Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wild Mint

The brook by our house is full of fresh mint and Chris has been wading out on the dam and picking me large bunches.  I've been using the mint in many summer dishes, as a garnish for ice tea and gin and tonic, and as a centerpiece.  As some of the mint grows roots I transplant it to my garden.

I love mint paired with fresh tomatoes and goat cheese, whether in an omelette or on a pizza (or just toasted on pita bread).  Other favorite mint recipes include:

Easy Asparagus Pho
Fresh Spring Rolls with Tofu and Mint
Watermelon Salad
Tandoori Sweet Potatoes and Rice

It has been fun to watch the mint, at first limp from the extremely hot dry weather we have been having, drink up the water from the vase and lift itself skyward. The mint in top two photos is the same bunch; first photo taken the afternoon the mint was picked, the next photo taken the following morning. 

June 2017:  In 2014 mint was abundant (invasive) in Colorado and inspired Freezing Mint/Mint Gremolata.

Reviewed 6/19/2017

Friday, July 27, 2012

Pork with Plums

Serves 3

It's midsummer and it was pointed out at dinner last night that we had been having many of the same, albeit seasonal, things over and over again. Time to try something new.  Browsing through the August issue of Bon Appetit I came across "Pork Tenderloin with Plum Chutney".  This is a very loose adaption which blanches the plums, and uses less dark brown sugar instead of more light brown sugar, red wine vinegar instead of Sherry or apple cider vinegar, grainy mustard instead of mustard seed, no bay leaf or Kosher salt and boneless pork chops instead of pork tenderloin wrapped in pancetta. My critical eaters said it was a good change :-)

In a sauce pan half full of boiling water place:

2 large plums

Boil for 1 - 2 minutes until the skins on the plums begin to split. Remove the plums from the boiling water, rinse in cold water and pull off the skin. Slice plums and remove pits.  Then cut slices into smaller chunks.

In a small skillet combine:

1 1/2 t olive oil (heat oil first)
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 1/2 t garlic, minced

When the shallots are soft add:

1 T red wine vinegar
2 T dark brown sugar
1 1/2 t grainy mustard
1 t ginger, grated and peeled
2 T water

Cook for about 2 minutes until the sauce is well blended, then add the plum chunks.  Cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 8 - 10 miuntes.  Uncover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the fruit is soft and the juices have thickened, about 20 minutes. Sauce can be made ahead and refrigerated.  Rewarm slightly before serving.

When sauce is ready or almost ready, sprinkle

3 boneless pork chops, about 1/3 pound each with:

Herbes de Provence
Rosemary, fresh if available otherwise dried

Place the chops on a medium hot grill and cook turning until firm to the touch (145 - 150 degrees F). Center will be slightly pink but moist.  Remember meat keeps cooking after it is removed from the heat source and at 160 degrees F pork will be well done and dry.

Divide the sauce among the three chops and garnish with fresh rosemary.

SEE ALSO:  Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Fruit

Reviewed 6/13/2017

Friday, July 13, 2012

No-Knead Bread

Ed came home from a visit to Colorado two years ago raving about a friend's bread.  "It's the best bread I've ever had, and Cecile says it's so easy to make.  You have to get the recipe!"  I did. Cecile kindly shared the  recipeadapted from Jim Lahey/Sullivan Street Bakery, she had gotten from the November 8, 2006 issue of the New York Times. It sat in my recipe file until last December when Ed and I both visited Cecile and David and  I was treated to some of this awesome bread.  I retrieved the recipe and tried to make the bread as effortlessly and with such amazing results as Cecile.  I had mixed success making it this winter in Colorado, perhaps because I used high altitude flour instead of the regular bread flour which works well for Cecile at 5,400 feet. I tried at ~sea level with bread flour and it came out quite well.

The reason it is so simple to make is that time replaces kneading.  In his article,"The Secret of Great Bread: Let Time Replace the Work" in the same issue of the New York Times, Mark Bittman writes," I asked Harold McGee, who is an amateur breadmaker and best known as the author of “On Food and Cooking” (Scribner, 2004), what he thought of this method. His response: 'It makes sense. The long, slow rise does over hours what intensive kneading does in minutes: it brings the gluten molecules into side-by-side alignment to maximize their opportunity to bind to each other and produce a strong, elastic network. The wetness of the dough is an important piece of this because the gluten molecules are more mobile in a high proportion of water, and so can move into alignment easier and faster than if the dough were stiff.'"  If you decide to make this bread, first read Bittman's article.

Be advised that time is an ingredient and bread needs to be made ~18 hours + 2 hours for an additional rise before cooking.  Cecile sometimes trades yeast (whole package of Rapid-Rise instead of 1/4 t) for time (4-6 hours for first rise instead of 12-18). Still no-kneading, but additional yeast will give the bread a different taste.

In a large bowl combine:

460 g bread flour (NYT recipe calls for 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour)
1/4 t rapid-rise yeast
1/2 t  teaspoons salt (NYT recipe uses 1 1/4 t)

1 5/8 cups water (room/tap temperature), and

Stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with lid.  Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when it has at least doubled in size and surface is dotted with bubbles. Follow one of the two methods below:

The "easy method", favored by Cecile is to leave dough in the same bowl and put a little flour on the dough and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes. Using just enough (1 - 2 T total for both steps) flour to keep dough from sticking to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball.  Cover with a cotton (not terry cloth) towel and let dough rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. NOTE: If using this method be sure there is enough flour (wheat bran or cornmeal) on the top of the dough (the part that will become the bottom of the loaf in the pot) to keep the dough from sticking to the bottom of the cooking pot.  I sometimes even put a thin coat of olive oil on the bottom of the pot just before adding the dough.

