Wake up and smell the salsa. This is not salsa made in New York City. Nor in San Antonio. This salsa is made in your house. On your cutting board. And not in your Cuisinart.
Plant your gardens and sharpen your knives.
This salsa is worth the time it takes to grow the ingredients and make it by hand. But you can make it in its glorious Mexican-flag colors this weekend in honor of Cinco de Mayo if you’d like!
If you’ve not been part of this journey thus far, welcome to my addition to a great group of food bloggers who are, week by week, cooking dishes from the 50 Women Game-Changers in Food from Gourmet Live. This Friday we feature Mexican chef, teacher, and cookbook author, Diana Kennedy, a Brit (b. 1923) who ended up in Mexico in love with Mexican food for more than fifty years. Intent on sharing her passion, Kennedy wrote many cookbooks, (I count about twenty, though some are in English and some in Spanish.) but has remained most intent on passing on information about the culture of ingredients, agriculture, and cuisine all over the country.
“I’m a very active person,” she said. “I want to spend the rest of my days doing what I know best and that’s identifying what people are using in the culture.” Read more
Want to check out a recent interview? Read a 2011 interview with 88 year-old Diana Kennedy here.
But let’s get to the good stuff. How do you make this salsa? And what’s it good for?
1 poblano chile—stems, seeds, and veins removed and flesh finely chopped
1 red jalapeño chile—stems, seeds, and veins removed and flesh finely chopped
2 yellow chiles—stems, seeds and veins removed and flesh finely chopped *
2 serrano chiles, finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped white onion
1 ripe medium tomato (about 4 ounces), finely chopped
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl; season with salt to taste. Set aside to macerate for about 1 hour.
*Not wanting an overly-hot salsa, I substituted red bell pepper for these chiles. My salsa was quite mild. For a hotter salsa, try adding first one and then another yellow chile.
Recipe courtesy FOOD & WINE.
This salsa was really tasty with eggs, and while I’m not a chip-eater, I did try it with some tortilla chips and would have eaten more if I weren’t saving some for a Friday night movie. I think it would make a great veggie dip; I’m always looking for vegetable-based dips. You could ladle this sauce over simple greens or plain steamed vegetables. I thought I’d try it with some plain grilled chicken and then in a chicken taco salad over the weekend. My guess is it won’t keep more than a couple of days, but who would want it to?
I just loved the colors and intrinsic beauty of the ingredients and kept taking photographs of the greens and the reds….
And just to tease you:
Eggs traded for cookies with a St. Paul pianist who has a backyard full of chickens.
Please take some time and visit more of our great food bloggers:
Gingerbread is Christmas, right? Maybe New Year’s Day? Certainly a cold-weather dessert. Except that I love it. I’d eat it in July if I were willing to turn the oven on. Which I’m not.* So that’s why it’s April and there’s Nigella Lawson’s gorgeous Guinness Gingerbread on the blog. (Two “n’s” and two “s’s” in Guinness–tells you alot about how much I know about Guinness. I did tour the brewery in Dublin once and actually drank a tall one.) If you’ve been following along on this trip, I’ve joined a group of great food bloggers who are each week cooking, testing, and writing about one of Gourmet Live’s 50 Women Game-Changers. And, you guessed it, this week (number 44) is Nigella’s week–I’m so grateful. After all, I needed a reason to make gingerbread in the spring. Didn’t I? (Cold and nasty in St. Paul today after a great, warm spring. I was happy to have a warm kitchen.) *I have just installed a combination microwave/convection oven above my range. This may help with summer baking. More later!
If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching Nigella on tv or reading one of her books, you just need to do it. Picture a well-fed, very pretty British woman with a great accent sneaking out of bed in the dark to raid the refrigerator of crispy fried pork fat or snarfing down the last, well-hid piece of flourless chocolate cake. Not only is she real with a capital R, but she’s fun and brings more than a bit of the seductive into the kitchen, where it surely belongs. Whatever…it’s great to watch someone enjoy what they do and Nigella does that in spades. Isn’t that what really draws us to people? I adore friends who are happy in what they do.
For a biographical sketch that may surprise you, check out Nigella’s Food Network biography page here. Not only has Nigella been a food tv star for several years and written a variety of best-selling cookbooks, but she was Deputy Literary Critic of the (London) Sunday Times before setting out to follow her own drummer as a free-lancer. No small apples.
For a list of all of Nigella’s books, lots more info and recipes, check out her website.
But! If you’re intrigued by the gingerbread: get out a 9×13 pan and get baking. Easy as pie (which isn’t easy–who said that?) you warm up some butter, a cup of Guinness stout and a couple of other things, whisk in a few dry ingredients, pour into a greased pan and bake for 45 minutes. Cool, cut, and serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or Crème fraîche. Nothing better. My own notes are in red. Enjoy!
