Archive for the ‘Holiday Foods’ Category

Cast-Iron Inspiration

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

cast iron

A friend recently decided to outfit a new kitchen and asked for my advice. She was getting ready to purchase a high-end set of cookware, she informed me, and wanted to know what brand I recommended.

I dismayed her by telling her that I wouldn’t recommend purchasing one full set of ANYTHING. Instead, I thought (and still think) that a kitchen needs a little bit of a lot of types of cookware.

I like my stainless-steel saucepans. I like to have both a nonstick and a regular frying pan. I like a huge pot for stocks and soups. And I believe that every kitchen needs a bit of cast-iron.

In my case, that cast-iron consists of one enameled Dutch oven in a convenient size (about 5 quarts; larger is hard to lift!) and black cast-iron skillets of varying sizes.

Most of my skillets came from relatives or tag sales, although I do have one new one, from Lodge Manufacturing Company.

I use my skillets for a variety of tasks—most commonly for toasting nuts or for baking cornbread, frittatas, or upside-down cake.

Reading Dominique DeVito’s brand-new Cast-Iron Skillet Cookbook, which publisher Cider Mill Press sent me for review, has given me a number of additional ideas for cast-iron cookery.

In addition to my favorites, DeVito provides cast-iron-friendly recipes for unexpected dishes: casseroles; coffee cakes; vegetable roasts; and a variety of breads, from dinner rolls to Indian naan.

I have to admit it would NEVER have occurred to me to try preparing General Tso’s Chicken in my cast-iron pans—or to bake a giant chocolate-chip cookie.

Most helpful of all, DeVito provides hints on caring for cast iron. I knew one wasn’t supposed to wash these pans with soap. It turns out that I have been seasoning my pans incorrectly all these years, however!

If you’d like new ideas for your old pans, or if you are thinking of adding a cast-iron pan to your cookware collection, leave a comment below. The comment can describe your own favorite use of cast iron—or anything else you would like to express.

Cider Mill Press has generously promised to send a copy of the cookbook to one of the commenters. Please comment by next Tuesday, March 24. The next morning I will select one comment (randomly, I promise!) and get in touch with the winner to get his or her mailing address.

Meanwhile, I leave you with a recipe from the cookbook suitable for this week. I have already made my own favorite soda bread, but I’m seriously considering trying this savory take on a Saint Patrick’s Day favorite as well.

Let me know if you make it—and don’t forget to sing a few sentimental Irish (or Irish-American) songs today. My solo for our local Saint Patrick’s Day concert will be George M. Cohan’s “Mary.”

And the whole assembled group will sing “An Irish Blessing.”

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Cheesy Chive Soda Bread

   Courtesy of The Cast-Iron Skillet Cookbook

Ingredients:

3 cups white flour
2 cups spelt flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (not instant)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
2-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped chives
1-1/4 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
freshly ground pepper

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to combine thoroughly. In another bowl, combine the butter, buttermilk, and egg.

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir vigorously to blend. Dough will be sticky. Stir in the chives and 1 cup of the grated cheese.

Liberally grease a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with butter. Scoop and spread the dough into the skillet. Grate pepper over the top; then sprinkle the remaining cheese over it. Using a sharp knife, make an “x” in the center, about 1/2-inch deep, to settle the cheese further into the dough as it cooks.

Bake in the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes until the bread is golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to sit in the skillet for a few minutes before serving.

Makes 1 loaf.

A Saint Patrick's Day image from the past: my mother kneading soda bread

A Saint Patrick’s Day image from the past: my mother kneading soda bread

Meredith’s Easy Moo Shu Pork

Monday, March 2nd, 2015
Michaelweb

My nephew Michael at a recent hockey game. Teenagers get cold and HUNGRY.

My family and I were going through some of my mother’s old files this past weekend, and my brother David chuckled as he ran across one of my report cards from Sixth Grade. He reported that the teachers seemed to like me but that I had apparently needed improvement in posture (I still need it!) and punctuality.

