Cured Pork Tenderloin with Pickled Raisins & Mustards

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Home cured pork tenderloin is simple and delicious. It’s also raw and fermented, making it extremely nutritious. I only use the best quality pork, like Rockside Ranch pork to cure and eat raw. Rockside Ranch pork tenderloin is also much smaller than industrial pork making it easy to cure if you’re a beginner. Start this in November and you’ll have it for the holidays.

The Pork & Brine:

  • 2 pork tenderloins - each 1 to ½ pounds. Increase curing mixture and cure time for larger cuts

  • kosher or sea salt

  • 2 Tbls brown sugar

  • ¼ cup brandy, cognac, rum, or bourbon

  • Cheesecloth

  • A food scale

Coating: one tablespoon or more of one of the following:

  • Smoked, hot, or sweet paprika, or a mixture

  • Fine cracked black or white pepper  

  • Herbes de Provence

  • Aleppo pepper

To serve:

  • Pickled raisins (below)

  • A variety of mustards and/or conserves

  • Crostini or crackers

To prepare the pork:

  1. Remove any extra fat and the silver skin, the shiny flat muscle sinew, from the pork.

  2. Cut off the very pointy ends, reserving them for another use.

  3. Weigh the pork in grams using a food scale and write the number down for determining when the pork is done curing.

  4. To calculate the correct amount of salt, weigh the pork and multiply the weight by 4% (Example: 300 g × .04 = 12 grams salt). Using volume (tablespoon) measurements can lead to over-salted meat.

  5. Place the salt and sugar in a plastic storage bag.

  6. Place the tenderloins in the bag, seal shut while removing air. Massage the brine into the pork covering every part of the tenderloin.

  7. Refrigerate for 12 hours. Don’t be tempted to over marinade as the pork will be too salty.

  8. After 12 hours, remove the tenderloins from the bag, and wipe them dry with paper towels.

  9. Hold the pork over a small bowl, and pour the brandy over the pork. Use a small measuring cup or large spoon to continue to turn the prok and “wash” of the remaining salt/sugar cure.

  10. Pat the pork dry with a paper towel and place it on a piece of wax paper.

  11. Sprinkle with the spices, coating evenly by rolling it around in the spice mixture. The pork should be completely covered with spices.

To cure:

  1. Wrap each tenderloin with cheesecloth allowing the pork to show through. Don’t over-wrap.

  2. Tie it with kitchen twine, and (in cool weather) hang the pork in a cool area where there is good air circulation. I hang mine from my laundry rack in the garage. It has a shelf above where I drape a cloth over the pork, without touching the pork so it can breath.

  3. You can also place it on a flat sheet pan topped with a mesh cake rack for air circulation, in the fridge. The meat needs good air circulation.

  4. Cure for 10 days to 2 weeks, checking it every few days.

  5. At day 10, weigh the pork again. The pork is done when it has lost 30% of it’s beginning weight. Calculate by: starting weight × 0.7 = ending weight.

  6. Wrapped in parchment paper or cheesecloth and then loosely with plastic wrap, the cured pork will keep for a month in the refrigerator but will continue to dry out. Once it’s too dry to slice, grate it with a coarse grater and grate over pasta, deviled or scrambled eggs, on toasted bread with olive oil, etc.

To be safe:

  • White mold is good. Green mold: cut it off.. Black mold: throw it out.

  • And, when in doubt, throw it out. I have never had a problem with curing pork but remember that cool weather is your friend.

Pickled Raisins

Look for interesting raisins at the farmer’s market to make this extra tasty. The herbs used in this recipe were designed to go with the smoked paprika cure. Feel free to switch and use fresh thyme, rosemary, etc.

  • 2 dried chiles de árbol, crushed, or ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1 Bay leaf

  • 1 Tbls. dried oregano

  • ½ cup white wine vinegar

  • 1 cup water

  • ¼ cup honey

  • 1 tsp. salt

  • 1½ cups raisins of choice

  1. Bring everything but the raisins to a simmer for 3 to 4 minutes in a small pan.

  2. Place the raisins in a Pyrex cup or a canning jar that you have warmed with hot water and drained.

  3. Strain the vinegar mixture into a bowl and place the bay leaf in with the raisins. Discard the other spices.

  4. Pour the vinegar over the raisins and let cool for at least one hour.

  5. Keep stored in the fridge.

Eggplant Caponata

 Eggplant Caponata epitomizes summer. The eggplant sops up the olive oil so use a good one. The dish is layered and made rich with salty and sweet notes. It's perfect served at room temperature as an appetizer but also delicious on burgers, over grilled meats and chicken, or layered in a sandwhich. Makes about 3-4 cups

Eggplant Caponata epitomizes summer. The eggplant sops up the olive oil so use a good one. The dish is layered and made rich with salty and sweet notes. It's perfect served at room temperature as an appetizer but also delicious on burgers, over grilled meats and chicken, or layered in a sandwhich. Makes about 3-4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup good quality, extra virgin olive oil, possibly more

  • 2 Lbs eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 1 large onion, diced

  • 3 Tbls tomato paste, thinned in ¼ cup water

  • 1 cup crushed canned tomatoes

  • 6 oz. green olives, sliced or roughly chopped (stuffed olives are good too)

  • ½ cup white wine vinegar

  • ½ cup golden raisins

  • ¼ cup capers

  • 2 to 3 Tbls sugar or to taste

  • 2 Tbls finely grated unsweetened chocolate

  • ½ cup basil, sliced thinly

  • 2 to 4 Tbls pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan

  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.

