June Hersh 
Eat Well-Do Good
     
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DIY Pizza

It's Sunday night and as a child that always meant Take out. Either Chinese food from Tung Hoy, or pizza from our local pizzeria.  I love traditions, but I find Sunday is the perfect night to cook.  I am usually in the house and there is either a basketball or football game serenading me in the background, so cooking is my sporting event.

Tonight I decided to go the Italian route, so that means DIY pizza.  But why Take-out, when you can Take-in.  Making pizza is so simple it's stupid easy.  Especially, when you let your local pizzeria or market provide the dough.  Usually whole wheat or plain dough is available at my local market, but, I prefer plain, so that was my starting point.  My husband grabbed a one pound bag of pizza dough from the market and pretty much everything else came from the fridge or pantry.

You can truly top your homemade pizza with whatever you like, and because it is custom made, the crust can be thick or thin, the sauce heavy or light and the cheeses any combinationyou could dream up.
I find the trickiest part is getting the dough to comply with your tugging and pulling.  The gluten in the dough wants to tug back, and rather than have a tug of war- give it a rest.  I mean literally, give it a rest.  Take your dough out of the fridge at least 1 hour before preparing your pie.  Let it rest, unwrapped in a warm spot.  Hey, if you want to look like you made it yourself, place it in a bowl with a bit of oil and drape it with a towel- I promise I won't squeal.
After an hour gently begin to stretch the dough on a lightly floured surface and preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone, you can preheat it aswell, or simply use a lightly oiled baking sheet or round perforated sheet pan, as I did.  I love that the pan allows for the underside to brown while the pizza bakes to perfection.

I use my fingers and knuckles to coax the dough into somewhat of a circle.  Sometimes my dough resembles the Continent of Africa


but tonight it cooperated and I must say I made a very nice nearly perfect circle.  I plumped up the edges a bit to form a crust and then began to build my pizza. Remember, this is my pizza, your's might be topped with entirely different ingredients, that's what is so cool about a DIY pizza.

I Ladled tomato sauce on the pie, not too heavy, I didn't want a soggy pizza. I then sprinkled 2 cups- that's right it's my custom pie- of mozzarella cheese.  A strong pinch of dried oregano, a scattering of mushrooms ( from a jar, well drained), and plenty of thinly sliced pepperoni all joined the party.  I chopped and dropped 2 cloves of garlic. It snowed grated Parmesan and rained a drizzle of olive oil.  



Into the oven for about 18 minutes and it came out looking like this

Why take out, when you can DIY
the perfect Sunday Supper right in your own kitchen?  Now, the chianti gets poured, the caesar salad is tossed and I am ready for the Golden Globes red carpet all while I lounge in my sweats. 
Isn't take-in grand!  

Winter's Warmth

There is nothing, I repeat nothing, like a warm bowl of soup on a snow day.  I can remember back to when my children were school-age and we would synchronize our clocks to listen to the school closing reports.  I don't know who went to bed more excited, me or my daughters.  Snow days meant sleeping in, hot chocolate, backyard sleigh rides and a bowl of hearty soup.  

Today it is just my husband and I enjoying the snow covered trees, window sills piled with 7" inches of freshly fallen snow and a quiet city.  Somehow the blanket of snow muffles the usual sounds and all we can hear right now is my pot of hearty mushroom barley soup bubbling away on the stove. It is a cross between a stew and a soup and your only decision is, do you eat it with a fork or a spoon?  I suggest you have both handy, as well as a pot of boiling water....I'll explain.

A good pot of soup starts with a good stock.  If you don't make your own ( and I can't blame you there are great box stocks out there), be sure you buy a low sodium good quality beef stock.  I like Rachael Ray's, it has that slow roasted bone flavor that is the hallmark of a good homemade stock.  For this pot, I tossed in some leftover demi- glace that I had from a roasted beef I made, so that certainly boosted the concentrated beefy flavor.

All you need are the quartet of flavor; onions, garlic, carrots and celery to start the process.  Toss those in a pot with some neutral oil and develop their flavors.  My husband was still enjoying breakfast when those aromatics wafted through the apartment, sending a signal that lunch would be far more enticing than the bowl of cereal he was presently eating. I bought stew meat yesterday, which I diced up into small pieces and browned in the oil.  If you don't have stew meat, either leave it out or add diced hotdogs, sausage or chicken pieces. To the pot I added stock, water, barley, and a ton of chopped mushrooms.  A few bay leaves to round out the flavor and the soup is ready to bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer.  It's just that easy.

Here's how it goes.....
I heated 1tbl of oil in a soup pot and added 1 pound of diced stew meat.  Brown the meat and remove with a slotted spoon.  To the pot add 2 tbl of oil, 3-4 garlic cloves chopped, 1 large onion, diced, 2 carrots, diced, 2 celery ribs, diced.  Brown the aromatics for about 10 minutes, or until they begin to pick up a warm brown color.  Add the meat back to the pot along with 2 quarts beef stock, 2 bay leaves, 1 pound diced mushrooms (cremini or white), 1 cup pearl barley.  For thicker soup add 1/4 cup more of the barley.  It swells when cooked, so be careful not to add too much extra.  Let the soup come to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer.  Here's where the boiling water comes in.  Periodically, check the pot to be sure the soup is still retaining its liquid.  If not, add 1 cup of boiling water as needed.  If you add cold water you will stall the cooking, so be sure it is hot water.  Cook about 1 hour total or until desired thickness.  Serve with some crusty bread to a not so crusty spouse.



