth already).

Butternut squash makes a perfect soup that both my son and I can enjoy. Plus it’s amazingly quick and easy to make, and it’s a vegan and vegetarian soup with a whole lot of flavor. Sounds too good to be true but it’s really kind of a miracle meal.

Butternut Squash Puree
1 whole butternut squash, peeled and chopped into large cubes
4 cloves garlic, chopped loosely
½ cup chopped white onion
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small dried hot pepper (or 1 tsp red pepper flake – my baby can handle a little spice but feel free to leave it out if you’re worried about it)
2-3 quarts of water

In a large pot, sizzle the garlic and onion with olive oil on medium/high heat until they begin to brown. Add in the squash, salt, and red pepper, toss everything together, and cook the squash for 2-3 minutes until it browns a bit. Add enough water to the pot to cover the squash completely, then cover and bring the mixture to a boil. Allow it to boil for a couple of minutes until the squash is soft enough to stab with a spoon.

Turn off the heat and carefully ladle the mixture into your blender. You may have to do this in two parts if your blender is too small to hold everything at once. Puree the mixture until it is a smooth creamy soup, then empty it back into the pot and stir the batches together (if you had to divide it up). Serve in bowls with a dollop of sour cream or plain, and make sure it’s nice and cool before you feed it to your baby.

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From Dish Erin:

“I don’t know what to say, except it’s Christmas and we’re all in misery.”

That’s the inimitable Ellen Griswold. It’s one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies of all time, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. It’s also part of the reason Dish Rachelle and I were cooking up a storm last night at our annual pre-holiday get together. Every year around this time, we grab our boys, our kitchen toys, and drink lots of wine while we cook up a feast in an attempt to de-stress from all the holiday craziness.

When I entertain guests, I like to cook something that’s simple to prep and cooks up fast, like pasta or shrimp. This dish has a lot of ingredients, but it’s relatively stress free, so it’s the perfect meal for guests or a weeknight meal–or both!

To brine shrimp:
1.5 lbs peeled and cleaned shrimp
4 cloves of garlic, minced and divided in half
A big ‘ol handful of parlsey, chopped roughly and divided in half
White wine

For grits:
1/2 cup quick cooking grits or polenta (not instant)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

To prepare shrimp:
2-3 slices of pancetta or bacon, diced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon paprika
A few shakes of cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons butter
2 scallions, diced (white + green parts)

Open a bottle of white wine. Have a glass.

OK, now: Place shrimp in bag with half the garlic, half the parsley, and a generous 2-3 tablespoons of kosher salt. Throw in a few splashes of your wine for good measure. Fill bag with very cold water to cover shrimp. Set aside and let shrimp brine for about 20 minutes.

Make grits according to package directions. It will take about 10-12 minutes to cook, so it can simmer while the shrimp cooks.

In a sautee pan over medium heat, cook pancetta until it’s rendered and starting to crisp up. Remove from pan but leave heat on.

Add remaining garlic and stir until fragrant. Empty most of the brine from the bag and add shrimp to pan (you want a little bit of juice in there). Cook for about 2 minutes until shrimp begin to turn pink. Add the dried spices and stir to coat.

Make a “well” in the middle of the pan and add the tomato paste, a few more splashes of wine, and the Worcestershire sauce and stir to incorporate. Then stir everything together to coat the shrimp and add the pancetta back to the pan.

Add the butter to the pan, stir again to coat, sprinkle with parsley and scallions and turn off heat.

Add the cheese to the grits and stir.

Plate grits, then top with shrimp and a bit of sauce. Serve with a crusty piece of bread and a salad. Shown here: arugula, pears and pomegranate seeds with a balsamic and fig vinaigrette.

Keep drinking your wine and reminding yourself that it’s the holidays, and we’re all in misery, but if you have good friends nearby, it’s all good.


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From Dish Nicole:

The holidays are in full effect and my kitchen has been churning out sweet treats and savory dishes nonstop. Recently my boyfriend and I had a housewarming party and we wanted to plan a menu that was easy to make and easy to eat while socializing. We decided to take a cue from Zeke’s grandmother who has made hosting and cooking an art form. Zeke’s grandmother (Jeri Laber) and her pal published a cookbook called Cooking for Carefree Weekends in 1974.