To Make:

  1. Heat one third of the oil and add one third of the eggplant. Fry, tossing occasionally, until browned, 3–4 minutes.

  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to a large bowl; set aside.

  3. Finish the remaining eggplant in two batches using more oil if needed. Don’t be afraid to allow the eggplant to absorb the oil, it will add to the dish!

  4. Lightly salt the eggplant to taste.

  5. Reduce heat to medium and add oil if needed to the pan and sauté the onions until slightly caramelized. A pinch of sugar can help the process.

  6. Add the tomato paste - water mixture and cook, stirring, until caramelized and almost evaporated, 1–2 minutes.

  7. Add the crushed tomatoes and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes.

  8. Stir in olives, vinegar, raisins, capers, sugar, and chocolate, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes.

  9. Transfer to the bowl with the eggplant. Cool.

  10. Add the basil and pine nuts and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and let cool to room temperature before serving.

Spicy Caramel-Glazed Meatballs with Peanuts, Pickled Vegetables, Basil & Fried Shallots

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Spicy Caramel-Glazed Meatballs with Peanuts, Pickled Vegetables, Basil & Fried Shallots ~ 

Serves 6

These slightly spicy meatballs make a great appetizer. Use decorative skewers and sprinkle the meatballs with the garnishes. The caramel will help the garnishes to stick to the meatballs. They're also a fun dinner served over cooked rice noodles and served with quick sautéd vegetables.

Pork Meatballs:

  • 1 Lbs ground pork (20% fat)

  • 2 tsp potato or corn starch

  • 1 tsp sea salt

  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1 Tbls water

  • 1 Tbls toasted sesame oil

  • 1 Tbls Sriracha

  • 4 scallions, minced

  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced

  • 1 Tbls coconut oil or other high heat cooking oil

Spicy Caramel:

  • 1/2 cup sugar, see below to replace sugar with honey

  • 3 tablespoons water

  • 2 Tbls lime juice

  • 2 Tbls fish sauce

  • 2 Thai chilies, thinly sliced

Pickles: Fermented vegetables can repack these pickles and would also be delicious.

  • 2 carrots, peeled

  • 8 oz daikon, peeled

  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar, divided

  • 1 tsp salt, divided

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons rice vinegar

  • 1/2 cup warm water

Garnishes, choose one or all:

 

  • 2-3 Tbls toasted coconut flakes

  • 3 Tbls toasted peanuts, chopped

  • Thinly sliced Thai or Italian basil

  • Fried shallots (found in the grocery store Asian section)

  • Cooked rice noodles

Make the pickles:

  1. Cut the vegetables into long matchsticks. You can also use a mandoline or Cuisinart with the matchstick or shredding attachment.

  2. Place the cut vegetables in a colander and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt, massage lightly and let them sit for 10 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add the sugar, salt, vinegar, and water and simmer just long enough to melt the sugar. Cool.

  4. Rinse the vegetables and place them in a small heat-proof container or mason jar. Pour the pickling liquid over the vegetables. Cool and then chill. Pickles can be made the day before.

Make the meatballs:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the starch, salt, baking soda, water, sesame oil, hot sauce, scallions, and garlic together until combined.

  2. Place the pork in a bowl and add the seasoning mixture. Blend quickly, just enough to well combine the the prok with the seasoning. Don’t overmix; the fat will melt and the meatballs will have a tough texture. This can also be done in the bowl of a pre-chilled mixing bowl with a paddle attachment or a pre-chilled food processor bowl with blade attachment. Stop mixing as soon as ingredients are blended together.

  3. Chill the pork mixture for 30 minutes to an hour (or more) before cooking.

  4. Form the pork into heaping 1-inch balls, and place onto a pan lined with parchment and chill for 10 minutes before cooking.

Cooking the meatballs:

  1. In a small bowl combine the lime juice, fish sauce, and thai chilies. Set aside.

  2. *Make the caramel by putting the sugar and water in a clean, grease-free saucepan.

  3. Heat on low to dissolve the sugar, stirring. Brush down the sides of the pan with water to melt any sugar crystals. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat to medium high and stop stirring.

  4. Allow the sugar to caramelize gently swirling the pan occasionally. It should caramelize to a medium amber.

  5. Very slowly stir in the lime, chili mixture.

  6. Let the caramel reduce until lightly syrupy and strain it through a fine mesh metal sieve into a small bowl.

  7. Heat a clean sauté pan on medium high heat and add the coconut oil.

  8. Sear the meatballs just to brown and then drizzle them with the caramel sauce. Continue cooking the meatballs, spooning the caramel over the meatballs, until browned and crispy on the outside and cooked though in the middle.