Enjoy your snow day and please check back next week for another recipe.



Tsimmes in Vermont

For some, Christmas in Vermont is a more recognizable title, Currier and Ives images spring to mind as snow covered slopes beckon the brave. But in the town of Stowe, on a warm July night, in the sanctuary of the local JCC,  part time and born and bred Vermonters came to hear me talk about Recipes Remembered.  When the talk concluded, I was gifted with a copy of their cookbook entitled Tsimmes in Vermont, filled with homespun recipes that represent the good people of Stowe. The humor displayed by the title and the commitment to preserving traditional Jewish food gives you a glimpse into this small but vibrant Vermont Jewish community. And while the talk didn't cause a tsimmes, it brought together people from all over the country who call Stowe their summer home as well as locals 
( Jewish and non Jewish alike) who came to learn more about Recipes Remembered.  It was a wonderful night, a beautiful visit filled with good will and good food- my favorite combination.  So, what follows in this blog entry is a little about Stowe and a lot about what my husband and I ate and drank throughout our stay. Hope you enjoy this sweet and savory trip through God's country.

We started our trip leaving from our Bedford home on what was a sweltering New York summer day.  We looked forward to the scenic drive and mountain air and were not disappointed by either.  Our first stop en route was a wonderful tavern in Bernardston- a town my husband pronounced using his best Winston Churchill accent.  The Kringle Candle Company is home to The Farm Table, a delightful restaurant situated on a thoroughfare in the heart of the town.  http://www.kringlefarmtable.com/Home.html  If the word artisanal needed clarification, The Farm Table could be the defining example. Everything was housemade.  From the walnut raisin studded bread brought to the table, to the croissant roll that housed the chunky fresh caught lobster.  The tomato soup I started with was spicy and topped with a shrimp salsa. The clean taste from the freshly grown tomatoes was sweet and acidic, with a hand picked taste.  

For my main course I indulged in a clam and Vermont smoked bacon pizza that oozed provolone cheese with a crust that had the perfect chew and a sprinkling of Parmesan that livened up the edges.  You know the effect when cheese escapes from a dish and just chars on the bottom of the pan- that's what dotted the crisp crust. The clams were briny and the bacon had that just cured smoky slightly maple flavor.  It was perfect.



We left The Farm Table completely sated and sorry that it was located neither here nor there; not close enough to where we started or near enough to where we were going.  We did promise to stop on our way back, but were lured away by another local specialty, that we discovered on the end of our trip and you'll discover at the end of this travelogue.

We arrived at the Stowe Mountain Lodge, a family Von Trapp looking structure nestled in the Mansfield mountains of Stowe.  The Lodge was pleasant enough, the scenery breathtaking and the people warm and friendly- just as you'd expect.

My book talk took place Thursday night, and our first day in Stowe was spent pretty much doing nothing except unwinding and breathing in the surroundings.  The air in Stowe had a gentle warm breeze in contrast to the weather we left behind which was now raining hail stones down on stranded New Yorkers who we were told were ducking into stores to avoid the barrage.  

The talk was a wonderful event, where I met and mingled with an almost 100 year old Gentile town resident who had more spring in her step then most half her age. She told me she wished the Christian community were more like the Jewish, organized and collected.  I had to laugh.  There was a hidden child from Belgium in attendance, as well as the summer Stowe residents who came from Boca, Bethesda and Boston.  No, your home city does not have to begin with a "B" to summer in Stowe.  I thank the terrific members of the JCC for baking Evelyn's summer peach confection, Edith's blueberry crumb cake and more cookies than the elves could muster on a productive afternoon.  

Our culinary itinerary continued Friday after a magnificent round of golf where the course meandered through mountains and terrain that challenged our golf cart and my threshold for winding curves and downhill paths.  

We rewarded our game with a Stowe tradition, a maple creamee at I.C. Scoops. It did not disappoint.  The sugary maple flavor was not cloying, but just sweet enough and the freshly baked waffle cone served as the perfect conveyor. 


