When it comes to the second week of December, no matter how well prepared you are, the month begins to take over. It seems you’re not in charge of your own life. Instead of easy-going fall weekends culminating in Sunday games, there are work parties, family get togethers, school and church performances, and neighborhood potlucks. Somewhere down the road and fairly soon, that stack of bags in the corner of the spare bedroom must be gone through, sorted out, wrapped, and mailed or delivered, if need be. There are travel plans, weather delays or plain old bad weather, holiday attire to attend to, and the forever and constant barrage of holiday ads all with some version of “Sleigh Ride” for the soundtrack.
In most homes in the United States, if you mention, “stew” for dinner, you’re probably talking about beef stew. In Ireland, you would most likely be about to chow down on lamb stew–a dish I often saw on menus during visits to Ireland, though I never saw Corned Beef and Cabbage at all.
In the fall, I find myself with a big stack of magazines...all about Thanksgiving and Christmas. (I’m keener on the Thanksgiving batch.) You may harbor the exact same addiction. Each issue sports a great big turkey or chocolate cake with white curls and candy canes on the front. I keep them from year to year so I can go through them just for fun. In fact, I buy magazines in November and December that I never buy the rest of the year. This may be changing a bit as lots of publications that appear to be magazines are actually small cookbooks for ten or twelve bucks lately. Wow. Continue reading
If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know I have a stack of much-loved French cookbooks that are surely the stuff of which dreams are made…well, at least my dreams. I’m not as much of an armchair cookbook reader as some, though there is always a stack next to my reading chair–even at Christmas. Maybe especially at Christmas. (List of said books upcoming on a blog page. I promise.)
Next Thursday, 2/5- 5-7pm Make an Easy French Dinner at Home Class at Shouse. Still have a few openings. Message me or leave a comment. Home class on 2/14, 10-12, is full, but I’m taking names for a wait list. Now for the sliders….
I’ll just be waiting for the puppy commercials; you know me. I might look at the score a time or two…
|What if you wanted beautifully written recipes, tastefully conceived, and perfectly photographed–all from home cooks–for home cooks?||What if you wanted those cooks to have worked professionally (catering, restaurants, magazines) and to have traveled the world so they could bring the best dishes back to you?|
|Order book here|
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
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’t overwhelmed. 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:
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.
Listen to their interview on edible radio.
Want to cook more food from Canal House? You can do it if you….
Check out our team of great bloggers writing about 50 Women Game-Changers in Food
Sue – The View from Great Island
Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan – The Spice Garden
Heather – girlichef
Miranda of Mangoes and Chutney
Mary – One Perfect Bite
Barbara – Movable Feasts
Jeanette – Healthy Living
Linda – Ciao Chow Linda
Linda A – There and Back Again
Martha – Lines from Linderhof
Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits,
Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen
Annie – Lovely Things
Nancy – Picadillo
Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook
If you liked this, you might like my Bacon-Caprese Salad with Fresh Cheese.
|Make your own cheese!|
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood return soon…Woof from Gab and Tuck.
Food photos: copyright Alyce Morgan, 2012. Recipe, book and author photos courtesy Canal House.
|Set your table before you begin cooking.|
While I missed blogging Barbara Tropp a couple of weeks ago for “50 Women Game-Changers in Food” from Gourmet Live, it didn’t stop me from making some of her incredible food in honor of a good friend’s birthday and Chinese New Year.
I started out by spending a bit of cozy time with one of Barbara’s books, The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, just to see what I thought I’d like to make. The choices were myriad and luscious… but I couldn’t make all of them. I did, however, want to keep reading forever; she wrote beautifully. I decided on three separate dishes: one a soup for a starter and the other two as a main course that could be eaten together, but that would also provide some great leftovers. HA! There were hardly any leftovers. Do make extra pork; it’s a perfect cold snack.
Here’s the menu:
Soup: Wine-Explosion Vegetable Chowder (page 452)–a filling soup silky strands of egg whites
Meat: Northern-Style Chinese Roast Pork (page 205)–requires a day’s marinating, but worth it.
Noodles: Five Heap Noodles (p 361)–I changed this up, but used the basic idea.
If you’re not familiar with Barbara Tropp, take a little detour and read this. Sadly, the world lost a top-flight Chinese scholar and chef way too early in life. Those who cook her recipes continue to share and pass on a bit of the knowledge of a cuisine to which she was forever lovingly enthusiastic and dedicated. The patience of tone and inventive spirit in Barbara Tropp’s writing are unmatched and well worth the purchase of her books, the other of which is China Moon Cookbook.