*To replace the sugar:

  1. Substitute 3 Tbls. of honey for the sugar. Add the honey, lime juice, fish sauce, and thai chili to the pan with the meatballs once they have browned. The dish won’t have the same sticky caramazed affect but will have the sweetness.

  2. Use fermented vegetables instead of the pickled vegetables.

To serve: Brush the top of pork meatballs with more of the coconut caramel. Drain the pickles well and sprinkle over the meatballs, along with the peanut, coconut flakes, and basil.

 

 

 

Stuffed Artichokes ~ Two Ways

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Spring brings us big, beautiful artichokes which I love to stuff and serve as a first course or entree. Here are two of my favorite versions. Italian Sausage Stuffed Artichokes and Anchovy & Pine Nut Stuffed Artichokes.

Italian Sausage Stuffed Artichokes ~ Serves 6 ~ This is a meal! Add a salad using bitter greens like arugula with good red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.

  • 6 medium to large artichokes, rinsed
  • ½ lemon
  • 4 Tbls olive oil, halved
  • 1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs, I like to us good sourdough whole wheat; nuts and seeds are fine
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage or raw links, split and casing removed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbls each fresh mince oregano and parsley (or 1 tsp. each dried) You can also substitute ¼ cup minced fresh basil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 cup chicken broth, white wine or water
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (optional)

To cook artichokes for both recipes:

  1. Rinse the artichokes. Slice about ¾-inch to an inch off the tip of the artichoke using a serrated knife. Next, cut off the tips of the petals using scissors and remove the small petals at the base. Last, cut off the stem so that the artichoke can sit flat. Reserve the stem. Rub the artichoke with the cut lemon.
  2. Steam the artichokes. If desired, add a few aromatic bay leaves, sliced garlic, sprigs of thyme, etc. to the water before steaming the artichokes. For this recipe, steam until almost done but not quite tender, between 20 and 35 minutes depending on the size. Use a sharp knife to pierce through the bottom of the heart to check for doneness.

Meanwhile:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F
  2. Evenly spread the breadcrumbs on flat baking pan or cookie sheet and bake until toasted but not completely dry, 5 to 8 minutes. In other words, don’t be too picky but do watch them closely so they don’t burn.
  3. In a sauté pan over medium heat, sauté the pork, breaking it into small pieces, until it is cooked through and crumbled. Drain on paper towel.
  4. Add two tablespoons olive oil to the pan and then the onion and garlic sautéing until the onion is tender.
  5. Add the onions and garlic to a medium bowl along with the sausage, bread crumbs, herbs, pine nuts and cheese and toss just to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Once the artichokes are cool enough to handle, gently spread the leaves to open the artichoke giving room to add the filling. Remove the smallest leaves in the very center. Using a teaspoon, scrape out the fuzzy choke making sure you get the fuzz out of the crevices.
  7. Lightly fill the artichoke center with filling as well as in-between the leaves and place the artichokes in a baking dish that has just enough room to hold them snuggly.
  8. Drizzle with remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and the one cup of broth.
  9. Carefully pour water into the bottom of the dish (avoiding artichokes) up to ¼-inch.
  10. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top of the stuffing is lightly browned and the artichokes are hot.
  11. Serve the marinara sauce as a dip on the side.
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Anchovy & Pine Nut Stuffed Artichokes ~ Serves 4 to 6 ~ This is a lighter version and makes a great appetizer using artichokes that are on the small to medium size. The anchovies melt into the stuffing creating umami flavors perfect with artichokes.

  • 4 medium or 6 small artichokes, cooked and cleaned as above
  • 4 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 anchovies (or more)
  • 2 Tbls each fresh mince oregano and parsley (or 1 tsp. each dried) You can also substitute ¼ cup minced fresh basil
  • 1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs, toasted as in above recipe
  • ¼ cup capers
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Pinch peperoncino (pepper flakes)
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges
  1. Follow cooking instructions above for the artichokes and the breadcrumbs.

Meanwhile:

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F
  2. In a sauté pan over medium heat, add two tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the onion until tender.
  3. Mince the garlic and anchovies together to form a rough paste and add to the onions. Sauté until the garlic is tender and the anchovies have “melted” into the mixture.
  4. Add the mixture to a medium bowl along with the bread crumbs, pine nuts and capers, herbs, chili flakes and cheese and toss just to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Lightly fill the artichoke center with filling as well as in-between the leaves.
  6. Place the artichokes in a baking dish that has just enough room to hold them snuggly.
  7. Drizzle with remaining two tablespoons of olive oil and the 1 cup of broth, water, or wine.
  8. Carefully pour water into the bottom of the dish (avoiding artichokes) up to ¼-inch.
  9. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top of the stuffing is lightly browned and the artichokes are hot.
  10. Serve with lemon wedges or lemon butter.

Salmon Rillettes

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Rillettes is similar to pâté but potted and spreadable.  It's traditionally made with pork as a way of preserving the meat in fat. It’s delicious and equally wonderful with game birds, rabbit and in a lighter version using fish. I’ve been making this recipe since my days studying cooking in France. It never gets old!

