Saturday, May 21, 2011

Solmorejo


While I was working on the Celery Sorbet recipe, I returned to the Naia Restaurante Bistro (where I first had celery sorbet) website and discovered from the posted menu that the restaurant is now serving, Solmorejo (instead of Andulusian Gazpacho) with celery and lemon sorbet.  Not knowing what Solmorejo is, I naturally did a search


While the "authentic" Solmorejo appears to have a high olive oil content, I made an "everyday" (very easy to make, healthy ingredients) version that Ed declared absolutely delicious.  Since tomato season is a few months off, I used canned tomatoes; stay tuned for a fresh tomato update.

Put in cold water to soak:

3 1/2 ounces stale white bread, crust trimmed off (weight is for trimmed bread)

Put in food processor*:

28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Fire Roasted) + 2T water to rinse can
1-2 cloves garlic, to taste, finely minced
1 T olive oil (for more "authentic" add more)
1 T vinegar (I used tarragon, for more "authentic" use sherry vinegar, add more)
Salt and pepper to taste

Wring out as much water as possible from the bread and add to the tomato mix.

Process until mixture is very smooth. 

Served topped with Celery Sorbet and a sprig of cilantro.


JULY 2012

I had just put some No-Knead Bread in the oven and wanted something yummy to go with it.  I had the makings for Solmorejo but not Celery Sorbet.  I took the cucumber, scallions and microgreens on hand, chopped the cuke and thinly sliced the scallions - a perfect garnish.





* April 2013: Just made some Beet Soup with Cumin with an immersion blender (see Cool Tools 3). Wow! The prep time is shorter and the clean-up much easier. Going forward I will be using the immersion blender instead of the food processor for all pureed soups.

Celery Sorbet

with Salmorejo
with Gazpacho

















When Ed and I were in Madrid last fall we had an awesome dinner at Naia Restaurante Bistro . One of the highlights  was Andulsian Gazpacho with Celery Sorbet.  Since  then I have looked at several sorbet recipes but not found one that really clicked.  Then a few weeks ago an article by Mark Bittman appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine Yes, This is made of Celery, and yes, it included a recipe for celery sorbet. However, Bittman uses a ratio of 1 1/2 cups of sugar to 1 1/2 pounds of celery.  I use a lot of sugar in Cranberry Ice, but I only serve this on Thanksgiving.  I wanted a sorbet to enjoy weekly during the summer.

So I turned to On Food and Cooking for guidance; Harold McGee writes:

"The more syrup and plant debris there are, the more the solid crystals are lubricated, the more easily they slide past each other when we press with the spoon or tongue, and the softer the ice's texture. Most ices are made with about double the sugar of ice cream (whose substantial fat and protein content helps soften the texture...), between 25 and 35% by weight.  Sweet fruits require less added sugar to reach this proportion, and purees rich in pectins and other plant debris (pineapple, raspberry) require less total sugar for softening."*

At 10 1/2 ounces of sugar to 24 ounces of celery, or 30% sugar by weight Bittman is right in the middle of this range. But Bittman also strains the celery (plant debris).  

So what if I did not strain the "debris"?

In a small saucepan, combine and boil until the sugar has dissolved:

2 T sugar
2 T water


Separate stocks, trim and pull the strings off:

1 # celery (net weight after strings are removed), cut into 3/4" pieces

Place in a food processor, add the sugar water mixture and:

Cilantro,  ~3-4 sprigs, leaves only
2 T lime juice

Puree until mixture is smooth.

Since I have a small (Donvier) ice cream maker, I put the mixture in the aluminum cylinder which had been in the freezer overnight and cranked intermittently for about 15 minutes.  The end result was not smooth but scooped very well, looked great on the Gazpacho (photo top left) and had the interesting celery taste I remembered from Naia.




The techniques used with Cranberry Ice would also work: put in a container and freeze, stirring once or twice as mixture begins to set in order to mix pulp and juice as evenly as possible. The downside of this recipe (due I'm sure to the low sugar content) is that it freezes very hard.  Because of this, it is necessary to remove the sorbet from the freezer well before serving, time dependent on how cold the freezer is, or to partially thaw it in a microwave oven.  As the sorbet softens, mix and scoop then garnish the Salmorejo/Gazpacho.