Not having the time to blog the entire meal, I chose to write about the velvety and intriguing soup. It’s the easiest to make and perhaps the most versatile. I do encourage you to look up the pork and noodle recipes; the pork was so very fun and was unlike any I’d ever cooked. Cook’s Note: In the pork recipe link, the oven temperatures are Celsius. Here are some photos of the cooking pork and my noodle toppings:
|Recipe called for hanging the pork from “S” hooks; I chose to use a rack over a rimmed baking sheet with water. Sliced thinly, it can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold.|
The noodles (first photo) had a light sauce stirred in a couple of hours before the meal, and then were served with variety of toppings at the table (see below), as well as extra sauce–a kind of DIY-Asian-Noodle Salad. Barbara’s Five Heap Noodles are served at the center of a large platter/bowl, with the heaps dotting the edges of the serving platter.
|Cilantro, cucumber, radishes, grated and sliced carrots, steamed chopped green beans and asparagus–I chose my own vegetables.|
Wine-Explosion Vegetable Chowder–rewritten a bit for my use
3/4 -1# fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped, retaining liquid
7 large white mushrooms, cleaned well and sliced very thinly (keep stems)
2 ounces (1/2 cup) fresh green beans (or sugar snaps) sliced thinly on the diagonal into 1 1/4″
2 T peanut oil
5 1/2 cups chicken stock*
15 oz can creamed corn
4T cornstarch dissolved in 6T cold chicken stock
1 large egg white (I misread this and used a whole egg; it was delicious)
sugar and salt (yes, you might need them both)
2 oz good, sweet and smokey ham, coarsely minced
|I had all of the soup ingredients prepped and in the frig that morning.|
|*Including Chinese chicken stock I made in an hour from rotisserie chicken, ginger, onions, and pepper.|
Making the soup: Read everything well before starting!!
About 15 minutes before serving, assemble all of the ingredients within easy reach of the stovetop, and put individual soup bowls in a low oven to warm.
Heat a heavy non-aluminum stockpot over medium-high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact. Add the oil, swirl to glaze the bottom of the pot, then heat until a bead of wine added to the the pot “explodes” in a sizzle. Add the wine, allow only 1 second for it to explode in a fragrant hiss, then immediately add stock to capture the wine essence. Bring to a boil, add tomatoes, mushrooms, and corn. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until mixture returns to a boil. Do not increase the heat or stop stirring; it can burn. Reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer and add vegetables (beans.) Simmer about 2-3 minutes for snow peasor 4 minutes for beans, stirring constantly until the vegetable is cooked but quite crisp. It will cook more while you serve.
Taste the soup and add salt or sugar. (Store-bought tomatoes may need a bit of sugar or soup will be flat…”do not hesitate” to add it.) Reduce the heat to low. Stir the cornstarch mixture to recombine, then add it to the pot in a steady stream, stirring slowly for about 2 minutes until soup turns glossy and thick. (This will be very obvious.) Turn off heat.
Using a fork or chop sticks, beat the egg white with quick, light strokes just to break the gel. It will froth a bit, but do not beat to a foam. Holding it about 6 inches above the surface of the soup, add the egg white in a very thin, steady stream. Stir gently once midway, and again when finished to bring the lacy threads to the surface.
Serve immediately, garnishing each bowl with a sprinkling of ham. Or cover and serve the soup 1-4 hours later, when vegetables are no longer crisp, but the soup is deeper in flavor.
Leftovers keep well for a 4-5 days, refrigerated, or may be frozen. Reheat in a heavy pot over medium heat, stirring frequently.