Guinness Gingerbread by Nigella Lawson
1 1/4 sticks 10 (tablespoons) butter, plus some for greasing
1 cup golden syrup (such as Lyle’s) (I used Organic Corn Syrup plus a little Molasses.)
1 cup (packed) plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 cup stout (such as Guinness) (There’s just a taste left for a chef’s snack!)
I’m always on the lookout for beautiful, delicious food that is also healthy. To say nothing of the delight in making a meal that didn’t empty the wallet at the check-out. Enter this sweet and toothsome goodie, “Udon Soup with Vegetables and Tofu,” that’s just as far away from your capital T-typical noodle soup as it can get without falling off the edge of the comparison. Add vegetables, lovingly cut PREE-cisely teensy of course, a nice slew of tofu, and you’re eating a recipe from Elizabeth Andoh, who is number forty-one on Gourmet Live’s list of 50 Women Game-Changers.
This cookbook is a heartfelt and fascinating tribute to the food, traditions, and courage of the people of Japan’s Tohoku region before and after the devastation of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. It features traditional recipes such as Miso-Seared Scallops, Pinched-Noodle Soup with Pork, Salmon-Stuffed Kelp Rolls, and basics like rice, stocks, and sauces, along with sake pairings and essays on Japan in recovery from journalists and food writers.
If you’d like to give the Udon Soup a whirl, it’s yum, but I’ll give a few heads’ ups: 1. Read the recipe all the way through so you have a sense of the order in which the steps take place. For instance, you’ll need 30-60 minutes to soak shiitakés for the broth before you really begin. 2. Plan on going to the Asian market or substituting some ingredients. 3. While it looks quick, and doesn’t really take long, the chopping of the ingredients is all to matchstick-size or shredded in the case of the mushrooms. Plan your time accordingly. 4. If you taste the soup before adding the greens and grated ginger, you’ll think it needs seasoning. The fresh ginger, however, is the kicker here. Warm and giving, it folds the whole bowl together with its pungent heat. 5. My soup had little broth and I added a bit of vegetable broth toward the end of the cooking.
serves 4 . 3 or 4 large dried shiitaké mushrooms 3 cups water I thought there was too little broth; you could increase the water here. 11/2 ounces daikon tops, kale, or other leafy greens, loosely tied in a bundle with kitchen twine 3 sheets thin fried tōfu (page 282) 4 ounces fresh mushrooms, preferably maitaké (page 272), trimmed and hand shredded into 1/2-inch lengths 1 teaspoon sugar 1 tablespoon saké Had no saké. Used white wine. 1 slender carrot, about 2 ounces, scraped and cut into matchsticks 2 ounces daikon, scraped and cut into matchsticks 1 tablespoon mirin 1 tablespoon light-colored soy sauce 2 sheets hoshi yuba, softened (page 261) and coarsely shredded, or 1/4 cup finely broken hoshi yuba (1/4-inch bits) I could not find this and didn’t add it. 11/2 teaspoons soy sauce 1 tablespoon cornstarch 2 tablespoons cold water Cooked udon noodles, for serving hot (page 55) Easy to find, but you could sub whole wheat linguine. 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
Extract a stock from the dried shiitaké mushrooms: Break off the stems and set them aside for making stock on another occasion. Here you are using only the dried shii¬také caps to make a stock (and to cook later with the other vegetables). Soak the caps in the water in a bowl for at least 30 minutes and preferably for 1 hour or more. Remove the caps from the water and rinse them to remove any gritty material, then squeeze gently. Pour the soaking water through a fine-mesh strainer (or disposable coffee filter) into a clean bowl to remove unwanted bits that may have settled at the bottom of the bowl. Set the stock aside. Slice the dried shiitake caps into very narrow strips.
Bring a small saucepan filled with water to a boil. Blanch the bundle of leafy greens for 30 seconds, or until they wilt and turn a vivid green. With long chopsticks or tongs pull them from the pot and set aside. Blanch the tōfu slices in the same pot for 1 minute, or until oil swirls on the water’s surface. Drain, cut each slice lengthwise in half, and then cut each half crosswise into short, narrow strips. Blot away excess oil from the strips. When the greens are cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess moisture, chop coarsely, and set aside.
Heat a wok or a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Toss in the tōfu and allow the pieces to sear for a moment until lightly browned at the edges. Add the fresh mushrooms, then the slivers of softened dried shiitaké and stir-fry for about 1 minute, or until any excess liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are aromatic. Sprinkle with the sugar and continue to stir-fry for 30 seconds longer. Add the saké and stir-fry until the pan is dry.
