Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Recreating Food Memories

I have written here in the past about the the process of following my taste buds into the market, back into the kitchen, in an effort to recreate a delicious and meaningful dish. Once, it was my father's Chicken Chow Fun; this weekend it was the minestrone I had on the farm in Tuscania, rich with the property's wild boar and cheesy with parmigiano rinds.

Now the soup I ended up with does not taste like Laura Caponetti's minestrone, not even close, but yo it's really good!!

1/2 bag dried beans (I used Ojo de Cabra, kind of like pinto)
1/2 box orecchiete or any kind of smallish pasta
1 smoked ham hock (mine came from Ray at Bradley Farm, up near New Paltz)
1 rind from a wedge of parm.
1 can tomato paste
1 bunch kale, ribs removed and leaves chopped
4 carrots, peeled and trimmed and diced
3 stalks celery, cleaned and trimmed and diced
2 small onions, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
olive oil

The night before, I soaked the beans in a bowl on my countertop
The next day in a very tall soup pot I sauteed the onions (in oil) until glassy and translucent
then added the garlic
After a minute I added the carrots and celery
After another minute I added the tomato paste and stirred it all around
Then I put in the giant ham hock, the drained beans, and about 8 cups (?) of water, basically up towards the top of the pot
And the two bay leaves, and the cheese rind
I brought it to a boil then down to a simmer
Cooked it, covered, for about 2 hours
(About an hour in, I added the kale)
Then I removed the ham hock and used a fork and sharp knife to remove all the meat from the bone and put the meat back in the soup
then I added a lot of salt and pepper and cooked it uncovered at a boil for another 30 minutes
Then I put in the pasta and cooked it, uncovered at a boil for about 12 minutes

Pull out beans, taste 'em--are they done?
Do you like the salinity?
Don't be afraid to taste your way to what you like...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cabbage: past, present, future

I am finding gift giving increasingly difficult. Between the recession and the fact that my family and I all have what we want, Chanukah felt challenging, until! One Sunday afternoon Steve mentioned a lost dish from his youth, his Grandmother's Hungarian comfort food--something with "egg noodles and cabbage."

A quick Google search revealed what mostly seemed to be called Haluska, a simple dish made awesome by copious amounts of butter. So, for Steve, for Chanukah (in addition to my annual potato latkes), a big bowl of Haluska.

Then, 2 weeks later, a fermentation workshop with the King of Fermentation, Sandor Katz. After an overview of the basics of fermentation, a lesson in basic sauerkraut, made from 2 kinds of cabbage, some carrots and some radishes.

Only problem is, cabbage now finally seems to be gone from the farmers market, goshdarnit, meaning the dead of winter is really totally finally here, and cabbage has to be shipped in from rosier climes. So, I am learning about sauerkraut now, so that next late fall I can preserve 09's cabbage Sandor-style.

Sandor Katz's Basic Sauerkraut
See his website and/or read his book, Wild Fermentation!

1 bag egg noodles, cooked
1 large leek, white and light green parts only, well cleaned, halved lengthwise and sliced into half moons
3/4 head green cabbage, cored and diced
1 stick butter
several tbsp chicken broth
1 tbsp milk

Melt the stick of butter over med heat
Saute leeks until soft
add 1/3 of the cabbage, and a pinch of salt, let it get soft
Add the next 1/3 and some more salt, let it cook down until soft
Add final 1/3 and a wee bit more salt and let it cook down
Then add the stock and the milk and let it cook a little longer, thickening and getting good
Then mix with the cooked noodles
Salt and pepper to taste but you really might not need any more salt

(you can make this with less butter and it will still taste good, but--is this too obvious to mention?--it's way better with all that butter).

Friday, January 02, 2009

More, with less

Happy New Year, ye few faithful readers. As a reward for your staying power, a few links and a recipe (for CJR, who has always asked for more recipes):

We are in a financial panic, underemployed and underfunded, finally ready to stop shopping and do more with less (or as my buddy Woody Tasch said in his New Year's poem over on "Let us imagine a consumer putting down the purse").

For me this means trying to make new food out of old leftovers, though I haven't quite perfected this--every dish I want to make with leftovers requires the purchase of slightly more food, and the cycle persists.

That being said, old bread is a marvel (oh and speaking of bread, do check out the travel blog of the newest employee at my office, who spent last year on a Watson fellowship studying bread around the world. For real.)

Savory Bread Pudding (a riff on 101cookbooks asparagus bread pudding)

You've got half a loaf of Grand Daisy filone petrifying on your countertop. And half a head of Savoy cabbage in your crisper, starting to sag. Enter, milk/eggs/cheese to the rescue.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Cut the bread into cubes (you might feel like Rodin, chiseling at stone)
Beat three cups milk and 3 eggs and a cup of chicken broth
Shred the cabbage and cut a few shallots into slivers
Toss the bread and cabbage and shallots into the egg mixture
Grease a casserole dish with butter
Pour the mixture in
Cover with a generous layer of shredded Gruyere
Bake for 45 minutes

Seems to me you can do this with just about anything, from kale to asparagus, to mushrooms to whathaveyou.