NOTE: In the photos at top of post, sorbet on the Gazpacho was scooped straight out of the ice cream maker - the sorbet on the Solmorejo was thawed and then scooped. 

See page 289 for full explanation.


Reviewed 6/20/2017

Friday, May 20, 2011

MAY

If April teased us, May is beginning to really deliver; first with  Asparagus and Fiddleheads, then today with  rhubarb, baby lettuces and baby bok choy.  Almost everything burst into bloom at once! The Viburnum tree that Alexandra and Christopher gave me for Mother's Day many years ago bloomed again this year on cue, and I celebrated being a mother by enjoying calls from Alexandra and Christopher, the tree in full bloom and a bunch of blossoms picked from spots I really should have pruned in the winter.





The last of the daffodills mix with the first of apple blossoms on our table.  We forego eating the fiddleheads but watch their leafy fronds unfold in the woods around our house.








 

This is flowering-tree/bush month: first our Apple and Viburnum trees, now our lilacs.  In addition to the vinca, the lillies of the valley fill the edges of the woods and venture out into the greening grass; the lilies also find their way onto our dining table along with honeysuckle and lilacs... all, as the Viburnum, so fragrant!






We eat asparagus almost every night and sometimes for lunch, continue to enjoy the "April" veggies: spinach and parsnips, and revisit some old recipes as the baby lettuces, baby bok choy and rhubarb appear at the farm stand:

Sesame Ginger Grilled Scallops with Sauteed Bok Choy

Lo Mein - heavy on the bok choy

Asparagus

Rhubarb Ginger Sauce

And use the last of the frozen strawberries in our freezer to make:

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie



NEW 2012:
Ramps - Spring Greens - Pea Tendrils

Ginger Lime Mahi-mahi with Pea Tendrils

May 2015 --- Simple Arrangements



Monday, May 16, 2011

Chili Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Pears and Maple Walnuts



A variation of Chili Rellenos, this recipe evolved from Crisp Pita Bread with Blue Cheese, Pears and Maple Walnuts. In this case though I used goat cheese instead of blue cheese. The first time I tried this combination, the chili was especially hot and the goat cheese was a good foil to the hot chili - much like having a glass of milk with a hot enchilada.

Roast (See Roasted Chili) or thaw previously roasted and frozen

4-6 (depending on size) green chilies  (I usually use fresh/previously frozen Hatch Anaheim chilies)


Stuff each chili with:

Goat cheese
Pear (~1-2 slices), chopped in small pieces



Whip until stiff:

3 egg whites


Fold in:

1-2  yolks

Dip each chili in:

Flour


Then dip in the egg batter and place immediately in a frying pan with hot

canola (or olive) oil, enough to coat the entire bottom of the pan.

Cook until bottom is browned and then flip and cook until the other side is browned and all of the egg mixture is cooked.

Good served with fresh pear slices and  micro greens/greens topped with a few Maple Walnuts.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thought for Food

I started last Wednesday joining a friend from my Cambridge years at a Dartmouth event whose speaker touched on The French Chef  series and organic gardening, and ended the day at a Harvard event that gave an overview of a course introduced at Harvard this fall: Science and The Physical Universe 27 (SPU 27), otherwise known as: Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science. 

The first talk was given by Russ Morash who worked with Julia Child producing The French Chef and her subsequent cooking programs.  He also spoke about producing and directing This Old House, The Victory Garden, and The New Yankee Workshop. Morash described his first meeting with Julia Child when she arrived on the WGBH (PBS) set of I've Been Reading in 1961 to discuss her recently published Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and how using a hot plate she whipped up a French omelette. The viewer response was so positive that at WGBH's request Morash soon found himself producing 3 pilots for The French Chef. The rest is history. Julia Child in large part generated the rising wave of America's interest in food and the resulting cookbooks and cooking shows that followed.  When I moved to Cambridge in the late sixties the Pot Shop was a busy culinary store whose best selling item was probably The French Chef Omelette Pan. Child's Cambridge kitchen is now an icon at the Smithsonian.


