28 January 2011

Winter Salad and Book Review - Complete Book of Knife Skills









Chard and kale don't have to be cooked. They make a crisp, green winter salad you can actually make, and dress, the day before. I developed this recipe one winter when I was invited to a locavore potluck dinner. Each guest was to bring a dish in which every ingredient had been grown or produced within 100 miles of home, with the exception of salt and olive oil.

It was the first of January, so the possibilities were limited. The locally grown chard and kale looked really good, but what would I do with them? I didn't want to take cooked greens and have to reheat them. I thought if I sliced the chard and kale finely and left them to marinate in some sort of dressing overnight, that would make a nice change from the usual green salad.

Vinegar was out since I didn't know of a within-100-miles source for it. But I had Meyer lemons to provide acid and Satsuma mandarins to add color and a bit of sweetness to balance the slight (and quite pleasant) bitterness of the greens. Satsumas have the added bonus of being seedless and easily segmented. You might want to add some black pepper or a favorite herb; but even without the constraints of the 100-mile locavore diet, I prefer the salad with no embellishments. (I've since added a teaspoon of sugar to the recipe.)

I love to chiffonade; it's my favorite cut! Included, of course, in the excellent book recently sent me for review. The Zwilling J. A. Henckels Complete Book of Knife Skills: The Essential Guide to Use, Techniques and Care is a book I wish had come out much sooner--before I had a chance to develop some of my own sad little techniques. But, hey, I still have all my fingers! Culinary experts Jeffrey Elliot and James P. DeWan have created a book that is the next best thing to a knife skills course at culinary school.

Its 384 pages include more than 1,200 step-by-step photos along with clearly written instructions, and its spiral-bound format makes it easy to use. You will learn how to choose, use and maintain the best knives for your purposes, as well as how to grip the knife properly and hold your guide hand. The book will have you chopping, mincing, paring, fluting and shucking in no time.

In addition to learning how to cut vegetables into sticks, dice, chiffonade and rondelles, you will master the oblique, paysanne, lozenge and tourné cuts. After working your way through the chapters on cutting poultry, meat, fish and shellfish, you'll feel like a charcutier-slash-sushi chef. A comprehensive volume, it even covers carving cooked meats of all types and how to make 11 different decorative garnishes.


Tell me about you and knives. How are your knife skills? What is your favorite knife? What size chef's knife do you like?

Chard and Kale Salad


(Makes 6 Servings)

1 8- to 12-ounce bunch chard, thinly sliced
1 8-ounce bunch kale, thinly sliced
1/2 cup freshly squeezed Satsuma mandarin juice
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 or more Satsuma mandarin oranges, peeled and segmented (about 2 cups)

1 Start the salad the day before it is to be served; the greens need time to tenderize a bit. I do the chiffonade thing with the chard and kale, stacking and rolling the carefully washed and dried leaves and slicing them thinly into 1/4-inch-wide ribbons with either a chef's knife or Santoku.

2 In small bowl, whisk together the juices, sugar and salt; then whisk in the oil. In 3-quart bowl, combine chard, kale and dressing. Cover and refrigerate until next day. Two hours before serving, toss greens and add Satsuma mandarin orange segments.

Note: Rich Ferreira has been growing organic Satsuma mandarin oranges on his family farm, Side Hill Citrus, since 1989.

21 January 2011

Chicken and Dumplings - A Comfort Food Classic



Chicken and Dumplings. Could there be a more comforting comfort food! Of course, it's one of those old-fashioned favorites that stirs up a lot of controversy--mainly of the "fluffy" versus "flat" (dropped or rolled) variety. Having grown up on the fluffy kind, I was well into my middle-earlies when I discovered there was any other kind.

We were en route to Williamsburg, Virginia, and stopped for dinner somewhere in West Virginia. I wanted a real Southern experience, so I ordered I-don't-remember-what with three sides, including turnip greens and okra. When I saw what they called chicken and dumplings set before a diner at the next table, I was glad I hadn't ordered that. I wanted to walk over and inspect it thoroughly and maybe get into a little discussion about it, but my husband would have grabbed me by the elbow and held me back from making such a spectacle of myself.

The "dumplings" were flat and looked to me like thick, wide noodles. I like chicken and noodles, so I probably would have liked the meal well enough. I just would have had to let go of my preconceived notions about dumplings. My mother always made the fluffy kind. Are the fluffy dumplings an English thing? But I think my Southern grandmother (my father's mother) also made the fluffy kind. So I'm confused. What kind of dumplings does your family make?

This recipe takes a bit of time, but you can break it up. It's a great make-ahead dish. Just get the stew made, pop it in the fridge for a day or two, then heat it up, add the dumplings and serve. If you're skinny -- I remember when the energy exerted eating a gigantic meal could actually make me lose weight -- serve it on a pile of buttery mashed potatoes.

Chicken and Dumplings


(Serves 6)


The Chicken Stew

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole chicken (3 1/2 to 5 pounds), cut up

3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (1 large)
1 1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery

1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
6 to 8 cups lower sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup flour shaken with 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

The Dumplings

(Makes 18)

2 packed cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup milk (1/3 can be buttermilk, sour cream or plain yogurt)

1 In large heavy pot (will use my new 5 1/2-quart Le Creuset Round French Oven next time), heat 2 tablespoons oil. Place half the chicken pieces skin side down in hot oil, season with up to (the amount of salt, pepper and broth depends on weight of chicken used) 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, uncovered, until crisp and brown, about 5 minutes or so. Turn, season second side with up to 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and brown, about 5 minutes or so. Remove chicken to large plate. Repeat with second batch, adding 1 tablespoon oil to pan.

2 Add the chopped vegetables to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in herbs and broth. Stir in flour-water mixture. Cook, stirring, until mixture begins to thicken. Return the chicken to the pot. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour.