We kept lunch light as we were looking forward to an amazing dinner at Hen of the Wood, located in nearby Waterbury Vermont. http://www.henofthewood.com/  Twice nominated chef/owner Eric Warnstedt fills this little gem with an inviting ambience, simple yet thoughtful food, a friendly and knowledgable staff and local ingredients that define the Vermont culture. It was the perfect balance of eating the right food, prepared the right way, in the right place.  I started with two small plates and the sous chef graciously prepared a third for us as I was on the fence as to what to order and my angst apparently was palpable. The first was chunks of locally raised ruby red chioggia beets, dotted with pine nuts, a drizzle of fruity olive oil, ribbons of fresh picked basil all sitting on a base of creamy house made ricotta that had been emulsified into a frothy texture.  It was clean and simply divine. The thinly sliced cucumber offering, also from a local farm, were topped with fennel fronds, shards of sliced fennel and breakfast radishes. Pure and fresh; a great palate cleanser and perfect way to begin a meal.  Our bonus starter were zucchini fritters light and puffy, just greasy enough to remind you they were deep fried, filled with chunks of zucchini.  My husband started with an apt dish of mushrooms (I'm sure some were hen of the woods), presented on toast, topped with local bacon and a perfectly poached egg that ran down the mountain of mushrooms like a slalom skier. I would have loved to show you tantalizing photos, but either the champagne had already gone to my head or we didn't discover the flash on our iphone early enough into the meal, so my descriptions will have to suffice. 

We sipped an interesting wine that was mellow, aromatic and slightly fruity.  It was an Italian blend from Hilberg Pasquero a winery known for their biodynamic and ecologically sound approach to winemaking- no surprise that it caught the attention of this socially responsible restaurant.  
http://hilberg-pasquero.com/english/index.asp  The Vareij that we enjoyed was a combination of Brachetto and Babera grapes from the Roero Piedmont region.  It was a perfect compliment to my locally raised pork two ways (moist loin and crispy belly sitting atop smashed potatoes and surrounded by a blueberry reduction) and my husband's straight foward striped bass.  

Our evening finished with a creamy local cheese from Mt. Mansfield Creamery called Inspiration.  http://www.mtmansfieldcreamery.com/ It certainly inspired me to want more cheese, but my husband restrained me saving just enough room for the buttermilk cake topped with fresh fruit. From start to finish it was just what a dining experience should be; satisfying in all ways.  We knew that meal would not be topped, so we vowed not to even try.  Instead we went down and dirty for our final morning and trip home.

It started at Stowe Maple Products where we met and schmoozed with the owner of this small but productive local institution.  She showed us the inner workings of making maple syrup and when we realized that a 50 gallon vat produces a 1 gallon jug of syrup- we understood why it commanded such a steep price.  We explored the various grades from Grade A light to dark amber and selected several jugs of medium which is the most versatile.  Mapley enough for baking and not too overwhelming for Sunday morning flapjacks.   The prices here were better than at the traditional tourist traps.  Give them a call and they can ship right to your waffle iron. (802) 253-2508

The maple syrup goes into my oatmeal raisin cookies whose recipe follows

Our next stop was the Cold Hollow Cider Mill where we devoured a bag of freshly baked apple cider donuts, washed down with a cup of milled apple cider and Vermont roasted coffee.  http://www.coldhollow.com/  Watching them being made right before your eyes tells you two things- they are as fresh as can be and frying food is down right good. Our takeaways included home made preserves, pancake mix, pure honey and pepper jelly for our adventurous son-in-laws who cannot make their food hot enough. 




A short drive down the road led us to the Cabot Cheese annex where we sidled up to a cheese tasting bar and used more toothpicks then a small forest could produce.  http://www.cabotcheese.coop/ 


My personal favorite was horseradish cheddar, but I didn't want to overstay my welcome as our next stop was Ben & Jerry's.  The tour of this original and still operating ice cream plant is kitschy replete with cheesy (got you) cow jokes such as: Why was the mother cow exhausted? She had just been de-calfinated!  We endured such one-liners to receive the pay off at the end, a view of the plant (which was not operating that day so it was sort of like watching paint dry) and the chance to taste one of Ben & Jerry's signature flavors. We sampled Mint Chocolate Chunk my daughter's favorite which is now considered a zombie flavor- available in scoop shops but not in stores. We posed in front of a replica of their tour bus, but I will spare you the moomentous shot ( that's the last one, I promise)
With full bellies and a few mooving (sorry) souvenirs, we headed back to the car to continue our trip home.  

There were two more stops in our future, one planned and one serendipity. On our trip out we noticed a small bakery that advertised the following


We assumed that was just a sampling of what they had to offer.  The reality was, that's pretty much all they had - save a window display of traditional cookies and a few loaves of what was once freshly baked bread. We scored one of the two remaining pies and a frozen scallop, leek and potato pot pie so we were happy.  I've yet to sample either, but I have a inkling they will be delicious. 

We traveled down the street to find just what I was craving; a roadside hotdog stand.  Growing up in Westchester County we are loyal Walter's hotdog fanatics.  And in this small town just south of Greenfield, Mass. we found one that felt very familiar. We ordered footlongs served on a very fresh bun, with homemade sauerkraut, tangy mustard all wrapped in foil and under $3.00 each.  My husband paired his with fresh pink lemonade.  A Saturday in the country doesn't get much better than that.


Our trip was nearly done, and our visit to Stowe was really memorable. Some might have spent their time there hiking the trails, biking the paths and exploring the antique shops.  We chose to blaze our way through the local eateries; meeting the very good people of New England  savoring their singular hospitality; one morsel at a time.