Cook’s Note: With just a few variations (vegetable stock, no ham or egg), this makes a lovely and satisfying vegan soup. As the noodles are totally vegan, if you put the two together, you’ll have a great vegetable meal. I am unable to find a link for Barbara’s noodles, but will continue to try to find one. I made Whole Foods 365 whole wheat linguine (instead of using Asian noodles) and made Barbara’s Five Heap sauce-with a bit of a twist- out of: 1T crushed sesame seeds,1T sesame oil, 2T peanut oil heated with chopped green onions, crushed red peppers and ginger, 2T water, 2T soy sauce, 2T rice vinegar, 1/4 t chili oil. After adding the vegetables, I added toasted sesame seeds as garnish. We liked the extra sauce at the table.
|Loving kitchen helpers..|
Two Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
Been a wee bit chilly around here….I’ve been making lots of soup and long-simmering dishes. You’ll hear about some of them soon.
|Snuggle time in St. Paul|
|Upcoming… Alyce’s Lamb Shanks on Mashed Rutabaga|
Also upcoming this Friday: Sullivan’s Island Shrimp Bog
If you liked this, you might like:
Sing a new song,
|New USDA regs say it’s ok if it’s a bit pink.|
As a recipe tester for Cooks Illustrated, I get to make all kinds of things. I mostly like them, but sometimes I don’t. The note that arrives with each recipe always says something to the effect of:
If you don’t care for one or more of the ingredients in the dish or wouldn’t ordinarily eat it, please do not test this recipe…
So, for instance, if you hate hot stuff, don’t test the On-Fire Texas Chili. I love to see the magazine months and months later to see recipes on which I’ve worked; I’m interested to see the final result-which may not be the recipe I saw originally. I test recipes far out of season sometimes (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before–) and adore that out of time and place experience that has us eating turkey in March. That was one of the best turkeys I’ve ever eaten, by the way, but felt like it took all day to make. If you didn’t buy the magazine last January or February, the recipe is online, but you must subscribe.
Testing recipes is much like my life as a church choir director that often has me reviewing Christmas cantatas over the summer when I’m less busy. Even now, while I’m somewhat late getting started as I didn’t begin my new job until September, I’m singing daily about the baby Jesus while folks are buying Halloween candy and setting out their pumpkins. Of course, I, too, am setting out my pumpkins despite adoring canned pumpkin.
Worth mentioning again: buy canned pumpkin now if you need it for Thanksgiving pies or pumpkin bread. There is, for another year, a shortage.
A bigger meal: Add the pumpkin soup from the last post for a first course. For starters, serve something quite light like warmed olives and a few crispy chips; this is a big meal.
Want to bake a sweet something? Make my pear or apple crostata for this fall dinner.
Not baking? Purchased ginger cookies and a scoop of rum raisin ice cream. Perfect.
Wine: This is a meal for a splurge if you’re up for it: buy an Oregon Pinot Noir. Or try an entry-level bottle, which are now at entry-level prices. For instance: Ken Wright’s under $30 beginner Pinot, which is not “beginner” at all. Another option is a (French) Côtes du Rhone– many of which are so tasty, truly fallish, and under $15. Ask your wine shop for a recommendation about which one. Or just pick one to try. You’ll probably be quite satisfied. The 1/2 cup of wine you need in the cranberry sauce will be perfect out of any of these bottles.
A note about cooking pork loin: Unless done correctly (I don’t want to say “well” as we don’t have to cook it done anymore–145 degrees F is the USDA number today), pork can be dry and tasteless. This particular recipe, however, which I often pair with roasted vegetables, is juicy and incredibly flavorful even leftover and/or warmed up. Great for pork tacos the next day or chopped up in a frittata, it also makes lovely sandwiches. We like it with my hot and spicy cranberry sauce.
|Drizzle cut up root vegetables with olive oil, dust well with salt, pepper, and rosemary and roast at 425 F for 35-40 minutes or at 350 for closer to an hour.|
|This is easy, lush, and spicy–if you want it to be. (Recipe below) Good hot or cold.|
So, just for a fun change from my own kitchen’s recipes, here’s one I’ve adapted from CI, and hope you enjoy. A 3 or 3.5 pork pork loin feeds 6 generously and a 5 # roast feeds 8. I like to carve the loin, place it at the center of a large serving platter, and surround it with roasted vegetables. It can be placed at the center of the table or passed and everyone can help themselves.
Roasted Pork Loin and Hot Cranberry Sauce
- 3-5# pork loin
- 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons coarsely-ground black peppper
- 2 Tablespoons finely minced fresh or dried rosemary
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Unwrap pork loin and set in roasting pan on a cooking sprayed or lightly oiled “V” Rack if you have one.
- In a small bowl, mix together sugar, pepper, rosemary, and salt. Rub spice mixture over the pork and let sit an hour. You can do this the night before and leave it covered in the frig, too. Let the meat come to room temperature before roasting.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. (Make sure your oven is clean.) Place roasting pan with pork on a rack situated at the middle of the oven and roast 30 minutes.