  • 2 cups white wine or vegetable broth
  • 1 Tbls. minced chives
  • 1 pound fresh salmon fillet, wild caught preferred
  • 6 ounces good quality smoked salmon
  • 2 Tbls. minced fresh chives
  • Pinch grated nutmeg
  • 3 Tbls. lemon juice
  • 12 Tbls. plus 2 Tbls. unsalted butter, European preferred (see below), room temperature
  • Fine sea salt and fresh ground white pepper

In a shallow pan, bring the wine or broth and shallots to a simmer. Once the shallots are cooked, add the salmon and gently simmer until it is barely opaque, 5-6 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the salmon to cool in the liquid. Remove the salmon from the wine and drain it on paper towel. Strain the liquid, reserving the shallots and liquid.

In the same pan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and add the 2 tablespoons of reserved both or wine and the smoked salmon. Cook very gently until no longer transparent, about 3 minutes. Leave it to cool.

Once the fresh Salmon is cool, remove the skin and break the salmon into pieces and remove all of the bones. Shred the fresh and smoked salmon with a fork and set aside.

In a bowl, cream the butter with a wooden spoon or with a hand mixer until creamy and light. Don’t overdo it. Stir in the two salmons, chives, reserved shallots, and pinch of nutmeg. Season with salt and white pepper. Season with lemon if you’d like. I prefer not to.

Pack into a crock and chill to blend flavors for at least two hours. Bring to room temp and serve with toasted baguette slices or on Belgian endive.

You can also:

  • Cut the recipe in half                      
  • Use European Style Cultured Butter by Kerrygold or Organic Valley for example. It’s worth the price for this dish which relies on the butter for added flavor and texture. The cultured butter adds a nice tang.
  • Add fresh lemon juice to taste
  • Add 1/4 tsp. smoke paprika such as pimente d'Espelette
  • Serve with vegetables
  • Scoop small spoonfuls into Belgian endive
  • Garnish with caviar
  • Freeze it, wrapped well

Belgian Endive with Curried Pumpkin Mousse

Walnuts are the perfect garnish but so is roasted delicata squash moons (see Endive with Winter Fruit recipe) or fresh truffles if you have them laying around. Winky face. This "pumpkin mousse" is also delicious served with crackers. Makes about 48

  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • 2 Tbls. butter
  • 1 Tbls. curry powder
  • 2 cups canned or fresh pumpkin puree
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • Sea salt and cayenne to taste
  • 4 to 6 heads Belgian endive, separated into individual leaves
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts

Place several layers of paper towel in a large sieve and add pumpkin to drain for several hours. 

In a small sauté pan, cook the shallots in the butter over medium heat, stirring until soft.  Add the curry powder and cook one minute. Cool. In a food processor, puree the shallots, pumpkin, curry and cream cheese until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper. Chill. 

Spoon or pipe filling onto endive.  Sprinkle with walnuts.  The endive can be chilled for 2 hours before serving.

  • The filling can be made a day ahead.  It can also be served as a spread for vegetables and crackers (rye crackers are good), or the rye bread sticks from Trader Joes.  

Endive with Winter Fruit, Honeyed Walnuts & Balsamic Glaze

This is a simple but lovely appetizer. The endive can be stuffer ahead and drizzled with the glaze last minute. Fool around with different fruits.

Makes 16

  • 2 to 3 bulbs Belgian endive to make 16 leaves
  • 2 Tbls. honey
  • 3 Tbls. orange juice
  • ¼-cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 ½ oz. (1/3 cup) fresh goat cheese (Chévre)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 Tbls. minced chives (optional)
  • Fruit, choose one or use a mixture of fruits:
    • Oranges: 16 orange segments, membrane removed (or Mandarin oranges; drain and pat dry) Blood oranges are lovely here.
    • Fuyu Persimmons: halve through core and slice thinly
    • Roasted Grapes: In a 450˚F oven, roast 1 cup grapes on a parchment-lined baking dish just until the pop and release juices, 5-8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
    • Delicata squash: wash one squash and slice lengthwise. De-seed and slice thinly into half-moons. In a 450˚F oven, toss squash with a teaspoon of olive oil and roast squash on a parchment-lined baking dish just until tender and golden. Cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Toss the nuts and 1 tablespoon honey in a small bowl and spread on the cookie sheet.  Bake 5 to 10 minutes or until golden, stirring once.  Cool.  Combine remaining honey, orange juice, and vinegar in a small saucepan and simmer to reduce to 3 tablespoons watching closely.  Cool.  

Separate and fill each leaf with 1 tsp. of cheese, then the walnuts, and lastly, one piece of fruit. Chill until ready to serve. Drizzle with the glaze using a teaspoon and sprinkle with chives if using.

 

Cherry & Goat Cheese Clafoutis

Is this an appetizer or dessert? I use it for both. Clafoutis is a simple "peasant" dish from the Limousine region of France. Cherries are most traditional in this dish but other stone fruits like pluots, plums, prunes and pears are delicious too. In this updated version by Patricia Wells, goat cheese and ground almonds are added making it equally delicious as an appetizer or lightly sweet dessert. Serves 6-8

  • Unsalted butter for preparing the baking dish
  • 1 1/2 pounds cherries, pitted
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) very fresh, moist goat cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup finely ground blanched almonds
  • A pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting the gratin
  • Equipment: One 10 1/2 inch (27-cm) round porcelain baking dish

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Butter the baking dish and arrange the cherries in a single layer. 