When I returned I excitedly incorporated the real maple syrup in my oatmeal raisin cookie recipe.  Hope you enjoy the flavor and texture and make this recipe one of your go-tos, as I do.
Here's how it goes.....

Yields 24 cookies (18 if using a generous scoop)

Start to finish: Under 1 hour

 

Must Have: large unrimmed baking sheet (15”x14” holds 9 cookies, 20”x15”holds 12), parchment paper or silpat

Nice by not Necessary: standing or hand held mixer, mini ice cream scooper

 

1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 large egg, room temperature

¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon Saigon cinnamon

½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

1 ½ cups old -fashioned rolled oats, do not substitute quick cooking

½ cup baking raisins

 

Take the butter and egg out of the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to baking, longer is even better. In a medium bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment or a silpat. When the butter is soft (you should be able to easily indent your thumbprint), beat on medium speed with the two sugars using a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, a hand mixer, or beat vigorously by hand, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes scraping down the sides as needed.  Add the vanilla, egg and maple syrup and beat for 1 minute.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture, beat till just combined.

 

Using a spatula, stir the mixture, being sure you bring up the batter from the bottom of the bowl.  Stir in the oats and raisins and thoroughly combine.  Scoop the dough by rounded tablespoons (a mini scooper is 1 tablespoon) and place 2 inches apart on the baking sheet.  With a lightly damp finger, lightly press the top of the cookies to slightly flatten. Bake for 10 minutes (12 minutes if you scoop 1 ½-2 tablespoons for larger cookies).  They should be crisp on the edges, soft in the center. When you take the pan from the oven, give it a light tap on your counter to deflate the cookies. Let the cookies cool for a minute on the baking sheet, and then transfer to a cooling rack. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Grow Damn It!


Three Little Words.....
that define a gentleman farmer's garden.  From a childhood in rural Moodus Connecticut with an Orthodox Rabbi grandfather who was judge and jury on the kosher status of neighborhood chickens to his sprawling backyard garden in Purchase, NY; my dad has always been a lover of the great outdoors.  He has also, always been an over achiever.  Whether in the boardroom or the kitchen- he takes charge and things just tend to move forward and his results are generally impressive.  His garden is no less reflective of the style and commitment he brings to everything he does. And while I cannot claim to have a green thumb; mine is decidedly brown and deadly, I do admire his dedication to the land and I certainly devour all the fruits of his labor.

Over the summer we are overwhelmed with zucchini the size of baseball bats, tomatoes that overflow from bushels and garlic that fills his home and ours with a just picked savory smell.



His garden begins months before the weather welcomes him back to the corner plot in the way back of his backyard.  He plans, he designs, he orders and he begins germinating the plants and seeds that will yield our seasonal bounty.  Should he try pumpkins again, despite their previous disappointing showing?  Should he plant early girls as well as Roma, did we prefer the cherry to the grapeseed tomatoes and do you sacrifice the zucchini in favor of plucking the flower?  These are all questions he ponders while the ground is still frozen and the thermometer struggles to reach 32 degrees.

But, when spring has sprung, my father moves into action and the result is magnificent.  This past Friday night, after he prepared a sumptuous dinner for us, we strolled his garden.  He pointed out all the characteristics of the vegetables, how the broccoli and cauliflower plants look so similar, how to tell the light green leaves of pumpkin from it's cousin the squash and why he worries that local raccoons that climb his fence and defy his jack and jill scarecrows might eat his eggplant before they are allowed to reach maturity.  He tends the garden with a zen-like approach, careful, organic and respectful.  It brings him peace and accomplishment.  It brings us ratatouille, creamy leafy green soups, eggplant parm that rivals Rao's and enough garlic to last the entire summer.  

Tonight we are going to enjoy the freshest broccoli soup imaginable, as he picked them Friday, cooked it Saturday and we are enjoying tonight. 
Here's how it goes....

Murray's Simplest Broccoli Soup
It does not get easier than this, and the result is a soup that tastes like the vegetable it features.  This same approach works for just about any vegetable.

Begin with 3 large heads of broccoli which you cut into manageable pieces.  Saute them in a little olive oil with 2 medium sliced onions, for about 5 minutes.  Transfer the broccoli and onions to a soup pot and add about 20 ounces of chicken stock.  Cover and cook over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes, until the broccoli is nice and tender.  When cool enough, transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender right in the pot and puree the soup.  Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  If the taste is too pungent, add a little more stock, a touch of light cream or half and half.  This soup tastes great heated through or served cold on a hot summer day.
Enjoy

Some future recipes in development

The first green pepper is almost ready to pick


Can you say pesto


Cherry tomatoes with their distinctive round shape


The light green leaves indicate it's a pumpkin plant


Darker green leaves means it's zucchini


Check back for new photos as the directive to Grow Damn It inspires and intimidates Murray's garden to do just that.

 
What a view!