Add the stock (it will sizzle and sputter a bit, so be careful) and lower the heat to maintain a steady but not-too-vigorous simmer. Skim away the first large cloud of froth that appears with a fine-mesh skimmer. More froth will appear (this is normal when using shiitaké mushroom stock) as you continue to simmer. Cook for 5 or 6 minutes, then skim away the froth again.
Add the carrot and daikon, season the soup with the mirin and light-colored soy sauce, and continue to sim¬mer for 2 or 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are firm but tender and the flavors are melded. Add the yuba and stir to distribute, and then add the soy sauce. In a small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and cold water. Add the mixture to the pan, raise the heat to high, and stir until thickened and glossy. The final soup will have the consistency of a thin sauce.
Divide the noodles among 4 warmed bowls, then divide the soup evenly among the bowls. Top each serving with some of the chopped greens and a small mound of ginger. Serve immediately.
Ina’s Roasted Shrimp with Feta from her 2010 book, How Easy is That? served with salad.
If I’m home in the afternoon, no one has to ask where I’ve disappeared to around 3. I’m watching Ina, of course. I’ll admit that portions of the Food Network are not for me; I switch them off or tune them out. But if Ina’s on (or Tyler Florence), I’m probably watching. It says a lot. I’m not a tv person, with the exception of early morning political shows (love “Morning Joe”), a few minutes of TODAY, and the occasional film on the old-movie channel. I have better fish to fry, literally. Or I’m at the piano. Or I’m walking Gabby and Tucker. Loving Dave.
But Ina and I go way back–sorta. In fact, we could have been friends. Well! Back in the seventies, my bus stop was right in front of the building where she worked in Washington, D.C. (I didn’t know that then.) I cooked; she cooked. I gave dinner parties; she did, too. Right around the corner from one another almost. Until she moved to New York to open the Barefoot Contessa, a specialty food store, in 1978. Between then and now, she ran that store and catered for twenty years, wrote seven books and countless magazine columns, and made more segments of The Barefoot Contessa on Foot Network than I know what to with. There’s also a product line, Barefoot Contessa Pantry, available in specialty stores where you can buy everything from coffee to cupcake mixes. In fact, I noticed our local Macy’s carries Ina’s products. I freely admit I have never bought any of these boxes goods. Hey! I make Ina’s stuff from scratch. But if you try them, let me know; I’d love a review.
Ina, you’ve got to stop, but why not an app for my ipad?!
Somehow we missed meeting and cooking together. Sigh. Later I moved all over the country until I stopped in one place where a new friend talked me into borrowing The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook from the library. That was it. Now I have my own copy and six more of Ina’s books plus an index.
Trying to decide which recipe to blog for Ina, who is number 39 in the 50 Women Game-Changers in Food, was like trying to decide whether to go to Italy or France for two months next summer. How could I decide? I’ve made tons of them. Some of them are very, very much favorites–including a lemon pound cake I just made last week for the Friends of the St. Paul Library board:
One of the perfectly perfect things about Ina’s recipes is that you can do all kinds of things with them. I added homemade strawberry ice cream and a blueberry drizzle to this cake and here’s how it looked:
Ina’s a great starting point.
After much dithering and mithering, I did the only sane thing: I made something of Ina’s I hadn’t yet made. A great excuse to try a new recipe, which turned out to be Roasted Shrimp with Feta. I have always made a summer pasta that is this fast: spaghetti topped with lots of chopped fresh tomatoes, cooked shrimp, chopped feta and a good, heavy dose of dried oregano and black pepper. But Ina’s recipe is great in the winter…. Run, don’t walk to the store to make this. It’s beautiful, tasty–tasty, easy, not too expensive, cuts in half easily, and is healthy. (Is this a Friday in Lent?) Including chopping ingredients, it probably takes about 45 minutes to make–much of which is taken up with cooking stove-top or in the oven. I served it with a simple green salad and we needed nothing more except a bit of Chardonnay. Fancy enough for company, I made it for just Dave and me and we ate on the front porch for the first time this winter. (Like the rest of the country, St. Paul is experiencing May in March–no complaints.) I’m not going to print the recipe as Food Network is clear about “all rights reserved,” but the link is just below. The recipe is in Ina’s Newest book, How Easy is That? (2010/Clarkson-Potter) so you can buy it if you like!
Cook’s Note: I changed almost nothing in the recipe, though I did add a pinch of crushed red pepper–a bit of heat enhances the lemony shrimp. Get the best feta you can find; you’ll be glad you did. Use peeled shrimp.
You don’t need more than this.