In a bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients except the confectioners' sugar and whisk to blend. This can be done in a food processor. Pour the mixture over the cherries. 

Place the baking dish in the center of the oven. Bake until the gratin is firm and a deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. Dust lightly with confectioners' sugar, and serve in wedges. 

  • Decrease the sugar to 3 Tbls. and serve with bread as a cheese appetizer.
  • Serve for dessert with extra fresh cherries on the side.
  • Substitute halved plums.
  • Leave out the sugar and substitute plum or cherry tomatoes: slice tomatoes in half and lightly salt the cut side. Layer in paper towel to drain for 30 minutes and then proceed with recipe and 1/2 tsp. dried thyme.

At Home in Provence, Patricia Wells

Tea Smoked Mushroom Salad with Spiced Cashews and Goat Cheese

Tea-smoked mushrooms have a tea-infused, earthy, umami flavor. They are delicious served over warm Brie with crusty bread or in this salad. Enjoy!

Serves 6

Cayenne Cashews:

  • 1/4 cup cashews 
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1/4 cup water 
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper 
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt 

Tea-Smoking Mixture:

  • ½ cup rice 
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup black tea leaves of your choice, such as Earl Grey, Lapsong Souchong, etc.
  • 2 Tbls. whole black peppercorns, cracked
  • 1 tsp. whole coriander seeds 
  • 4 slices (about 1 ounce) fresh ginger root 
  • 1 cinnamon sticks 
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1/4 cup indoor smoker wood shavings (optional)

Mushrooms:

  • ½ Lbs. assorted mushrooms, shiitake, chanterelle, portobello, brown cremini, white
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced 
  • Olive oil to coat the mushrooms
  • Tea-smoking mixture (recipe below)

Dressing & Salad:

  • 1/3 cup sherry
  • 1/2 Tbls. shallots, minced
  • 1/4 Tbls. Dijon mustard 
  • 1 Tbls. strong brewed black tea using the same tea as in smoking mixture
  • 2/3 cup nut oil or mild olive oil
  • Butter crunch lettuce and/or arugula
  • 4 oz. mild, fresh goat cheese

To make Cayenne Cashews:

Preheat oven to 375˚ 

Add the cashews, sugar, and water to a sauce pot and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Strain the cashews and place them in a small mixing bowl. In another small bowl, mix salt and cayenne and sprinkle the cashews tossing to coat the cashews. Spread the nuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake them for 5 minutes, or until the cashews are golden brown. Remove the nuts from the oven and let them cool. 

To make Tea Smoked Mushrooms:

Wash, dry and quarter or halve the mushrooms, depending on their size, into bite-size pieces and place in a bowl.  Toss lightly to coat with garlic and olive oil.  

Mix together all of the tea-smoking ingredients.  Line a wok or sauté pan with a tight-fitting lid (do not use non-stick) with two layers of foil and place the smoking mixture in a mound in the center of the foil. Set a wire rack or vegetable stearmer in the wok and place a tight-fitting lid on top of the wok.  Heat the wok until wisps of smoke appear when you briefly lift the lid. 

Reduce the heat under the wok and quickly place the mushrooms on the rack in the wok.  Replace cover.  Smoke for about 5 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and place in a bowl to let stand at room temperature.  Adjust seasoning as needed with salt and pepper to taste. 

To make dressing:

In a small pan, bring the sherry to a boil to burn off the alcohol. Reduce slightly. Cool. Whisk together shallot, Dijon and tea. Whisk in oil and adjust seasoning.

To serve:

Toss the lettuce with the dressing and mound on a platter. Top with mushrooms, crumbled cheese and cashews. Serve.

Other options for smoking

  • Asparagus and other veggies, Rhubarb, firm tofu, Tempeh, prawns, scallops, or halibut or salmon fillets.
  • Serve the smoked mushrooms over ramen noodles in broth sprinkled with chives 
  • Serve on toasted bread with Brie or goat cheese as an appetizer

*Mushrooms adapted from Cooking with Tea, Robert Wemischner

 

 

Salted Summer Squash Salad with Olive Oil & Hazelnuts

Salted Summer Squash Salad with Olive Oil & Hazelnuts

  • 1 small summer squash per person (zucchini, crookneck or patty pan)
  • sea salt
  • EVOO
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbls. toasted, skinned and chopped *hazelnuts per person

Remove the ends and coarsely grate or julienne the squash. Place in a bowl and toss liberally with salt. Allow to sit for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté the nuts just until lightly colored and set aside. After the 20 minutes, rinse the zucchini really well. Taste it to make sure it is not salty, if it is, rinse again. 

The squash absorbs quite a bit of water. Take handfuls and squeeze out as much liquid as possible and place in a dry bowl. Or, place the squash in a clean, dry tea towel and twist the towel squeezing out the water.

Drain the olive oil used to sauté the nuts over the squash and toss adding more olive oil and lemon juice to taste. Sprinkle with nuts and serve.

*Sliced or slivered almonds are also nice.