- Lower emperature to 375 degrees F and continue to roast another 30-40 minutes. Check temperature at this point and remove from oven to rest or continue roasting until thermometer reads 145 -150 before resting. Let sit 15-20 minutes (tented with foil) before carving. It’s fine if it’s a bit pink and it should be juicy.
- Serve with a side of my Hot! Cranberry Sauce (recipe below.)
Hot! Cranberry Sauce
- 1 pound fresh cranberries
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 apple, peeled, and chopped
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (leave out if you don’t like spicy food)
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- Water to cover
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
In a 3 qt heavy sauce pan, place 1 pound fresh cranberries, 1/2 lemon quartered, 1/2 large apple peeled and chopped, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, and 1/2 cup (or more to taste) brown sugar. Add water to cover fruit, the pour in 1/2 cup red wine. Bring to a boil, and lower heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes until cranberries pop, fruit is softened, and mixture is thick. Stir frequently and add water if it becomes too dry.
Remove lemon to serve or let your sour puss friend eat it. (Oranges can be used in place of lemons or in addition.) Serve hot or cold. Keeps well in refrigerator for several days. If you do not like spicy food, leave out the crushed red pepper.
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
Busy around our house as fall takes hold. Temperatures are dipping down toward the 40’s at night and it’s pretty dark at 7:30 am this far north. Fall gardening chores are in swing (trimming back and covering rose bushes and cutting back hydrangeas, etc) and the leaves are still falling. My lilac trees continue to hold green leaves, but the oak leaves from the neighbor’s yard are all over. Along the Mississippi River, the maples are shedding leaves rapidly. Last week, I drove to work through nearly a maelstrom of leaves flying all over the car. When the dogs and I walk, Gabby is loving playing through the carpet of brown.
Below: I couldn’t have done this if I tried. Setting down my music bag on a dining room chair the other day, the bag caught the edge of the fall-decorated table/cloth and pulled everything off without damaging a thing.
|Et voila: set for Sunday night supper for World Food Day.|
|Pumpkin bread time. Set out early to defrost in its wrapping.|
I had Sue for dinner Monday night to celebrate the end of Opus and Olives, Book Club for wine and cheese and apple crostata on Tuesday night, Choir on Wednesday, church music friends on Friday, and 6 for dinner Sunday night for World Food Day…. It was a cooking week, but mostly did things I’ve done before and didn’t take many pictures??? Too busy, I guess. The beautiful thing was sharing so many moments with so many people I love.
The house will be in an uproar as the kitchen floor is taken up next week and the new wooden floor installed the following week. In between, I get a new refrigerator to replace the nearly- new refrigerator that won’t open it’s freezer side because it’s too big for the space! So silly and wasteful. I bought a German refrigerator, a Fisher and Paykel. It arrives Friday to go into the dining room until the kitchen is done!
|$1159 is the 2-drawer dishwasher price!|
I continue to do lectionary study at St. Frances Cabrini in Prospect Park on Thursday mornings with an ever-growing group of worship planners. While I sometimes miss my old Bible study at Faith awfully (Love you all so!), I’m so thrilled to be part of a new group. We’re also planning an ecumenical Thanksgiving service for Monday, November 21 at Cabrini. Time tba.
Note re salmon: Read yesterday’s NYT article about purchasing Pacific wild salmon.
They appear to be infected by a virus that started in the commercial fish farms.
COOK THIS NOW : 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make by NYT columnist and long-time cookbook author, Melissa Clark. is the newest cookbook on my shelf. Studded with sumptuous photos, this seasonal charmer will tell you with a delightful “voice” exactly what to cook exactly now. Get yours soon (or today as an e-book) by clicking on the title!
Meantime, we’re about to commence a bit of travel east and west while the dust flies in the house. Might be a hiatus in the blog, but know I’m cooking another “The Big Night” feast with the gang in Colorado. Keep watch for pics.
Saddest week for organist and friend, Roberta Kagin, who lost her dear husband Craig Alexander last week. The stories told about this man (one goal, nearly achieved, was to race past the police dept in Woodbury 100 times going over 100mph) were so many and indicated a love for life I couldn’t help but admire to the nth degree. At age 84, he was still in-line skating to his volunteer job comforting families at the hospital surgery waiting room. Go, Craig, go! The rest of us: Live, People, Live!!
Do it all with joy and sing a new song,