Thanks, Ina Garten and that doesn’t begin to say it. Blessings on your life and work. Keep on! (And about that app…)
That’s it. I’m leaving home. I always wondered where I’d get my cooking credentials (other than living in my kitchen) and now I know. I’m going to the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland. I’ll see you later. It’s time I earned my toque… or at least an apron that says, ” Ballymaloe.”
Ireland: Cliffs of Moher (copyright Alyce Morgan, 2003)
Ok, I’m not. But I’d like to. Meantime, just in time for St. Patty’s Day, I’m baking some bread from the Cookery School’s founder and Ireland’s best chef-teacher, Darina Allen, number 38 in Gourmet Live’s list of 50 Women Game-Changers in Food:
(Courtesy Koster Photography)
When Americans make or think about Irish Soda Bread, which they only do in March of every year, they think about the American take on the bread (think chop suey), which I adore and make as often as anyone:
Here’s my own American version. Please have a little bread with your butter.
But if you go to Ireland and stop in a hotel or restaurant for breakfast (or other meal), you find that the soda bread is whole wheat. Dense, thick, sturdy, filling. Perfect smothered with lots of beautiful Irish butter and jam or, even better, dipped in a deep, dark mug of tea. And, should you not think about it, this bread is a chunky, dunky sideshow for stew or soup, as well as tasty sandwich bread. Get ready to dirty your hands and bake up!
darina allen’s brown soda bread
400g (14oz) wholemeal flour (about 3 cups) 75g (3oz) plain white flour, (Darina specifies unbleached if you can get it) (about 3/4 cup) 1 tsp salt, (Darina specifies dairy salt, which is finer, but I used regular old table salt.) 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda, sieved (baking soda) 1 egg 1 tbsp sunflower oil (I used canola oil) 1 teaspoon honey ( or treacle or soft brown sugar) 425ml (¾ pint) buttermilk (or add 2 tbsp of lemon juice to 600 ml (1 pint) milk)
Grease a loaf tin (I used 9x5x3) with vegetable oil. Preheat the oven to 200°c (gas mark 6). (about 400 degrees Fahrenheit) Put the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and mix well. Make a well in the centre ready for the wet ingredients. Whisk the egg and add it to the oil, honey (or treacle or sugar), and the buttermilk (or lemon juice/milk mixture). Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and using your clean hands mix well. The dough should be very sticky, Darina describes it as ‘soft and slightly sloppy’, if it’s not add more buttermilk. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for about 1 hour. To test take it out of its tin and tap the bottom, if it’s cooked it will sound hollow. Allow to cool before eating if you can manage it.
Use the other side of your measuring cups for this one; you need 425 ml of buttermilk.
I weighed both flours for accuracy.
Smooth it out as best you can in a greased pan.
Very healthy wholewheat bread, but quite yummy with a little butter and jam.
the skinny on darina I don’t know how she does it….
Owner of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, Co Cork, Ireland, teacher, food writer, newspaper columnist, cookbook author and television presenter. School is situated on an organically run farm. Graduate in Hotel Management, Dublin Institute of Technology. Member of Taste Council of Irish Food Board, Chair of Artisan Food Forum of Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Food Safety Consultative Council of Ireland, Trustee of Irish Organic Centre, Patron of Irish Seedsavers. Cooking Teacher of the Year Award from IACP 2005, Recipient of Honorary Degree from University of Ulster 2003, Winner of Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year 2001, Waterford Wedgwood Hospitality Award 2000, Langhe Ceretto Prize 1996, Laois Person of the Year 1993…and more. courtesy Ballymaloe Cookery School; County Cork, Ireland.
Want to read other bloggers who are following the 50 Women Game-Changers in Food story? There are a lot of good blogs out there; read on!
‘Farming is an attractive path for people who are getting out of school and feeling like there’s kind of a toxic consumerism and not feeling too excited about working for the Man, especially seeing as he’s been spoiling our politics and a lot of our ecology,’’ she said. (Severine von Tscharner Fleming via NYT)
based in the Hudson Valley, NY. Over the past two years she has produced+ directed a documentary film about the young farmers who are reclaiming, restoring, retrofitting and respecting this country of ours. That film, titled “The Greenhorns” grew into a small nonprofit organization that currently produces events, media and new media for and about the young farming community. Greenhorns mission is to “recruit, promote and support” the growing tribe of new agrarians. To that end, Greenhorns runs a weekly radio show on Heritage Radio Network, a popular blog, a wiki-based resource guide for beginning farmers, a GIS-based mapping project, and dozens of mixers+ educational events for young farmers all around the country. Greenhorns actively works to provide venues for networking, collaboration and communication within their large, and growing! network. Severine attended Pomona College and University of California at Berkeley where she graduated with a B.S. in Conservation/AgroEcology. She co- founded the Pomona Organic Farm and founded UC Berkeley’s Society for Agriculture and Food Ecology and is a proud co-founder of the National Young Farmers Coalition. (courtesy The Greenhorns)
I was interested in this carrot salad because it sounded:
like it might hold a few days in the frig
unlike my mother’s carrot salad!