3 Remove chicken to large plate. Use two forks to remove the skin and take the meat off the bone. Cut meat into bite-size (about 1-inch) pieces and return it to the pot. Taste for seasoning. (You can stop right here if you want to and finish the dish tomorrow or the next day.)

4 While stew returns to a simmer, make dumplings. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Drizzle melted butter over flour mixture, stirring with large fork. Stir in milk. Let stand for 5 minutes before scooping onto stew.

5 Stir in the parsley (and a cup of frozen peas, if you like). Spray a #40 scoop (about 1.5 tablespoons) or round measuring tablespoon with cooking spray. Drop level scoops or rounded tablespoons of dough onto simmering stew. Cover and simmer dumplings for 20 minutes, then test one to see if toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If not, cover and simmer an additional 5 minutes.

14 January 2011

Chili - A Game Day Classic for Super Bowl

Vegetarian Chili - A Game Day Classic / www.delightfulrepast.com



If you can’t be among the 100,000 fans at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday, February 6, maybe you'll be watching (or not watching!) Super Bowl XLV with a few friends at home. With a big-screen TV and a little planning, it’s almost better than being there.

To many, it’s just not Game Day without chips and the ubiquitous onion dip. But the Super Bowl is an event that calls for more than a bag of chips and a six-pack. Get the afternoon started with some great snacks—maybe some hummus or pimento cheese. Then right around halftime, bring on the real food—dishes that are easy to serve and easy to eat while watching the game.

Hearty soups, stews and casseroles are perfect foods for the game, and chili – with beans or without, beef or pork, ground meat or chunks, red or green – is a classic. Set up a chili bar where guests can choose their favorite garnishes. Offer guacamole or diced avocado, sour cream, shredded Cheddar and Jack cheese, sliced black olives, diced onion, sliced green onion, shredded cabbage or iceberg lettuce, cilantro, lime wedges and thinly sliced radishes.

For dessert, this quick and easy feeds-a-crowd chocolate cake that is served right from the pan is perfect for any large casual party. And here is my Won’t-Even-Miss-the-Meat Chili, a recipe I developed years ago when I was a vegetarian. It was the one dish I could count on to satisfy even the most carnivorous of my friends, who were not expecting to come away from the meal saying “Wow! I didn’t even miss the meat!” So ... tell me how you feel about chili and about football!


Vegetarian Chili - Won’t-Even-Miss-the-Meat Chili



(Makes twelve 1 1/2-cup servings)

2 pounds dry red kidney beans
10 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
1 cup chopped celery (2 large stalks)
1 cup chopped green bell pepper (1 large)
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (soy sauce if you're vegetarian)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (to start!)
1 29-ounce can diced tomatoes (I use
Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted)

1 Wash beans in cold water. Put beans and water in a 6- or 7-quart pot.* Soak beans at least 5 hours or overnight. Drain off soaking liquid and add 10 cups of fresh water. (I'm so precise about the water because we're going to add the sauce to the beans, so I don't want the beans to be swimming in water.) Bring to a full rolling boil, boil for a minute, then reduce heat. Simmer, partially covered, for about 2 1/2 hours, adding salt during the last 1/2 hour. And don't bother skimming off the foam that will form on the surface. A lot of people do, but I consider it just a waste of my precious time!

2 During last 45 minutes, make sauce. In large skillet or 3-quart saucepan, heat oil and cook onion, celery and green pepper until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and seasonings, and cook for about 10 minutes to "brown" the tomato paste and toast the spices (mixture will be very thick). Add diced tomatoes. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. If the beans aren't tender by the time the sauce has cooked 30 minutes, turn the heat off under the sauce, cover and let stand until beans are done.

3 Add sauce to beans. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the chili is the consistency you like. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into bowls and serve, offering assortment of garnishes. Can be made a day or more ahead--it just gets better!


*I don't have one myself, but I know the ideal pan for foods like this would be the All-Clad Stainless 7-Quart Stockpot with Pasta Insert. I made these gorgeous fettuccine-like shreds of cheese with my new Microplane Professional Extra Coarse Grater!

07 January 2011

Tahini Cookies









Tahini cookies became part of my repertoire when I had to think of ways to use up the rest of a jar of tahini bought for making hummus or baba ghanoush. When we throw away food we are not only wasting that food, we are wasting all the things that went into its production and shipping. So I try very hard to eliminate waste in my kitchen, home and garden.

Orange and ginger go very well with sesame seeds (called benne seeds in the South), so I thought they'd be perfect for this recipe, which I developed to be enjoyed with tea. This tender, not-too-sweet cookie goes especially well with Earl Grey tea. What is your ideal tea and cookie pairing?

Tahini Cookies
(Makes 3 dozen 3-inch cookies)

2 1/2 packed cups (12.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 packed cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup unsalted tahini
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest

1 In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, ginger and salt.

2 In large bowl of electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in tahini, then eggs and vanilla. Stir in orange zest, then flour mixture. Place in refrigerator for a bit while the oven preheats.

3 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Shape #40 scoops* (0.8 ounces or approximately 1.5 tablespoons) of dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Shaping into balls before pressing results in perfectly smooth cookies, edges and all. (If you don't mind a less smooth look, just press the scooped dough down. That's what I do!) Place 3 inches apart on cookie sheets (I use two 18x13x1-inch half-sheet pans for this recipe) lined with parchment. With a glass (I use a 2 1/4-inch diameter 1/3-cup flat-bottomed metal measuring cup), press each ball into a 2 1/4-inch round. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden.

4 Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

* If you don't have one of these 7/8 Ounce Size 40 Stainless Steel Round Squeeze Disher (13-0638) Category: Dishers, you need to get one now! How do people make cookies without it!


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