A Spring Cleaning

 We’ve enjoyed the richness of winter root vegetables and stews that kept us cozy during winter's weather. Now, the earth begins to warm and bursts forth with green! As the earth awakens, so do our bodies. We become energized for what is traditionally the hard work of planting season.  Some like to do cleanses right after the holidays but I find that a time of rest and recovery and Spring a time to rejuvenate.   Many cultures participate in the ritual of spring cleaning. It applies to us as well as to our homes. This tradition is an age old practice.  *Chinese medicine associates the spring season with the color green, new growth... and [cleansing] the liver and gallbladder.  The Jews ready for Passover by thoroughly cleansing their homes and stomachs of leavened bread.   Ready for a cleans? To guide you, look to nature. Greens are what's in season and are extremely cleansing whether eaten raw or lightly cooked. You don't need to spend a fortune; just visit the farmer's market. And after a winter of slow stewing, it’s time for a quick sauté.   Foods taste best when eaten in season. Following the seasons gives us foods to look forward to and eating locally grown, high quality, seasonal foods provides more flavor and nutrients at less cost. To help with cost, read on for ideas on using all of the plant.  *Bliss, N. 2012.  Real Food All Year . New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

We’ve enjoyed the richness of winter root vegetables and stews that kept us cozy during winter's weather. Now, the earth begins to warm and bursts forth with green! As the earth awakens, so do our bodies. We become energized for what is traditionally the hard work of planting season.

Some like to do cleanses right after the holidays but I find that a time of rest and recovery and Spring a time to rejuvenate. 

Many cultures participate in the ritual of spring cleaning. It applies to us as well as to our homes. This tradition is an age old practice. *Chinese medicine associates the spring season with the color green, new growth... and [cleansing] the liver and gallbladder. The Jews ready for Passover by thoroughly cleansing their homes and stomachs of leavened bread. 

Ready for a cleans? To guide you, look to nature. Greens are what's in season and are extremely cleansing whether eaten raw or lightly cooked. You don't need to spend a fortune; just visit the farmer's market. And after a winter of slow stewing, it’s time for a quick sauté. 

Foods taste best when eaten in season. Following the seasons gives us foods to look forward to and eating locally grown, high quality, seasonal foods provides more flavor and nutrients at less cost. To help with cost, read on for ideas on using all of the plant.

*Bliss, N. 2012. Real Food All Year. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

 Spring garlic, a special Spring treat, is highly nutritious and cleansing. Also known as green garlic, it's availability doesn't last long. This young garlic has hints of purple as apposed to leeks which are green-white. They are delicious sautéed.  Replace 1 entire green garlic stem and bulb for 1 clove of regular garlic.

Spring garlic, a special Spring treat, is highly nutritious and cleansing. Also known as green garlic, it's availability doesn't last long. This young garlic has hints of purple as apposed to leeks which are green-white. They are delicious sautéed. Replace 1 entire green garlic stem and bulb for 1 clove of regular garlic.

 In addition to farmer's markets and produce shares, ethnic markets are a great place to shop for inexpensive greens. The choices are endless!

In addition to farmer's markets and produce shares, ethnic markets are a great place to shop for inexpensive greens. The choices are endless!

 At the farmer's market I found these three types of spinach all used in Asian and Indian soups and stir-frys. Each bunch cost about $1.00. Notice the long stems. 

At the farmer's market I found these three types of spinach all used in Asian and Indian soups and stir-frys. Each bunch cost about $1.00. Notice the long stems. 

 When buying bagged spinach, we are paying for someone to clean the spinach and throw away the stems for us. It's expensive and a waste. Spinach stems are delicious in this  Sephardic salad with walnut and garlic sauce.  

When buying bagged spinach, we are paying for someone to clean the spinach and throw away the stems for us. It's expensive and a waste. Spinach stems are delicious in this Sephardic salad with walnut and garlic sauce.  

 Young, Spring carrots are another treat. The carrot family  Umbelliferae  consist of anise, caraway, celery, parsley, cilantro and coriander, cumin, dill, and fennel to name a few. Vegetables from the same family always taste delicious prepared together. Here are steamed carrots with   Carrot-Top Pesto.      By adding Spring's offering into your diet, you're off to a great cleansing start!

Young, Spring carrots are another treat. The carrot family Umbelliferae consist of anise, caraway, celery, parsley, cilantro and coriander, cumin, dill, and fennel to name a few. Vegetables from the same family always taste delicious prepared together. Here are steamed carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto. 

By adding Spring's offering into your diet, you're off to a great cleansing start!

 If you're interested in seasonal cooking and eating, I recommend Real Food All Year. It combines ancient Chinese practices with today's knowledge and some simple recipes.                         Real Food All Year: Eating Seasonal Whole Foods for Optimal Health and All-Day Energy   

If you're interested in seasonal cooking and eating, I recommend Real Food All Year. It combines ancient Chinese practices with today's knowledge and some simple recipes.                       
Real Food All Year: Eating Seasonal Whole Foods for Optimal Health and All-Day Energy
 

Spinach Stems with Walnut Sauce

Spinach Stems With Walnut Sauce

Serves 4

I like to serve this salad with an assortment of roasted peppers, olives, cheeses and cured meats as an appetizer. The walnut sauce is also delicious on chicken, spread on toast and with other vegetables.