And it was all of those things. Even though I had misplaced my Cuisinart grating disc in the move to St. Paul (I know; I’ll get another one) and had to grate the carrots by hand, it was a simple chore and done easily. Carrots grated by hand contain a lot less liquid than carrots grated by Cuisinart anyway, so it was probably the method of choice. While spring definitely hasn’t sprung around here, I kept thinking what a quick and delicious side this would be for grilled food come better weather. Since nearly everyone likes carrots, including children, it’s probably a good idea for a BBQ or potluck dish. The recipe indicates a one-hour marinating time. I tasted it right after it was made and after the hour at room temp. The flavors definitely were damped by the hour wait (cumin particularly); you might want to add a little extra of the spices if you’re going to wait or eat this over a couple of days. Did I mention this little ditty was scrumptious? I just couldn’t believe that was all there was to it. But that was it. Just lovely fresh food.
Moroccan Carrot Salad From Winter Harvest Cookbook, a vegan and gluten-free recipe. Serves 6.
1 pound carrots (about 6 medium), scrubbed
2 shallots, chopped fine
2-3 T. sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
3 T lemon juice
1/2 c finely minced parsley
Grate or julienne carrots. Add shallots and toss. Combine sugar, salt, and cumin and toss with carrots. Season with pepper and cayenne. Add lemon juice and toss again. Marinate for 1 hour. Sprinkle with parsley and serve at room temperature.
1 1/2 teaspoons single-acting baking powder or double-acting baking powder (see Note)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold lard or vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 450°. In a bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Using your fingers, work in the lard just until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the buttermilk just until moistened.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 2 or 3 times. Roll out or pat the dough 1/2 inch thick. Using a 2-inch round cutter, stamp out biscuits as close together as possible. Transfer the biscuits to a baking sheet. Pat the dough scraps together, reroll and cut out the remaining biscuits; do not overwork the dough.
Pierce the top of each biscuit 3 times with a fork and brush with the butter. Bake the biscuits for 12 to 14 minutes, or until risen and golden. Serve at once.
Make AheadThe unbaked biscuits can be frozen in a single layer, then kept frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Thaw before baking. NotesTo make your own single-acting baking powder, combine 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar with 1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of baking soda. The mix will keep in a tightly sealed jar for up to 1 month. (Courtesy Food and Wine.)
if you want love, learn how to make biscuits
Back in college, Dave and I had a professor of music named Ann Collins. Now Ann was a fine pianist, a good teacher, and she wrote interesting books (I still have two of them) about teaching preschoolers to play the piano. While I never agreed with teaching preschoolers to play the piano (I liked them playing in the sandbox myself), I did admire Ann. Ann wasn’t my teacher particularly, but she was Dave’s. And somehow, as life went in those days, we ended up for dinner at Ann’s house one night. If memory serves, she was celebrating a new grand piano. While I remember little else, I do remember Ann’s biscuits. Not only that, I remember her husband making big over them. In fact, Ann’s husband (Gary?) said, “I married her because she could make beaten biscuits in her sleep.” To a newly married 20-year old this sounded callous and weird. I don’t know what I wanted to be married for, but it wasn’t my biscuits.
Of course, later on, I learned to make biscuits. And I made them a lot. When you have four kids to feed, biscuits really stretch a meal. I don’t think I could have made them in my sleep, but it was damned sure close to that. It takes making them often. It takes a light touch so that the fat isn’t over-worked in the dough. It takes knowing your oven so that you either always make them in a glass pie plate, as did I, or on a cookie sheet as did one friend. It takes understanding if you need big, thick or little, crispy biscuits. Were they for ham or were they for gravy? For butter and jam or for strawberries and cream? For sour cream and honey, if you were my Dad.
I’m guessing Edna Lewis, creator of the above recipe, could have made biscuits in her sleep. And while she surely earned the title of chef, she might have been quite happy with the fame that came from her biscuits, as was Ann. There’s just something about biscuits that makes people happy.
edna lewis, the first lady of southern cookingdied in 2006at the age of 89at the end of a long, industrious culinary career. She was special by any standards, but as the granddaughter of a former slave raised on the family farm in Virginia, the roadblocks to writing cookbooks were a few more then than they would be now. Combining a southern upbringing with a New York City restaurant career, she didn’t have time to write anything at all until she had to sit still after breaking her leg. If she couldn’t cook, she would then write a cookbook and write she did. Three other books followed, along with other restaurants, awards, and a strong dedication to keeping the south’s cooking tradition alive and well. (Scroll down for a video interview with Miss Lewis.)