This is the method used in the NYT recipe.  Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. 

When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven while it heats. I use a 6 quart enameled cast iron pot  9 1/2 inches in diameter and 5 inches high. When dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from oven. Turn the dough out of the bowl into the hot pot or, if using "board method" slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is okay. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes (in my convection oven I find an addition 10 minutes is enough), until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

I made a loaf this spring during asparagus season.   The bread cried out for oilve oil so instead of boiling/steaming the asparagus as I usually do for sandwiches, I sauteed the asparagus in olive oil. What a treat!

Reviewed 5/10/17

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chickpea and Green Bean Salad

The inspiration but hardly the recipe for this salad comes from a recipe in the July 2nd New York Times: Warm Chickpea and Green Bean Salad With Aioli.  I did not use the aioli dressing or add chopped parsley (though it would be a good addition if on-hand); I used canned chickpeas, a higher ratio of green beans and served the salad cool to room temperature.  

Make the dressing by combining:

1/4 c mayonnaise or, my choice, Spectrum Light Canola Mayo (eggless, vegan)

2 T extra virgin olive oil

2-4 (I use 4) cloves garlic finely minced or pressed

Cover and refrigerate dressing until ready to use.

Make the salad:

Steam or blanch

1 pound green beans, stems removed

~ 4 minutes and then refresh under icy water.

Dry the beans and cut them into bite size pieces.  Place them in a large salad bowl and add:

1 bunch radishes, thinly sliced

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 15 oz can chickpeas, washed and drained

2 T lemon juice or more to taste

Toss the salad with the dressing and serve (or refrigerate and remove from refrigerator about half an hour before serving).

Reviewed 6/18/2017

Garlic Scrapes/Spring Scallions

Have I had my eyes closed all these years or are more and more items that used to be reserved for the compost pile coming to the market at premium prices?   I've long enjoyed spring Beet Greens, the product of thinning the growing beet crop, steamed and topped with a splash of vinegar.  Over the past several years many other "thinnings" have made their way to the market, and the menus of local-farm-oriented restaurants, or at least I am noticing them for the first time.

I've seen pea tendrils for a few years and successfully tried them several times this spring, but recently garlic scrapes caught my eye for the first time.  Their curvy-free form shape is particularly interesting. The scrapes are apparently trimmed off the garlic plant to prevent them from sapping nourishment from the garlic head itself. I was told they are a garlicky version of a scallion and can be used in place of a scallion, either raw or cooked. I tried them first in a salad and they were quite tasty albeit with a strong bite. I also tried them basted with olive oil and grilled along with scallions.  While the green scallion stem is hollow, the green garlic scrape stem was filled with a fibrous garlicky tasting substance.  This was perhaps because the garlic scrapes I tried were a bit on the large size.  Interesting to try, but I'm not adding them to my list of spring/early summer highlights. They will definitely not replace the awesome green and purple spring scallions I so look forward to.  (Photo at left includes grilled scallions and asparagus and  Rosemary Chicken.)

Reviewed 8/23/2017

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Preparing and Storing Melon

Driving back from the market last week I was listening to NPR's Science Friday when Flora Lichtman introduced the topic  "Relishing the Science of the BBQ"  starting with an interview, "Best Practices for a Pathogen-free Picnic", with Angela Fraser.  Ms. Fraser began by deflating the "mayo myth" explaining that mayonnaise has such a low (high acid) pH, it does not readily support pathogens.  Foods with a pH above 4.6, however, are considered "hazardous" when it comes to food poisoning, and if the mayo is mixed with less acidic foods the mix can become more problematic. Then she really caught my attention.  She explained how the high, less acidic,  pH level [~6.1 - 6.6] of melon makes melon particularly susceptible to food pathogens and admonished melon should be refrigerated after cutting and any cut melon left at room temperature for 4 hours or longer should be discarded.   I thought of the melon I had sliced for an early breakfast that morning and then left on the table for mid-morning snacks. I put the melon in the refrigerator at lunch time, well over 4 hours later. When I returned home I consulted On Food and Cooking and found a chart: "Disease Outbreaks Caused by Raw Fruits and Vegetables".*  Harold McGee lists several harmful microbes, and melon under both E. coli and Salmonella.  McGee also advises "Once fruits and vegetables have been cut up, they should be kept refrigerated and used as soon as possible."** Lesson learned.  The remainder of the melon that had been left on the table all morning went directly to the compost bucket.

In retrospect, this makes perfect sense.  I have long known that melon flesh can be contaminated by microbes from the rind and am careful to wash the exterior as well as to keep the flesh away from the surface which has been exposed to the rind.  McGee goes a step further specifying a "hot soapy" wash: "The melon surface can become contaminated with microbes in the field and cause food poisoning when the microbes are introduced into the flesh during cutting; it's now recommended that melons be thoroughly washed in hot soapy water before preparing them".***   Despite these precautions, if microbes from the rind should find their way via the cutting surface, knife or hands to the melon flesh and then the cut fruit then sits in a warm place, the potential for food poisoning greatly increases.

*  On Food and Cooking,   page 260
**  On Food and Cooking,   page 261
***  On Food and Cooking,   page 368

Reviewed 9/22/2017