  • Stems from 3 lbs. spinach, some tops are ok too
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 Tbls. olive oil
  • 1 cup ground toasted walnuts 
  • 1 slice rustic bread, crusts removed, soaked in water, and squeezed dry
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbls. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 4 Tbls. water, or as needed
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the spinach stems, onions, and olive oil in a saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until stems are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Lift out and discard the onion. Pour the contents of the pan into a sieve or colander and let drain for 15 minutes.

To make the walnut sauce, combine the ground nuts, soaked bread, vinegar, olive oil, and 3 Tbls. water in a small bowl. Stir to mix well and season with salt and pepper. Salt is the key ingredient for the balance here. The sauce should be thick but spreadable. If it is too thick, add the remaining 1 Tbls. water and taste again for seasoning.

Place the well-drained spinach stems in a serving bowl, pour the sauce over the stems and stir. Allow to marinate for a few hours or as long as overnight. Serve at room temperature. 

Adapted from Sephardic Flavors: Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean, Joyce Goldstein

 

 

Julia's Chicken Liver Mousse

Mousse de Foies de Volaille or Chicken Liver Mousse creamy and delicious. It's beautiful packed in a rustic crock and served with spiced prunes, fig jam, Cornichon pickles, walnuts and crackers or baguette. Use the best quality organic, free range chicken livers that you can find.

Makes two cups

  • 1 lb. chicken livers, preferably from organic, free range chickens
  • 2 Tbls. minced shallots
  • 2 Tbls. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup Madeira, Cognac or brandy
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. each white pepper and allspice
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature & cut into pieces

Look over livers and remove any greenish or black spots. Cut livers into 1/2-inch pieces.

Sauté the shallots in the 2 Tbls. butter until limp. Add livers and sauté 2 to 3 minutes until the livers are just stiffened, but still rosy inside. Scrape them into a Cuisinart or high-speed blender.

Pour the alcohol into the sauté pan and reduce, scraping bits in the pan to 3 Tbls. Add to the blender.

Add cream and seasoning and blend until liver is a smooth paste. Add butter piece by piece while machine is running and blend a few seconds more. Adjust seasoning. Note: items prepared hot but to be served cold should be highly seasoned as seasoning mellows when cold.

Force the mixture through a sieve for a smoother texture and pack into your serving bowl or jar. Press wax paper or plastic wrap directly onto the paté so no air penetrates. Chill two to three hours or over night. 

Adapted from Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle & Julia Child

Salmon Rillettes

Salmon Rillettes

Salmon Rillette is a take on the classic French pork rillette. Traditionally, as a way to preserve the meat, pork is cooked in it's own fat until it falls apart. It's then shredded, mixed with the fat and packed into jars. Covered in fat, the spread would last for months unrefrigerated. 

This version, made with fresh and smoked salmon is simple to prepare, packed with nutrients, and delicious.

Socca, a French street food & perfect hors d'oeuvre.

  Christmas is the time to make food festive. 


Christmas is the time to make food festive. 

Socca are a traditional street food in the south of France made with chickpea flour. They are a delicious, gluten free crepe. Here, egg whites are added to make more of a pancake or blini. These pancakes make great individual pizzas but I prefer to use them as a blini. They are easy to make, can be made ahead and hold up well when being picked up with fingers. Be creative with toppings.

For the schmear I use:

  • Hummus, either homemade or purchased
  • Creme Fraiche or Labne (Greek yogurt) 
  • Whipped cream cheese with chopped herbs
  • Soft Brie
  • Fresh goat cheese blended with a touch of cream

For the toppings:

  • I go to a good grocery store olive bar and grab a viriety of toppings like olives, roasted peppers, garlic confit, capers, marinated feta, what ever suits your fancy
  • Smoked fish of any sort is killer with creme fraiche 
  • Caviar! 
  • Pistachios on Brie  
  • Poached, spiced figs with cheese

The recipe:

Serves 4 or 24-30 mini cakes

1 3/4 cups chickpea flour (garbanzo flour)

1 3/4 cups water

1 1/2 Tbls. olive oil

3/4 tsp. salt

2 large egg whites, room temp

pinch cream of tarter

Put the chickpea flour, salt, olive oil, salt and water in a large metal bowl and whisk until completely smooth. Let the batter sit 10-15 minutes. Add more flour if needed to make the consistency similar to pancake batter.

In a clean and grease free metal bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tarter until soft,  glossy peaks form. Gently fold 1/4 of the whites into the batter. Fold in remaining whites just until blended. You should still see thin streaks of whites.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and lightly brush with olive oil.

For Blini: Use a nonstick pan or seasoned pancake griddle lightly brushed with olive oil. Heat to med-heat. Add one tablespoon of the batter forming a small pancake. Any size you’d like is fine really. Cook until bubbles appear as you would pancakes. Flip and cook the second side. Remove to cookie sheet and make remaining blini. You can keep blini in a warm oven until ready to serve but it’s not really necessary.