With this history of tardiness perhaps it’s no surprise that I fed David and Company their Chinese New Year feast a bit belatedly, just a few days ago in fact.

The formula for our meal came courtesy of Meredith Deeds. Meredith is a chef and cookbook author who recently published a recipe for Moo Shu Pork in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, encouraging readers to experiment with different international cuisines.

My nephew Michael happens to love LOVE Moo Shu Pork. (Well, who doesn’t?) I don’t usually repost other writers’ recipes, but Meredith’s was such a hit with my family that I asked her whether I could use this one. She graciously gave her permission.

Unfortunately, Michael refuses to believe that Moo Shu can be served without pancakes so I used tortillas instead of the lighter lettuce leaves Meredith prefers. Maybe over time I’ll convert him to the lettuce leaves. More likely, I’ll end up going to a specialty market and purchasing Chinese pancakes.

Everything else in the recipe was available at the mid-sized supermarket I visited.

mise en placeweb

If you’re a Moo Shu fan, do try Meredith’s recipe. It’s easy, and it’s fresh (all those vegetables!). And you’ll feed the whole family for little more than you’d pay for one serving of this dish in a restaurant. Note: the pork is easier to slice if you pop it in the freezer for 20 minutes or so before you deal with it.

moo shu in bowlweb

The Moo Shu

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 (3/4-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into thin strips
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil, divided
2 eggs
1 pinch of salt
10 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thinly (I had some button mushrooms in my fridge so I ended up using those and augmenting them with shiitakes.)
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 (10-ounce) bag finely cut coleslaw (without dressing). You may of course shred your own cabbage in season, but it’s awfully easy to purchase it shredded!
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
16 Bibb lettuce leaves or small flour tortillas as needed

Instructions:

Whisk the hoisin sauce and vinegar together in a medium bowl. Add the pork and marinate for at least 10 minutes. (I got distracted and ended up marinating it for more than an hour. It was still terrific.)

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk together the eggs and the salt in a small bowl. Add the egg mixture to the hot wok and stir until the eggs are just set. Transfer the eggs to a plate, and cut them into thin strips. Wipe out the pan.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in the same wok or skillet over high heat. Remove the pork from the marinade; allow the excess marinade to drip off (reserving the remaining marinade). Stir-fry the pork until it browns, about 3 minutes. Transfer the pork and any liquid in the wok or skillet to a plate or bowl.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the skillet; when it is hot, add the mushrooms and stir-fry until slightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and the coleslaw and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the pork, the reserved marinade, and the green onions; stir-fry 2 more minutes. Toss the pieces of egg into the mixture at the last minute.

Serve the stir-fry in the lettuce leaves or the tortillas, with more hoisin sauce OF COURSE.

Meredith says that this dish serves 6. When one of those 6 is a hungry teenager who loves Moo Shu and stuffs his pancake VERY full, it may serve only 5!

No, it isn't the pork I'm sniffing in this photo--but I couldn't find my hat so I used an older photo. I DID want you to see me in my faux Chinese regalia.

No, it isn’t the pork I’m sniffing in this photo–but I couldn’t find my hat so I used an older image. I DID want you to see me in my faux Chinese regalia.

More Blessed to Give

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

giftsweb

I LOVE December. I know there are many who think that our streets and homes are too full of lights during this season and that materialism has taken over Christmas (and to a lesser extent Hanukkah). I am not one of those people.

The lights perform a vital function, reminding us that the world is full of illumination at the darkest time of the year.

As for the materialism, well, materialism is just stuff. And STUFF is what I love to give at this time of year.

To the very young Tinky, Christmas and Hanukkah (we celebrated both in our home) were primarily about what I would receive.

I still remember the thrill I experienced when I was seven and Santa brought a Petite Princess furniture collection for the dollhouse my mother had passed on to me from her own youth.

The house and the furniture eventually collapsed, but thinking about them still makes me smile.