From the NYT obituary by Eric Asimov and Kim Severson:
Ms. (Judith) Jones, who edited three books by Miss Lewis, recalled her yesterday as a lover of Jack Daniel’s, Bessie Smith and understated conversation. “She had a tremendous sense of dignity in the face of often difficult treatment,” Ms. Jones said. Her husband had died as she completed “The Taste of Country Cooking,” she said. After that cookbook raised her profile, Miss Lewis returned to restaurants, most notably to Gage & Tollner in Brooklyn. In the mid-90s she retired from the restaurant and with some friends, she founded the Society for the Revival and Preservation of Southern Food, dedicated in part to seeing that people did not forget how to cook with lard.
Butter? Honey? Jam? Sausage gravy? Ham?
And, Edna, I’m sorry; I can’t make biscuits with lard or shortening; butter’s my thing. I do try to have a light hand though.
Read Edna Lewis’ obituary in the New York Times here. Video: Scroll down. ~~~~~~ Click and read the other bloggers who are part of the 50 Women Game-Changers Group:
In North America, we might argue over who taught us to cook. While Julia really was on tv, I’m sure I learned to cook from a. my mother, b. James Beard, and c. SILVER PALATE. (We all teach ourselves right in our kitchen, don’t we?) But in the UK, there’s no question about who taught you to cook; Delia Smith, #35 in Gourmet’s 50 Women Game-Changers in Food, did. (photo courtesy BBC)
Way back in the ’70s (was it that far away?), you only had to tune in to the telly to learn how to make pastry (or lots else) with Delia in London or Edinburgh. For grins, scroll down to the bottom of the post and click on the video and see what the buzz was about. Could you bake a blind tart shell after watching that television program? I admit I missed Julia a bit as I watched!
After a couple of false starts as a hairstylist and travel agent, and without much education, Delia began reading cookbooks in the reading room at the British Museum. Not long after, she was cooking and writing for the Daily Mirror starting in 1969, where she met her husband, Michael Wynn Jones.
Many television episodes, newspaper articles, books (21 million sold), a website, and even a soccer club later, Delia continues to deliver basic, commonsense, always-trusted cooking advice, recipes, and technique. She’s so successful at delivering the goods that, within the world marketplace, there’s now something called “The Delia Effect.” Which means it’ll sell like the proverbial hotcakes, as her stamp on anything makes product fly off the shelves in the UK. Reportedly, egg sales in England rose by 10% after her book How to Cook was published.
Delia’s Complete How to Cook can be ordered through amazon.com, as can other volumes, though some appear to be more available overseas than here in the States. Time for a few days in London, I’d say.
Reading through recipes and trying to decide which to try for this blog, I found no shortage of tasty and wonderful-sounding things to cook. Oven-Baked Smoked Pancetta and Leek Risotto caught my eye, as did Grilled Venison Steaks with Red Onion, Grape, and Raisin Confit, a selection from Delia’s website under the banner, “What Should You be Cooking This Month?” There’s also a tab for ingredients and the available recipes to use them. Special diets, Under 30 minutes, Freezing, and Cooking for One are just a few of the sections you might want to peruse on the site. I especially enjoyed “Recipe of the Day” and “Competitions.” At the very bottom are links to lists of recipes like, “French,” “Pasta,” and so on. While it might not be true, the website has every indication of containing a good portion of her thirty-plus years’ recipes and information, which makes it a treasure trove, to say nothing of a great value.
You could make “Italian Baked Fish” (and who doesn’t want more baked fish recipes) as did I, and give Delia a whirl:
4 thick pieces of cod or other white fish (MN cooks: try our Lake Superior white fish here.) 2T olive oil (no need for extra virgin oil) 1 medium onion, finely chopped 1 fat clove garlic, crushed 1# ripe tomatoes or 400g tin of Italian tomatoes 4 oz (110 g) sliced mushrooms 1 T chopped fresh basil 1 T capers, chopped Juice of 1/2 lemon 12 black olives (I opted for kalamata.) Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Start by making a good, thick tomato sauce: heat the olive oil in a saucepan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes. Now add the garlic and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper, then bring to a simmering point and cook gently, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Next add the sliced mushrooms, making sure they are well stirred in. Simmer for a further few minutes until it looks like a thick sauce. Lastly, stir in the fresh basil and chopped capers.