After sharing several "Julia anecdotes" which spanned over 30 years of work together, Morash moved on to talk about The Victory Garden and his continuing involvement with organic gardening.  It must be a team effort as his wife, Maria Morash's  The Victory Garden Cookbook  has, since its publication in 1982, been my favorite reference on local garden vegetables.


The morning talk reflected on the past and the merits of organic cabbage and potatoes, the afternoon lecture by Harvard Professors David Weitz and Michael Brenner focused on the science of food preparation. Harold  McGee writes in the appendix to On Food and Cooking: "Cooking is applied chemistry, and the basic concepts of chemisty - molecules, energy, heat, reactions - are keys to a clearer understanding of what our foods are and how we transform them." (1)  The goal of  SPU 27 is to introduce concepts of math and physics and, recognizing the common interests chefs and scientists share, illustrate the equations presented through the medium of cooking.   On Food and Cooking was the textbook, supplemented by handouts from Harvard's physics department. One session each week introduced an equation and the concept behind it,  the second session featured various celebrated chefs who prepared food to illustrate the concept given in the equation.  In addition, the students participated in one laboratory (edible) each week, took two exams and prepared an exhaustive final project.

In the introduction to the second edition of On Food and Cooking, McGee writes: 


     "A lot has changed in twenty years! It turned out that On Food and Cooking [first published in 1984] was riding a rising wave of general interest in food, a wave that grew and grew, and knocked down the barriers between science and cooking, especially in the last decade.  Science has found its way into the kitchen, and cooking into laboratories and factories." (2)


He later continues:


     "Professional cooks have also come to appreciate the value of the scientific approach to their craft.... A number of culinary schools now offer 'experimental' courses that investigate the whys of cooking and encourage critical thinking. And several highly regarded chefs, most famously Ferran Adria in Spain [elBulli] and Heston Blumenthal [The Fat Duck Restaurant] in England, experimenting with industrial and laboratory tools - gelling agents from seaweeds and bacteria, non-sweet sugars, aroma extracts, pressurized gases, liquid nitrogen - to bring new forms of pleasure to the table....


.... One effective and charming force behind this movement was Nicholas Kurti, a physicist and food lover at the University of Oxford, who lamented in 1969: "I think it is a sad reflection on our civilization that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus, we do not know what goes on inside our souffles.'" (3)


1992, Kurti organized an International Workshop on Molecular and Physical Gastronomy at Erice, Sicily that for the first time brought together university and food industry scientists and professional cooks to work together to advance gastronomy. Renamed  "International Workshop on Molecular Gastronomy 'N. Kurti'" in memory of its founder who died in 1998 at the age of 90, the workshop continues under the direction of Herve ThisMolecular gastronomy is indeed taken to new extremes when  practiced by chefs such as Adria, who developed processes, and subsequent commercialization of these processes, such as Culinary Foam, Sferificación, Gelificación, and Emulsificación. Adria was one of the inspirations for the Harvard course and his Alicia Foundation helped in the preparation of the course materials. 

The closest I have come to this cutting edge is the orange froth on the shrimp risotto, Ed and I had in Las Vegas and a tortilla Ed had at a tapas bar near the Prado in Madrid.  When Ed ordered the tortilla the waiter warned him that, "It would be liquid."  The foamy tortilla was as awful (perhaps a good idea, badly executed) as the orange froth was delicious.  While it is fun to read about recent culinary innovations, I'm still focused on doing interesting things with local food.  Even if not in an exotic way,  I look forward to what more science in the kitchen can do for me..  After many miserable failures with cooking a roast, at Christopher's urging I bought a remote thermometer.  I was amazed to see how slowly the temperature increases at first and how fast, exponentially?, it increases as the meat approaches doneness and directly after it is removed from the oven.  Sometime when I am not cooking a roast under holiday circumstances and have the time, I would like to plot the temperature change.