A few years later, however, I began to realize that there’s something even more fulfilling than receiving gifts.

Giving them.

According to the bible, Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. It’s also more fun.

I love the way the holidays remind us to give to charities. Last Tuesday was Valley Gives Day in western Massachusetts, a time to donate online to some of my favorite causes.

A few days ago I made a special trip to stores to stock up on food items and toys to donate to local organizations. And as the year’s end approaches I’m working on donations to other nonprofit groups I support. I like to give a little something to some of my mother’s favorite groups as well. As I donate, I remember her.

With my mother in 2008.

With my mother in 2008.

Of course, we should give funds and labor to charity all year round. And I try to. But at this time of year, as we sing songs about hope and birth and love, giving becomes even more joyful.

Charity begins at home, of course, and I enjoy giving to my friends and relatives as much as I enjoy giving to charity. Planning what each person will get seems to take a certain portion of my brain that I don’t use for anything else.

Certain people are VERY difficult to shop for. In my experience many of those people are male. If men want something, they generally just go out and buy it. This habit can be very frustrating to gift givers.

As a result of this tendency, many of the men and boys on my Christmas list get food. It’s the perfect gift. They like it—and they can get the same gift year after year without complaint.

Among my favorite food gifts for men and for neighbors are my mother’s fruitcake, my brother’s favorite Indian cashews, fudge, and mustard.

On my last TV appearance of 2014 Ashley Kohl and I whipped up two other edible gifts I like to pass along to friends and relatives, my Aunt Lura’s Cranberry Chutney and my sister-in-law Leigh’s Lemon Pound Cake.

The chutney recipe is in my Pudding Hollow Cookbook (which it’s not too late to order as a Christmas present, by the way!). It’s detailed in the video here, although I think I forgot to add the chopped orange pieces on camera.

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Below is the recipe for Leigh’s pound cake. As I mention on camera in the video at the bottom of this post, it’s a very odd recipe. Its ingredients are added in an unusual order, and it starts baking in a cold oven.

As I FORGOT to mention on camera, it’s delicious—very dense and intensely orange-y.

Happy shopping and baking to you all. If you have to take on extra work at this time of year in order to afford all the gifts you want to give (I do!), work with a song in your heart.

And cook with a song in your heart.

songweb

Leigh’s Orange Pound Cake

Ingredients:

1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) sweet butter at room temperature
3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 cup milk
4 eggs
the juice and zest of 1 large orange

Instructions:

Grease and flour two standard loaf pans (or five to six smaller pans) or spray them with a grease-plus-flour spray like Baker’s Joy.

Cream together the butter and the sugar. Stir in half of the flour and half of the milk. Mix well; then add the remaining flour and milk. Beat in the eggs, and then stir in the juice and zest. Pour the batter into the loaf pans; they will be reasonably full.

Place the loaves in a cold oven. Turn the oven to 325 degrees and cook for 40 minutes, then raise oven to 350 and cook for about15 minutes. The loaves are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

The cakes may split a bit down the middle, but they will taste lovely. Cool the loaves in their pans for 10 minutes; then release them and let them finish cooling on a cooling rack.

Makes 2 large loaves or 5 small ones.

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Thanksgiving Harvest Salad

Monday, November 17th, 2014

saladweb

I love the idea of Thanksgiving: setting aside a day for giving thanks, sharing with those in need, and getting together with loved ones—and of course cooking and talking and eating and laughing together.

I’m not always absolutely thrilled by Thanksgiving dinner in practice, however. By the time one consumes a portion of each menu item at most harvest tables, one starts to feel awfully full.

My solution to this quandary is to try to include a green salad in the day’s offerings. One can eat a lot of salad and eat only a little of everything else.

I made the salad below with pecan oil graciously sent to me by La Tourangelle. If you have guests at your table with nut allergies, you may of course use extra-virgin olive oil, but otherwise I think the nut flavor suits this quintessential American holiday.