Next, season the fish with lemon, salt, and pepper
Now place the fish in a shallow baking dish or tin, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a little lemon juice on each piece. Next spoon an equal quantity of the sauce on to each piece of fish and arrange a few olives on top. Cover the dish with foil and bake on a high shelf (in upper 1/3 of oven) for about 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Serve with new potatoes or brown rice and a tossed green salad.
Next week, join us when we’ll feature #36, Edna Lewis. “The granddaughter of an emancipated slave, Lewis, another Judith Jones protégée, brought sophisticated Southern dishes into the spotlight.” ~~~~~
Conventional wisdom says, “If there’s bread pudding on the menu, order it.” Now that I’ve made Brennan’s Creole Bread Pudding, I know why. I won’t say who it is, but someone in my house is saying, “Please let me stay out of the frig as long as that bread pudding is in there.”
Ella Brennan, at center, seated with family. (courtesy Commander’s Palace)
… Brennan has made her mark with a series of fresh and innovative concepts: She pioneered the notion of nouvelle Creole cuisine. She elevated the profile of Louisiana cooking throughout the world. She forged a level of service that was the match of any anywhere. And she used her kitchen at Commander’s Palace as a kind of de facto New Orleans culinary academy, turning out dozens of the city’s finest chefs and thereby enlivening the local food scene beyond measure. (courtesy Elizabeth Mullener, Times-Picayune.)
Part of a large restaurant family, Ella Brennan began as a teen in the business with her brother Owen at Brennan’s, home of the famous “breakfast at Brennan’s.” She went on to travel the world to learn about great food and better service, returning home to put the knowledge to work building one successful restaurant after another. Not only that, she brought the tourists home with her, putting New Orleans on the map as a center for food and some say the most beautiful restaurant experience available in the United States. After the family bought The Commander’s Palace in 1969, Brennan proceeded to hire and train chefs who went on to be famous in their own right, among them Paul Prodhomme and Emeril Lagasse. Business woman and lover of perfect meals, she was an expert in the world of food though she never cooked at all. “I never took to the kitchen,” she says. My thought is she never needed to “take to the kitchen,” with the kind of talent she hired.
Famed food (editor, writer and) restaurant critic Ruth Reichl commented that her first visit to Commander’s Palace combined “upscale fun” with “the most extraordinary service [she]’d ever had in an American restaurant,” service which she credited to Brennan’s exacting standards. (courtesy Encyclopedia of Louisiana)
More info: read a short biography of Ella Brennan here
Want to try one of the most famous recipes? Since Ella herself didn’t cook much I thought I’d make one of the cornerstones of the Brennan empire– bread pudding Here it is: (Note: Have salad for supper; this is Decadent with a Capital D and worth every calorie.)
Invite friends. What fun! This makes a huge pan of bread pudding.
Creole Bread Pudding
“Much as we all love Commander’s Bread Pudding Soufflé, sometimes plain Creole Bread Pudding is the most soul-satisfying taste of all. But do it right. One day, while my mother [Ella Brennan] and I were nibbling on some bread pudding, I watched her eyebrow go up as she discovered a morsel of dry bread. I hadn’t soaked thoroughly, a cardinal sin. When pastry chef Tom Robey walked by, Mom pointed to the dry morsel. She didn’t have to say a word. Tom shook his head and went off to explain to a protégé how we don’t rush things at Commander’s. Originally created as a way to utilize day- old bread, this dessert, along with pecan pie and crème caramel, is a must for any New Orleans restaurant.”
Cook’s Note: Make Whiskey Sauce (recipe below) while pudding bakes; it must cool. Fyi: The Bread Pudding Soufflé is served in ramekins with meringue and hard sauce.
1 tablespoon butter 12 medium eggs, beaten 3 cups heavy cream (I used half and half since my arteries were yelling, HELLO?) 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract (use a high-quality extract, not an imitation) 2 cups sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg *4 ounces day-old French bread, sliced 1 inch thick (I used a lot more bread; see note.) 1 cup raisins
–Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. –Butter a large (11 x 8 1/2 x 3 inches) casserole dish and set aside. (Once in the oven, the casserole will sit inside a large pan. A roasting pan would be good.) Mix the eggs, cream and vanilla in a large bowl, and combine the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a separate bowl. This helps to evenly dis- tribute the spices. Add the sugar mixture to the egg mixture, and combine thoroughly. –Place the raisins in the bottom of the buttered casserole, and add the bread slices in a single layer. Gently pour the custard over the bread, making certain that all the bread thoroughly soaks up the custard. [We let ours stand for a while before baking.] (Turn the bread over in the custard to make sure each piece is well-coated.) –Cover the casserole with foil, place in a large dish (the roasting pan, if that’s what you decided to use) partly filled with hot water, and bake for 2 1/2 hours. Remove the foil, and increase the oven temperature to 300 degrees F. Bake for 1 hour more, or until the pudding is golden brown and slightly firm. Use a spoon to make sure the custard is fully cooked; it should be moist but no longer runny. If you’re unsure whether it’s done, remove it from the oven and let it cool while it remains sitting in the water bath; the carryover effect will keep it cooking. –Serve slightly warm with whiskey sauce, recipe below (made ahead.)