Back to the lecture: In addition to giving us an overview, the professors shared parts of the week 4 lesson and lab (to do at home): "Heating, Cooling and Tempering".  Stay tuned while I try to discover what "Molten Chocolate Cake" (6 actually) can tell me about time-temperature curves for various locations within food, the parameters that affect the length of time one heats food, and how temperature and time can engender molecular transitions that determine the texture of foods.  Maybe this will even answer some of my questions about cooking a roast....

In the meantime: The number of students wanting to take SPU 27 was so large that, given the 300 person cap on the course, only 44% could be accepted.  The professors pointed out to the students applying for the lottery that their comparative odds were pretty good;  only ~10% of those applying to Harvard are accepted and only ~0.5% of those applying for dinner reservations at elBulli are successful.  Given the interest in this course, an evening lecture program was also offered.  The public talks will resume, as will the course, in the fall of 2011.
.
  
On Food and Cooking, page 811
2  On Food and Cooking, page 2
3  On Food and Cooking, page 2

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Crisp Pita Bread with Blue Cheese, Pears and Maple Walnuts

Last week I took my Mom to see the "Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass" exhibit and the new Art of the Americas Wing at the Boston Museum of Art, and she reciprocated by taking me to lunch at the museum's New American Cafe.  I had Flatbread with Great Hill Blue Cheese, Pears and Maple Walnuts which came with a salad of spring greens.  It was so tasty....

Serves 2

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Make a batch or two of Maple Walnuts.

Separate the two sides of :

a piece of pita bread

Place the bread on a cutting board.  Place one hand firmly on the bread and with the other hand cut around the circumference of the bread with a sharp knife.  Place the two halves on a baking sheet or for a crispier toast, a perforated pizza pan. Lightly spray the bread with:


olive oil

and place in preheated 400 degree F oven.  Cook for about 4 minutes, checking frequently, until the edges just begin to brown.  The flatbread I had at the New American Cafe was not as browned or crispy; for a softer bread cook less. Remove from the oven and top each piece, in this order, with:

thinly sliced blue cheese (I found and used the local Marion, MA Great Hill Blue, shown in top photo)

very thinly sliced pear (half a pear will serve 2)
~ 1 T maple walnuts

Return to oven for ~2 minutes or until the cheese is well melted and the pears are soft. Remove from the oven and cut in quarters.

Serve with greens or top with micro-greens.

Maple Walnuts

When I was a kid, maple walnut was one of the few flavors of ice cream offered at the local soda fountain. My world of "gourmet ice cream" was Howard Johnson's, which by that time offered a whopping 28 flavors, allegedly causing Mr. Johnson to remark, "I though I had every flavor in the world." Although I like and use maple syrup in many recipes,  I had not thought about maple walnuts for years until they wound up on my plate during a recent lunch out. They were an excellent compliment to the pears and blue cheese and would make an excellent topping/filling for many things - ice cream only one of them.  Stay tuned.

Makes 1/2 c; recipe is easily doubled.

Using the smooth side of a meat tenderizer or other heavy utensil, crush

1/2 c walnuts

Place the nuts in a frying pan large enough so the nuts are in a single layer and roast over medium heat until the nuts start to brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in:

1 T maple syrup

Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly about 1 more minute until all the nuts are coated with the syrup.

Place the nuts on plate to cool.   Do not put nuts in a storage container until they are completely cooled.

At left: non-fat coffee frozen yogurt with walnuts. As a kid I remember having maple walnut ice cream topped with warm maple syrup.  Why not ice cream/frozen yogurt topped with maple walnuts and warm maple syrup?

These walnuts are also good as a topping for Bitter Greens with Mustard Maple Dressing.

Reviewed 6/20/2017

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Asparagus

I've been waiting almost ten months for this!  Friday I walked into Verrill Farm and was greeted by the first asparagus of the season. The farm separates the asparagus by size so I bought a bunch with the smaller diameter spears.  I brought it home and immediately put it in a dish of water, just as it is stored at the farm. The highlight of dinner was a plate of asparagus. Cooking fresh asparagus gave origin to the expression, "As quick as you can cook asparagus!".  I cooked it for two minutes in boiling water, let it sit for one minute and ate it as is - nothing added - absolutely awesome!