Feel free to add your own favorite ingredients. When my sister-in-law Leigh and I made this salad last year to take to Thanksgiving dinner at our cousins’ home, we served sweet-potato chips on the side. People threw them into their salad at the last minute to add crunch.

If you’d like to see me make the salad, watch the clip at the bottom of the recipe in which Ashley Kohl and I assemble the salad—after we pop some cranberry-apple crisp into the oven.

Happy Turkey Day (or as I like to call it, Salad Day!) to all……

girlsweb

The Salad

Ingredients:

for the dressing:

4 tablespoons cider vinegar
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon salt
ground pepper to taste
10 tablespoons walnut or pecan oil

for the salad:

1/2 pound uncooked spinach leaves (more if you like)
1/2 cup walnut or pecan halves (more if you like)
1 apple (your choice, cored and sliced but not peeled)
1/2 small red onion, chopped into rings or pieces
1/2 cup crumbled feta or blue cheese (more if you like; omit for a lighter salad)
3 strips cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)
1/4 cup dried cranberries (more if you like)

Instructions:

First, make the dressing. In a 2-cup mason jar combine the vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, garlic, water, salt and pepper. Shake well. Slowly whisk in the oil.

Wash the spinach thoroughly and dry it.

Place the nuts in a small frying pan, and toast them over low heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly, to release their oils. Take the pan off the heat.

Just before you are ready to eat, slice the apple. In a salad bowl combine the salad ingredients.

Shake the dressing, and pour about a quarter of it onto the salad. Toss the salad well but carefully. Serves 6.

(You will have enough dressing for several salads. Refrigerate the dressing between uses, and make sure to bring it to room temperature and shake it well before you re-use it.)

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The Last Bastion of Sexism

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
My neighbors' pig doing its thing.

My neighbors’ pig doing its thing.

As July 4 approaches I know I should write about grilling. Here’s the problem: I’m not a griller. Grilling is one of the few areas of life in which I am sexist. (The others all involve home repair.) Somehow I always wait until men arrive to haul out the charcoal and the grill.

I apologize to the men in my life—and to the goddesses of feminism. One of these days I’ll work on my grilling skills. Not before this Friday, however.

So here’s my compromise: a sauce that can accompany grilled meats, poultry, or vegetables.

My neighbors the Gillans recently held a pig roast. The whole thing was incredibly impressive, and the meat was delicious. At the end of the weekend, even after giving away lots of meat to their houseguests, they had quite a bit of pork on bones remaining.

I hate to see good meat and bones get thrown out so I volunteered to take the leftovers home. (Did I mention that the Gillans are REALLY GREAT neighbors? They gladly gave me the pork.) I boiled the whole thing for a while with onions and spices so that it was easy to get the meat off the bones. I used quite a bit of the meat in a tasty bean dish.

There was still leftover meat.

So … I threw together some barbecue sauce. I know I cheated a bit with this sauce by using a ketchup base. Our tomatoes aren’t in season yet, however, so the ketchup was expedient. The resulting sauce turned out just the way I like it, with lots of sweet and lots of tart.

I wish my readers a glorious fourth! May all of you, female and male, grill up a storm.

barbecue porkweb

Kansas City-ish Barbecue Sauce

Ingredients:

extra-virgin olive oil as needed for sautéing
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup catsup (use all-natural and/or organic ketchup)
1/3 cup molasses (or molasses mixed with maple syrup)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
a few shakes of hot sauce
2 tablespoons water

Instructions:

Warm the oil in a skillet. Sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and toss it around in the pan for 30 seconds. Stir in the chili powder, salt, and pepper, and stir to release their oils. When the spices start drying out in the pan, stir in the remaining ingredients.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Let the sauce cool briefly; then put it in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the blended sauce into a clean glass jar, bring it to room temperature, and then refrigerate it. This sauce is best made the day before you want to use it. It should last for at least 2 weeks.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

girlcrackerweb

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