This cookbook was created for the sole purpose of making great food that isn’t too demanding of the host so s/he can enjoy visiting with guests rather than slaving away in the kitchen. Zeke knew right away that he wanted us to make the sweet and sour meatball recipe, a childhood favorite. After a previous attempt, we were informed that although the recipe in the book calls for either fresh ginger or a dozen ginger snaps crushed up, the only real way to make these meatballs is to add the ginger snaps. So here is what you need:

For the Sauce:
4 cups beef broth
1 medium onion, diced
2 tbs flour
4 tbs butter
A dozen ginger snaps crushed
½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup currants
1/3 cup red wine vinegar, juice or wine (I use vinegar)
The juice and zest of one lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

For the meatballs:
3 lbs ground beef
2 eggs
½ cup bread crumbs
1 medium onion finely diced
Several generous pours of Worcestershire and Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper

To start, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is preheating, melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Once melted, add in the onion and cook until it starts to soften. Next add in the flour and gradually pour in the beef broth and stir until dissolved. Keep stirring over low heat and the sauce will start to thicken. Add the rest of the ingredients: ginger snaps, brown sugar, currants, vinegar, lemon juice & zest, and salt and pepper as needed. Turn the heat to low and stir occasionally while making the meatballs. The recipe says you can add more brown sugar or vinegar to get to the proper balance of sweet and sour at this point.

For the meatball, you will need a large bowl and 2 greased baking pans. Knead all of the ingredients together in the bowl until everything is mixed evenly. Start rolling the meatballs by hand into the size of walnuts. Once the meatballs are all made, place on the greased pans and cook in the preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until they are cooked through. Transfer the cooked meatballs into the sauce and cook them for an additional 20 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally.

The best part about these meatballs is that once they are made you can serve them a number of different ways. For our party we served them as-is, for more of a casual vibe. The cookbook recommends serving them over buttered egg noodles for a complete meal. Jeri and Molly sure knew what they were doing when they added this recipe to the book. It has withstood the test of time and has made many of our guests very happy.
Happy Holidays!

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From Dish Rachelle:

Hanukkah’s coming up next week. My family has some wonderful candle-lighting traditions – my Dad puts a napkin on his head to say the prayers (dubbed a “napkina”), we all hug and kiss after the candles are lit, and everyone points to me when we recite the words “ner SHEL hanukkah”. Though we pass around hanukkah gelt and give the dreidal a perfunctory spin, I don’t remember ever making latkes together. The Boy’s family, however, has an ironclad latke tradition. Every year, the week before Christmas, family and friends gather at his aunt’s house in the Hudson Valley for a latke party, complete with latkes for all types: those who eat onions and those who don’t, and latkes for vegans who don’t eat eggs. There’s some friendly competition over who makes the best ones, and the night ends with a communal candle lighting ceremony.

Given that we’re getting married in a little over a month, I thought it was high time that my Spicy Side shared his latke making secrets, which I’m passing along to readers of SLD.

A note on the recipe: like most family recipes, Jewish ones tend to be unspecific: add a little bit of this and a little bit of that. This one is no different. Latkes are not an exact science – nor are potatoes very sensitive – so feel free to tweak and experiment.

This recipe makes 9 latkes: double (or triple) according to the size of your latke party.

3 baking potatoes
½ medium yellow or white onion
2 eggs
¼ cup matzoh meal

In a food processor – or by hand if you’re feeling martyrish – grate your potatoes and onion. Mix them together in a large bowl, and then crack 2 eggs over the mixture and stir until white and yolks are combined. There should be enough liquid in the bowl so that when you push the potatoes and onions to the side, you’ll see a small pool. Sprinkle the matzoh meal over and stir in. Season with pepper – reserve salt until the end so the potatoes will crisp up in the frying pan – and let sit, covered, for about 15 minutes, so that the matzoh meal softens.

It’s traditional to serve latkes with something sweet, and the Boy and I did a stovetop “baked” apple: we chopped two apples into large cubes, leaving the skin on one of them, and then let them simmer, covered, with some apple cider in a small saucepan until they were almost carmelized.

Once your latke mix is ready, fill a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan with about a ¼ inch of vegetable oil and let it get hot. Form palm-sized latkes with your hands, and drop them in the pan a few at a time, so that they have room to breathe. We started with a tester, which became a snack as we finished frying the latkes.

Cook the latkes on one side, until the edges start to brown, then flip. If your latkes are cooking too quickly and burning, adjust the temperature, and if you run out of oil, add more. When they reach that golden, mouthwatering, color, they’re finished.

Have a landing tray covered with paper towel ready, and sprinkle both sides with salt immediately after removing them from heat.

We served our latkes with apples, as well as sauteed brussels sprouts and braised red cabbage (another Hebraic favorite). Because vegetables TOTALLY counterbalance having fried food for dinner.

Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

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From Dish Jodi:

I missed last month’s post because of a quick last minute trip to Panama City. My blonde, blue-eyed husband is half-Panamanian. His mother moved to the US as a child, and he still has tons of cousins, aunts, uncles and once, twice, three times-removed family members there. Everyone I met was related in some way. Connie Fidanque, a cousin, also has blue eyes and light hair, and was introduced to me as the best cook and baker in the country. My mother-in-law made sure I left with a copy of “Ami Manera – Recitas para mi Familia y Amigos”, the beautiful cookbook Connie’s children published for her.

As everyone — knowing my love of baking — made sure to tell me, this chocolate cake is famous. Always the hottest raffle item at charity functions and requested for every event. And man, I can see why. Not too sweet, it’s one of the richest chocolate cakes I’ve ever eaten. While it’s not really a “panamanian” food (but we head back soon, so stay tuned for some of those), I had to try this famous cake. And with holiday party season upon us, I could bring it to a party and not have to eat it all ourselves. Translated from Spanish, here ya go:

For the Cake:
8 oz Butter, at room temperature
2 Cups Sugar
6 eggs
2 1/2 C Flour
1/2 C Cocoa
4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 C milk
2 tsp vanilla

For the Frosting:
16 oz Butter, at room temperature
2 Ib powdered sugar
4 heaping tbsps of instant coffee diluted in 2/3 cup of water
2 C cocoa

For the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs, one by one until combined. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, alternating with the milk and vanilla. Pour into three greased and floured 9″ cake tins. bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool before unmolding the layers.

For the frosting:
With a mixer, cream the butter for a minute or so, and slowly add powdered sugar alternately with coffee. Add the cocoa and beat at high speed for about 5 minutes more.

To assemble:
Slice the cake layers in half to make four layers. Put the bottom layer on your cake (I like to put wax paper squares underneath, frost it, then slide them out, leaving a clean plate!) and put a big glop (about 1/8 of your batch) on the layer, and spread evenly to the edges. Put another layer carefully on top and do the same with the frosting. After you’ve stacked all the layers with frosting, frost the top. (won’t go into to detail on that here, luckily, this is a very “rustic” looking frosting, so it’s forgiving of mistakes.)

Eat, with a glass of milk, or glass of champagne. It’s rich, you’ll need it!

Happy Holidays everyone!

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From Dish Danielle:

There are countless things to express gratitude for this time of year, but one thing I’m especially appreciative of is the wisdom of the American Grandmother.

A dear friend and I have been slowly cultivating a side project called ‘The Golden Skillet.’ We seek to preserve the culinary knowledge of our oldest female generations; to capture their personalities, stories, knowledge, and love of home cooking on film. Deborah & I have had the pleasure of working with four ‘Skillets’ so far, and with each one we meet, we are further humbled and inspired by the women we call our grannies, nanas, nonas, and gampies.

Deborah and I launched a Kickstarter account merely three weeks ago, with a goal of raising $5K. As a struggling young professional in the big city, I had my doubts about whether or not we’d reach our goal in 30 days or less. We made 60% of our goal within six days! …And in the last two weeks, our fundraising efforts ticked up past our goal. ‘Hot Stuff!’ as my Nana would say…

This post is in honor and THANKS to not only the incredible grandmother’s we’ve filmed, but to those of you who have given us your support and positive feedback (and I’m not just talking about moolah people) in our Skillet endeavors. THANK YOU, from the bottom of our cast iron, er, I mean, Golden, Skillets.

Ann Fernald’s Cranberry Island Gingerbread (without ginger!).
2/3 c canola oil
1½c sugar
1 large egg
1½c molasses
4 ½ c flour
1 tsp salt
1 ½tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2/3 tsp ground cloves
1½ tsp baking soda
1/3 c buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 16”x12” pan (or two 9”x13” pans).
Sift all dry ingredients together, including spices (but not including the sugar).

Mix oil, sugar, egg, and molasses with paddle attachment in a stand mixer. An egg-beater will also do, but this batter becomes very stiff and hard to mix by hand… at least for this dish. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet in three separate increments. Mix until just incorporated. Use a spatula to scrape sides of the bowl to be sure all the dry has been incorporated. Measure out buttermilk and add the baking soda to it. Fold buttermilk in by hand with spatula. Mixture should be very stiff.

Spread batter into pan(s) and bake for 30-40 minutes. Ann advises to bake them until just ‘under-done, so they’re chewy.’ You want the toothpick to come out with a little batter on the bottom of it.

Hula-hoop until they’re ready, then share with loved ones you’re grateful for.

Please take a moment and watch Ann Fernald, a total Golden Skillet, show you how it’s really done.

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