The Ocean beckons


It's 1:34 in the morning, do you know where this blogger is? I was in the kitchen, shunning sleep in favor of making soup.  I had bought some ocean fresh ingredients earlier in the day only to decide I would cook them another time.  But the sea beckoned, the clams were clammering and the mussels were goading them on. 

Let me digress. Years ago, as a child, I was on a trip to London with my family.  We stayed at the posh Dorchester Hotel and had lunch in the formal dining room.  I had just purchased a few Carnaby Street outfits, for those of you too young to know the reference, it's where Taylor Swift and Pink would shop together if in some bizarre world that would really happen.  I had on trendy pants and a ruffled blouse reminiscent of a pirate. I entered the dining room with more than a dash of panache and was abruptly turned away as at the time young ladies were required to were dresses to dine.  A fellow diner that night was Jack Benny (think Jon Stewart meets Jack Black) and he applauded my choice of outfits.  Despite his approval, I was forced to change into a suitable dress and was welcomed in the restaurant.

I ordered a sublime soup called Billi-Bi.  It features delicate mussels served in a creamy base, sweet and briny at the same time. I was in heaven. My love affair with well prepared food obviously pre dates bell bottoms. So, back to last night, let's be mindful, I am writing this significantly sleep deprived. I wanted to make that same soup with a few new twists, adding littleneck clams to the mussels, With an infomercial blasting in the background, I got out my Dutch oven and got to work.  Here's how it went....

Bedford Billi-Bi

I heated 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven, while I grabbed and quickly prepped my aromatics. To the pot I added  1 celery rib, 1 medium onion, 1 leek, 4 garlic cloves, all rough chopped as the veggies will be strained out after cooking.  I cooked and stirred them over medium heat for about 10 minutes. I then seasoned them with 1 teaspoon kosher salt.




Once the veggies had a bit of color and appeared softened I added 2 bay leaves, 1 cup white wine, 2 cups chicken stock, good pinch of saffron, and 2 dozen clams, which I rinsed to remove any debris.  Cover and cook, over medium to high heat for 5 minutes. The clams need a head start so they swam in the pot before adding the mussels. I then added 1 pound- about 20 closed cultivated mussels, and a handful of parsley which I scattered on top.  Let me say something about the mussels.  It used to be that mussels had beards, ocean bottom matter stuck in the shells and they carried a lot of grit.  No more.  Now they are cultivated.  No that does not mean they go to the opera, that would be cultured and just plain ridiculous. But because they are "raised" they tend to be less sandy and gritty.  A quick rinse is all they need.  Additionally, you'll be straining the broth, so you'll have another chance to catch the debris.If you should get a very sandy batch, drop them into a bowl of water with some flour in it.  They will gulp the water, open their shells and release the grime. 


Continue cooking until the mussels and clams begin to open, scoop them out as they open and set aside, covered loosely with a dishtowel so they don't dry out. Shake the pot to encourage any remaining mollusks to open - discarding any that don't.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth and strain out the solids. Then squeeze the cloth to extract all the liquid. Return the pot to the stove.


In a small dish combine 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter to create a thickening roux. Mash till they are thoroughly combined. Whisk the roux into the strained broth and heat on medium. Add 1 cup light cream. Salt and pepper to taste, a pinch of thyme and a pinch of yellow curry.

When cool enough to handle remove the clams and mussels from their shells and add to the soup. If the soup is too briny for you, which for a shellfish lover is unthinkable, add a drop more chicken stock, cream or a pat of butter, gently heat through (or enjoy it cold) and serve topped with some chopped chives or parsley.



Chicken Worth Crossing the Road for...

If I were asked what is the one dish everyone should know how to prepare, there is no question I would say- roasted chicken.  It can feed a family, impress your in-laws, costs little to make and offers so many variations. Tonight I'm making a very simple lemon roasted chicken with an au jus panzanella.  That's just a fancy way of saying cubed bread will sop up the pan drippings and serve as a base for the chicken.  Additionally, I'm using a fun gadget- so it's win-win for me and you, albeit slightly embarrassing for the chicken.  Here's how it goes...

Lemon Roasted Standing Up Chicken with Panzanella
First I start with a fresh kosher bird, 3 1/2 to 4 pounds.  I love a kosher bird, not only because as The Kosher Carnivore you would expect no less, but because they just taste better.  The salting process necessary for kashering the bird adds so much flavor to the chicken.  They look cleaner- save a few stray feathers that a little tweezing can easily fix.  Look for a pink tip on the leg and no odor at all.  If time allows, let the chicken hang out in the fridge, uncovered- away from everything else, allowing it dry out.  Do not rinse the bird, it annoys the heck of him and poses a cross contamination situation. If time is crunching do as I did, dry the bird and cram a paper towel in the cavity ( it's humiliating for the chicken, but it's effective) and let it air dry for about 30 minutes while you pre heat the oven to a roaring 425 degrees.  I want crispy skin, so a dry bird and a hot oven are a must.


I then filled a small cylinder, made just for propping up a chicken, with equal parts Verjus, a sweet vinegary wine, and  chicken broth. I dropped the end of a whole head of garlic in for good measure.  