1 cup(s) heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon(s) cornstarch
1 tablespoon(s) water
3 tablespoon(s) sugar
1/4 cup(s) bourbon
·For the whiskey sauce: Place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Whisk cornstarch and water together, and add to cream while whisking. Bring to a boil. Whisk and let simmer for a few seconds, taking care not to burn the mixture on the bottom. Remove from heat.
Stir in the sugar and bourbon. Taste to make sure the sauce has a thick consistency, a sufficiently sweet taste, and a good bourbon flavor. Cool to room temperature.
*4oz of French bread is a bit less than 1/4 of the baguette I got from Whole Foods, which seemed like way too little bread to me; it didn’t cover half of the bottom of the casserole. Typo in the recipe? Wrong kind of bread?? I increased the amount to approximately 12 ounces; my baguette was 15 oz. total. I don’t make bread pudding from a recipe usually; I just combine milk, eggs, and nutmeg and sweeten it to taste–which isn’t nearly as much sugar as this recipe calls for. I did leave the amount of sugar the same in order to try and get a true test of the recipe. It was the right thing to do!
Other bloggers writing about Ella Brennan this week are:
Enter Canal House Cooking, La Dolce Vita, #7 in a series of self-published volumes from a multi-talented duo who have worked at food, cooking, and food writing/photography most of their lives. After leaving behind the corporate publishing/food world in order to spend more time at or near their homes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Melissa Hamilton (above, right) and Christopher Hirsheimer (above, left; she’s a she) began cooking together daily in a warehouse and keeping a record of it. Out of that commitment comes this lovely, popular series of books that is their gift to those of us in the home-cooking “business.” An article from WSJ tells the story more thoroughly here.
To really get to know these women a little more, watch an enchanting tiny video about them and their food in Italy (basis for the most recent book)….Here.
And, when you’re done reading and watching, it’s time to cook with Melissa, Christopher, and me…. So that you can spend more time at the table (who are you inviting?), we’re making:
meatballs with mint and parsley makes 24
(Often served with broccoli rabe sautéed with garlic and red pepper flakes)
1. Mix together the pork, veal, prosciutto, ricotta, pecorino, eggs, mint, parsley, nutmeg, and pepper in a large mixing bowl.
2. Use a large soup spoon and scoop up about 2 ounces of the meat into your hand and roll into a ball.
3. Make all the meatballs the same size so they will cook evenly. As you make them, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. You can do this a few hours ahead, cover with plastic, and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them.
4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the meatballs in batches, about 15 minutes per batch, using two forks to delicately turn them over so that they brown on all sides. Add more oil if needed. Transfer cooked meatballs to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
5, Increase the heat to high and deglaze the skillet with the wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Add the cream, if using, and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens.
*Pecorino Romano is, most likely, the pecorino (hard, often gratable sheep’s cheese) available in most American grocery stores. Milder and less expensive than Parmesan, it’s a happy addition to pasta or salads.
Cook’s Note:I made one meatball first and cooked it to test the seasoning; I had gone easy on the black pepper and had not added any salt at all. My thought was to maintain the freshness/lightness of the meatball so that the herbs weren’toverwhelmed. On tasting, I did add a bit more pepper and about 1/2 tsp kosher salt. The rest of the batch was perfect. You could do anything you typically do with meatballs with these, but I do think they’re special and complete all on their own. I served them with broccolini sautéed in olive oil with crushed red peppers and slices of garlic thrown in the last 2-3 minutes. We started with a little very simple green salad.
Here’s a bit of the easy journey in photographs:
More info if you’re interested……………
Just for fun, here’s a sample from the Canal House #7 book and their “on location work:”
We rented a farmhouse in Tuscany —–a remote, rustic old stucco and stone house at the end of a gravel road, deep in the folds of vine-covered hills. It had a stone terrace with a long table for dinners outside, a grape arbor, and apple and fig trees loaded with fruit in the garden. There was no phone, TV or Internet service, just a record player and shelves and shelves of books. It had a spare, simple kitchen with a classic waist-high fireplace with a grill. It was all we had hoped for. It was our Casa Canale for a month.
Back in the states, Melissa and Christopher are eating lunch together every day as they take a break from cooking, working, and writing. Read their blog that chronicles those noon-time meals.