 To make four large pancakes: Using a 6” nonstick pan brushed with olive oil, heat to med-heat. Add one quarter of the batter forming a pancake. Cook until bubbles appear as you would pancakes. Flip and cook the second side. Remove to cookie sheet and make remaining pancakes. Keep warm in the oven.

Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Community Cuisine, Barbie Aknin

Gougère

Makes about 48 small puffs

Gougère are delicious, addictive, crispy, creamy, chewy cheese puffs and best served warm. They are made with a base dough known as pâte à choux, the classic French dough that is used for cream puffs. 

2 cups milk
½ cup unsalted butter, cubed
2 tsp. salt
dash white pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour
7-8 large eggs
6 oz. Gruyere cheese, finely diced
6 oz. ham, finely diced (optional)
2 tsp. fresh rosemary or fresh thyme (optional)

Have all indredients pre-measured and prepared. Crack 5 of the 8 eggs but do not beat. Heat oven to 375˚. Heat the milk in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring just until it comes to a gentle boil. Add the butter, salt and a dash of pepper.  Bring to a rolling boil and off the heat, add the flour all at once.  Stir like crazy and over low heat, using a wooden spoon, cook the pastry until the mixture forms a ball and leaves the sides of the pan clean. It will be shiny and smooth. 

Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the 5 eggs, one at a time, incorporating each egg thoroughly before adding the next. (If you have 5 unbeaten eggs in a bowl and you pour very slowly, one will separate and plop out at a time.)

Continue with the remaining 3 eggs, adding one at a time. You may need 7, you may need 8. The dough should be thick enough to hold its shape when plopped on a cookie sheet but not as think as chocolate chip cookie dough.  

When the pastry is shiny and smooth, mix in the cheese and ham.

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat. With a spoon, scoop the dough in ping-pong ball shapes or smaller. With a your finger, push them off the spoon. 

Leave room around each gougère. They will grow.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until crispy and lightly browned all the way around not just on top. Serve ASAP. The dough can be made ahead 3 to 4 hours but should not be refrigerated. Lightly butter a piece of wax paper and press it on to the the dough to keep a crust from forming. 

Shape and bake just before serving.

Community Cuisine, Barbie Aknin

Bapa's Chouchouka

Bapa’s Chouchouka

Makes about 2 cups

Chouchouka is a cooked tomato and pepper dish from Israel and North Africa (especially Tunisia) where my father in law is from. Every year at our family summer picnic, a serious competition ensues with a trophy for the winner of the years best Chouchouka. The competition is fierce and I have yet to win.

It’s delicious room temperature piled on baguette or pita bread. It can also be simmered in a frying pan with eggs floating on top or with merguez, a spicy lamb sausage added. 

  • 2 to 3 bell or other meaty sweet peppers of equal weight, roasted* 
  • 4 to 6 Tbls. olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, two minced and two sliced thinly
  • 1 14-oz. can good quality peeled Italian plum tomatoes with juice
  • 1 small spoonful harissa, a North African chili paste, mild to hot depending on your liking or 1 Tbls. smoked paprika and cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 Tbls. tomato paste (optional)
  • Fresh parsley or cilantro, coarsely chopped

Pour the tomatoes and juice into a bowl and break up the tomatoes with your hands into small pieces. In a skillet just big enough to fit the ingredients with room to simmer, warm the olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and stir until wilted. Do Not brown. Add the tomato pieces and their juice into the pan. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Peel, seed and devein the peppers and cut them into thin strips 1/4-inch or so. Add the peppers and the sliced garlic to the pan. Allow the sauce to simmer, stirring often for 30 to 45 minutes until it thickens and the oil rises to the top. Stir often. A bit of water can be added to keep it from burning however one of Bapa’s secrets (and please don’t share this) is to allow the sauce to burn “just a bit” for added flavor. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature sprinkled with parsley or cilantro.


Chouchouka with Eggs and Merguez

Serves 4 to 8

  • Double recipe of chouchouka
  • 1 pound merguez sausage, skinned (the eggs are also good with just the Chouchouka)
  • 8 large eggs

Heat a skillet to medium and add merguez breaking up the sausage into small pieces. Fry the sausage until crispy and done. Drain the fat and add the chouchouka to the pan. Gently heat the mixture over medium heat. Stir often and add a bit of water if needed. 

Once hot, break the eggs one at a time into a small dish. Make a dent in the Chouchouka and add an egg. Repeat with remaining eggs placing eggs in their own “nest”. Cover and continue to cook for about 7 to 8 minutes, until the eggs are set. Sprinkle with parsley or cilantro and serve.


Roasting Peppers

Peppers can be roasted over or under any direct heat. You can grill, broil, or use my favorite method, over a gas flame on the stove. I've also done this on an electric burner. If using the oven, set on broil and cover cookie sheets with foil.

Place the peppers over (or under) heat and allow them to blister and char on all sides, top and bottom. Once blackened, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam or put them in a plastic bag and seal it. Allow to cool enough to handle.

Once cool, peel the peppers. You can use a dull knife to scrape stubborn bits and don't feel that you have to remove all of the skin. Remove stem and seeds. I prefer not to rinse the peppers as you loose some flavor.