I drizzled olive oil on the chicken and then seasoned the inside and outside of the bird right in the roasting pan with  kosher salt, freshly cracked black pepper, garlic powder and good Hungarian paprika. The extra seasoning now falls into the pan, not on my counter or cutting board. I didn't contaminate any work surface and I insured my pan drippings will have  extra flavor.  I tossed a dozen unpeeled garlic cloves, a very large halved shallot and about 1/2 cup of chicken broth into the pan. Before resting the bird on the cylinder I squeezed the bird with a halved lemon and then pushed the lemon into the cavity.  I already violated the bird once, so one more compromising action isn't so terrible. To maintain some dignity (and protect the breast and assure the legs get some attention), I used a cooking band to truss them.



Into the oven it goes, turning the pan every 20 minutes to insure even browning and basting it with the collected drippings, adding more broth or water to keep the gravy from drying out. Cook until an instant read thermometer reads 165-170 or about 1 hour 15 minutes.  Let the bird rest   ( it's been standing up for close to 85 minutes, it's tired).  While the bird sits, covered loosely with foil, cube 1/2 a baguette. 

Place the pan directly on the stove and heat the juices, adding more broth if needed.  Toss in the bread cubes and let them drink up the drippings. 

Serve the carved bird on top of the mushroom bread mixture and drizzle with any remaining drippings.  



Rise and Shine

...are two words that do not usually go together for me.  I rise every morning- it's a habit I've grown accustomed to and one I hope will not end anytime soon.  It's the shine that has me confounded.  It takes me at least 1 hour, several cups of coffee and a call to my sister for my shining to begin.  Let's just say I am not a morning person.  But today, I had a good reason to rise and shine; and that's because I had the perfect ingredients to make blueberry muffins for a post July 4th breakfast, and I was determined that their aroma would be the wake up call for everyone else in the house.

I did not anticipate my son-in-law would make a 6:00am 6 mile run through the town of Bedford.  I forgot that my husband had a breakfast meeting before I was even out of bed. And, my daughter sleeps in and makes my not-a morning-person persona seem like I'm an early riser.  But, I carried on with my mission.

What motivated me from the start were not the plump blueberries I bought yesterday at a local market, but rather the delectable preserves I bought the day before at Daisy Hill Farm. Daisy Hill is an upscale farm stand smack dab in the middle of Bedford.  Chickens, cows, pigs and Land Rovers roam free as they grow and harvest beautiful fruits and vegetables.  What they don't grow on the grounds they bring in from local sources and it is a feast for the senses.  I scored a Goliath head of lettuce, radishes on steroids and a jar of strawberry rhubarb preserves.  It was the preserves that drove me to bake this morning, as I was looking for something to slather them on and blueberry muffins seemed just right.

Heres how they go.....
Bountiful Blueberry Muffins: Makes 6 extra large Go big or go home muffins
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

I started with 5 tablespoons of room temp butter that I combined with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and beat until light and creamy.  To that I added 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt, and 2 tablespoons of half and half.  You can certainly add  heavy cream, sour cream or even whole milk in place of the half and half.  When the batter formed, I dropped in 1 large room temp egg and the zest of 1 medium lemon.  I did this all in my standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

I then removed the bowl and by hand I stirred in the dry ingredients which were sifted together:  1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and a good pinch of kosher salt.   It will be very thick.  To the bowl I gently stirred in 1 cup of blueberries.

Spray your muffin tin and an ice cream scooper with cooking spray and drop 1 full scoop into each muffin cup.  Use a wet finger to spread the batter evenly and stud the tops with a few blueberries.  Sprinkle each with sanding or raw sugar for a little crunch and shimmer.  Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.



The muffins came out big,juicy with blueberries splitting their skins and oozing their goodness with every bite. 


Let's just say, my post run son-in-law devoured his, my husband is enjoying a 2nd breakfast and my sleepy daughter should be getting the whiff of fresh baked muffins any minute. As for me, the fresh preserves remained in their jar for another day.  These muffins didn't need a thing!


Simple Summer Salsa

It's July 4th and you know what that means.....it's time for a summer BBQ and with that comes cole slaw, potato salad and those two all American standbys.....salsa and guacamole.  The market is filled with pre-made jars and containers of both, but they are so easy to make at home that there's just no reason to buy the store bought.  I like to control the heat, the chunky factor and, of course, the salt.  For my group that means more sodium not less, but by making it yourself you get to control everything in these south of the border favorites.  Here how it goes

Simple Summer Salsa: serves about 8-10
First assemble your ingredients.  You'll need 1 medium green pepper, 2 Roma (plum) tomatoes, 3-4 garlic cloves, a small jalapeno pepper ( seeds removed, add to your taste),1/2 lemon or lime, small handful of parsley or cilantro, 1/2 red onion and 2 cans of Hunts diced tomatoes (I used the one with added oregano and basil).  Yes, even homemade salsa benefits from a canned ingredient.