On Saturday lunch was warm (cooked as above) asparagus on toast, with just a bit of butter on the toast and just a few micro greens (also in season at Verrill Farm) on top. Occasionally I will also add a bit of mayo, well actually Spectrum's Light Canola Mayo. For my Dad,  fresh asparagus demanded a piece of buttered toast under it, even when served for dinner.

I think back to my first introduction to asparagus, it was probably asparagus from my Grandfather's garden in New Hampshire.  What I really remember, however, was asparagus picking around my Grandmother's house in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Asparagus grew wild in most of the larger irrigation ditches near where she lived. These ditches were full of water only a few times a week at most. In the interim it was possible to walk down the middle of the ditch and pick the wild asparagus that grew on either side, the largest the diameter of a pencil, and absolutely delicious.

In  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; A Year of Food Life Barbara Kingsolver writes about harvesting asparagus, nothing for the first two summers as the plant matures, then only two weeks of harvest the third summer. Mature plants have a longer but still short season:

"After about eight weeks of daily cutting, the asparagus farmer puts away the knife, finally letting the spears pass beyond edibility into the lanky plants they long to be. For most crop species, the season ends when all the vegetable units have been picked and the mother plant dies or gets plowed under.  Asparagus is different: its season ends by declaration, purely out of regard for the plant.  The key to the next spring's action is the starch it has stored underground, which only happens if the plant has enough of a summer life to beef up its bank account. Of all our familiar vegetables, the season for local, fresh asparagus is the very shortest for this reason." (1) 

Later in the chapter she continues:

"At our house we only eat asparagus for the weeks it's in season, but during those weeks we eat it a lot - the spears must be cut every day.  About the same time the asparagus plant is getting weary of our management plan, we're starting to feel the same way.  It works out." (2)

After having fresh, local asparagus, nothing else compares.  To avoid disappointment Ed and I tend to eat asparagus only in season. Living near an asparagus farm our standards are very high and reaction to the "imported variety" is not unlike Michael Pollan's who writes in The Omnnivore's Dilemma:

   "The ethical implications of buying such a product [imported asparagus] are almost too numerous and knotty to sort out: There's the expense, there's the prodigious amounts of energy involved, the defiance of seasonality, and the whole question of whether the best soils in South America should be devoted to growing food for affluent and overfed North Americans. And yet you can make a good argument that my purchase of organic asparagus from Argentina generates foreign exchange for a country desperately in need of it, and supports a level of care for the country's land - farming without pesticides or chemical fertilizer - it might not otherwise receive. Clearly my bunch of asparagus had delivered me deep into the thicket of trade-offs that a global organic marketplace entails.
     Okay, but how did it taste?
     My jet-setting Argentine asparagus tasted like damp cardboard.  After the first spear or two no one touched it.  Perhaps if it had been sweeter and tenderer we would have finished it, but I suspect the fact that the asparagus was out of place in a winter supper made it even less appetizing. Asparagus is one of a dwindling number of foods firmly linked in out minds to the seasonal calendar." (3)

Realizing the season is short, when asparagus is locally available Ed and I eat it a lot too - usually for dinner and often warm/cold in sandwiches the next day. A few springs ago I had just finished Kingsolver's book when Ed walked into the kitchen, saw the asparagus I had just purchased and said, "Asparagus again?"  The next day when I stopped by Verrill Farm I found their asparagus season was over. It works out.

During asparagus season also check out the following recipes:
Grilled Veggies
Sesame Noodle Salad with asparagus
Winter Squash - Sage Risotto  with asparagus and make it seasonal, use parsnips instead of squash

NEW 2012: Easy Asparagus Pho
NEW 2014: Shaved Asparagus Salad
NEW 2016: Asparagus Stock/Pasta with Asparagus Stock

 Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; A Year of Food Life, page 28

2  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; A Year of Food Life, page 29
3  The Omnnivore's Dilemma, pages 175-176