Cut the veggies into chunks.  Even though they are going into a blender, they will process more evenly if already cut.  Drop all the ingredients, except the canned tomatoes into the blender and process on low until the ingredients have melded but are not pureed.  I use a Vitamix, which gives me great power and control ( perfect for type A cooks), but any blender or processor fitted with the metal blade will work.  



When you have the base chopped add 2 cans of diced tomatoes with their juice.  Process till just chunky.  Here's where your preference comes in.  I  favor a more dry to a soupy salsa, it will continue to release liquid as it chills. I let it chill a couple of hours and then strain off most of the liquid. I now add a squirt of lemon or lime, freshly cracked black pepper and kosher salt.  You can taste and adjust the acid, heat and salt at this point. This exact mixture makes a great foundation for gazpacho.  If you pour in a couple of cups of cold V-8, you can create a totally different dish with very little effort.  Add a shot of vodka, and you really get the party going!



A great tip is, the chunky mixture that you create prior to adding the canned tomatoes is a fabulous flavor booster that can be termed a sofrito.  I usually reserve a little of this to add to sauce, salad dressing or soup.  It gives a nice kick to whatever you are making.  

There you have it, Simple Summer Salsa.

Off to make the guacamole, be back in 5 minutes!  
Ok, it took 7 but that's faster than a trip to the market.  Here's how the gauc goes

5 -7 Minute Guacamole: Serves 8-10
The first step it to pick the perfect avocado.  The avocado should be soft to the touch, but not too soft- kind of like a ripe peach.  The skin should be a little wrinkled, but not look like Benjamin Button at the start of the movie, and the color should be a green/brown.  Cut the avocado as shown and remove the seed.  

Cut around the circumference


Smack your knife confidently into the seed


How cool is that, a ripe avocado's seed with adhere to your knife and be easy to remove.  Use a dishtowel to dislodge it from your knife

Score the meat and drop into your wood bowl.  I have my limes ready to go as the acid helps preserve the color, so squirt those limes on the cut the avocado as soon as you can.  I use 3 limes (use 2 now, save 1 for the end) for 5-6 avocados.Season the avocado with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  I like to add this now so the seasoning gets into the avocado. Mash everything- a good old potato masher works well.  I like to have some chunks remaining, but go with the texture you prefer.

To the bowl add 2 chopped and seeded plum tomatoes, a little chopped parsley or cilantro if you like and 1/2 a chopped red onion.  For heat finely mince a small jalapeno, again to taste- those who like it hot can always add more to theirs or use some hot sauce.  Season again to taste, squirt with the remaining lime.  You should have a couple of cups of gauc, enough for 8-10 people.  


I debated using this shot as finished gaucamole definitely is not ready for its close-up, but I know you guys like to see the finished product, so shield your eyes with a few large tortilla chips and dig in.

It's Been a While

I know that it's been a long time between Hamantaschen and July 1st, and my only excuse is- I've really been busy.  I'm sure you feel that's no reason to have neglected you, but I had a bride to dote on, a wedding to plan, 2 books to promote, a new deal being developed and needed at least 3 hours sleep at night.....so something had to give and apparently it was this blog. Well, I'm back.  I'm sure you found worthwhile diversions while I was away, but I am hoping you will check back regularly and keep me on my toes.

So now that I have captured your attention after my long hiatus, I thought you deserve details.  My bride was beautiful, the wedding was what they dreamed of, the books continue to sell well and I have gotten my much needed sleep.  But, it's the new deal (FDR forgive me), that I want to talk to you about so that we can kvel together.  

A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to be giving a book talk on Recipes Remembered down in the Boca Raton area.  My dear friends attended and we talked about my goals and initiative to raise both funds and awareness related to the Holocaust.  My friend, Steve, is a big "macha" in the pots & pans industry and he sells his wares very successfully on QVC.  A lightbulb ( or maybe it was a cooking timer) went off in his head . Why not connect me and his QVC agent and see what develops.  We all felt it was a long shot, but I have certainly learned through this process, nothing ventured, nothing gained.  To make a long story short, which based on my religion and gender is genetically impossible, I spoke to his agent who loved the idea of the book, but felt it was a slim chance QVC would get behind it.  Feeling we had nothing to lose, they agreed to meet with me at their headquarters in West Chester Pennsylvania.

Pulling into the lot, I felt like I was an ant that had just climbed the largest hill and had a bird's eye view of the rest of the universe.  The buildings were that big, the sense of community was that strong and the people could not have been nicer.  I was ushered into a conference room, with my husband Ron bolstering me on one side and the agents sitting encouragingly on the other.  The two women I met with were warm and friendly, but I do believe dubious at best that QVC would sell a book of this nature.  Well, 10 minutes into the conversation I was talking about the remarkable people who populate the book, the authentic recipes that take us on a culinary journey across the globe and the hope and optimism that permeates every page. Now hear's the news that will knock the raisins right out of your rugelach. Before we knew it- they were sold!  So sold, that they committed to an order for more books than I could sell if I gave a book talk everyday for a year!  So sold that the stories and recipes featured in Recipes Remembered would resonate with their 100 million viewers, that they have tentatively scheduled the segment for a prime spot on one of their most popular shows- In the Kitchen with David.

My husband and I are publishing a special edition just for QVC under our label Eat Well - Do Good.   It will be a softcover, reprinted exactly as it was in hardcover.  The price will be a very special QVC price and the proceeds will be shared with charity as I have done with the hardcover version.  You can still buy the current 4th edition through the museum, your local bookstore or most online booksellers.  This version, at its introduction will only be available through QVC.  

I have since decided that QVC has a distinct similar pronunciation to QVell ( my new spelling in their honor).  I will keep you posted when the actual day and time are set, but what a victory for this book, for the wonderful people who told their stories, for the terrific cooks who shared their recipes and for everyone who has shown Recipes Remembered so much love and support.  Mazel Tov to you all!!!


I know you must think this purple sweater is the only one I own!

Hamantaschen coma

By now you are undoubtedly in a hamantaschen coma- either from making so many batches or eating so many cookies.  Those triangular fruit filled treats are sweet satisfying bites that I enjoy all year round.  One of the perks of living in New York is that foods considered to be typically Jewish and eaten often only on holidays, are available all year long.  A block from my apartment stands two bakeries; one makes a better bagel the other a better Danish.  But they both make delicious hamantaschen nearly every day. When I have a yen for that smooth prune butter, I can get a fix any time.  It makes me wonder why we reserve this simple cookie to only one time a year.  After all, it doesn't have to be formed into a triangle, it can be a simple round, topped with fruit filling and sandwiched between another cookie much like a linzer tart.  Imagine Haman wore a beret instead of a three-cornered hat. It can be gathered up on all sides and be enjoyed as a small beggar's purse revealing a sweet filling of your choice. So, whether you have had your fill or want to bake more because you are on a roll, here is my reworked recipe that produced my best batch of hamantaschen ever. Here's how that recipe (but not the cookies) unfolded

Every year I torture myself at Purim.  I don't fast or feast like Esther, I don't spin a grogger until I am delirious, but I do engage in a tormenting activity, even though my success in the past has been limited.  I make hamantaschen.  Undaunted by those that mercilessly open up and reveal their oozy preserves, I continue to create, chill, roll and bake pesky dough that sometimes has provided me with more aggravation than Queen Vashti was forced to endure.  Like the afore mentioned Queen, I too lose my head in the ultimate cookie challenge.  But, that was before the illustrious pastry chef Gale Gand sat next to me at a Chicago Hadassah luncheon and whispered in my ear words that I will eternally be grateful for.  Use less butter.  I know some might feel a stock tip or a heads up about a good Neiman Marcus sale might have been more valuable, but for me, at this time of the year, those 3 little words changed my holiday baking.  

Here's how Gale turned my promiscuous hamantaschen into a more prudish and tasteful cookie.

I started with 1 1/2 sticks of room temp unsalted butter (3/4 cup or 12 tablespoons).  To that I added 1 egg yolk and 1 whole egg, 3/4 cup of sugar and blended it on medium speed in my standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 2 minutes.  I added 1 teaspoon of good vanilla, the juice of 1 medium navel orange (about 1/4 cup) as well as the zest (about 1 tablespoon). In a separate bowl I combined 3 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 tablespoon of baking powder.  I added the dry ingredients to the wet. A quick mix created the dough, which I divided in half and wrapped in wax paper, pressing down to form a disc.



The dough chilled overnight and on a well floured counter, I rolled the dough to 1/4 inch thick.  It's best to let the dough sit out of the fridge for a few minutes to make rolling easier, but even then you might see the dough cracking, especially around the edges. 

No need to panic.  The dough is butter based thereby making it easier to fill those cracks than a cosmetic surgeon with a syringe full of filler. Simply and gently press the dough together, creating a wrinkle free dough.

Using a 3-inch cookie cutter, I formed 14-16 rounds from each disc. Roll and re roll the scraps, chilling again if it becomes too difficult to handle. Transfer the cookies to a greased baking sheet or one lined with parchment paper and fill them there. This year I used 1 scant teaspoon of apricot and sour cherry preserves.  Be sure the preserves aren't soupy, that will contribute to hamantaschen that just can't contain themselves.



I formed some with the old fashioned pinch and seal method, dabbing a little water on the edges to help it stay closed.  On the others, I tried the fold up the circle method, some good videos on line to show that technique, but I tried to convey it with these iphone photos
1.


2.

3.

At the end of the 20 minute baking time in a 350 degree oven, they were light brown on the edges and none opened up.


So I can safely conclude that while it may not be written in the Megillah, it is now written in my recipe file as the ultimate hamantaschen recipe. Thank you to Gale Gand who ate my dark meat while I devoured her plate of white meat, kept me company for a wonderful luncheon, laughed and cried with me and nearly 100 women of Hadassah as I told the stories from Recipes Remembered and proved herself to not only be a good person, but a very smart pastry chef.
Chag Sameach

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