Archive for the ‘Recipes.’ Category

How to preserve your own roasted sweet peppers.

November 15, 2009

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We use a lot of sweet peppers in our house.  They are our go-to vegetable, as they are prolific in the summer months, of fairly good quality in the winter months, easy to add to almost anything we eat, and are among the class of vegetables that my husband adores. Despite being vegetarian, let’s just say that there are lots of vegetables that he is not exactly in love with, and others that will bring about speedy divorce should I ever put them to table (brussel sprouts, I’m looking at you).  He is still suffering post traumatic stress from his mother’s preparations of vegetables growing up- including the infamous spaghetti squash incident, where his mom told him that it tasted “just like pumpkin pie”.  He will not eat squash to this day.  But, I digress, back to sweet peppers.

Roasting sweet peppers really enhances their sweetness, but also adds a meaty texture to them that goes well on salads, in pasta or on crusty bread.  You can also use them to make sauces, soups and spreads, such as this Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Spread, an amazing take on muhammara taken from August’s Gourmet magazine (I swear, I made most of the recipes in that issue).

You can purchase pre-roasted sweet peppers, particularly red peppers, or you can save some money and make your own!  Flavored olive-oil is a by-product of the process, so there’s no waste.

Preserved Roasted Sweet Peppers

Sweet peppers

Olive oil

Herbs (optional)

Equipment: A cookie sheet, silicone baking mat, kitchen tongs, freezer bag, Mason jar or other tight-filling container.

1. Pre-heat your oven to 425º.  If your oven has a roast setting, use it.  If not, the bake setting is fine.

2. Clean the peppers using a vegetable brush.  Place them upright on a cutting board, and cut them vertically in sections (there should be roughly four per pepper).  Wash off any seeds and cut away any of the placenta (the white bits).

3. Place a silicone baking mat (such as Sil-pat) on a cookie sheet.  If you don’t have a silicone mat, grease the cookie sheet liberally with oil. The peppers become very sticky when heated.

4. Put the peppers on the baking mat, outer side up, a few inches apart.

5. Roast 2 inches from the broiler for 12-15 minutes, depending on your oven’s settings.  You’ll know they are done when the skins are mostly black and blistery.

6. Remove from oven and immediately transfer, using kitchen tongs, to a freezer bag with a zipper seal.  Seal the bag.  This will steam the peppers, allowing the skins to be more easily peeled.

7. When the peppers are cool to the touch, peel the skin away with your fingers.  Don’t worry if some of it won’t come up, just be sure to get the blackened, blistery parts.  Put the skinless peppers in a clean Mason jar.

8. After all your peppers have been skinned, submerge them in olive oil and add  snipped fresh or dried herbs (I used rosemary, oregano, basil and thyme) to taste.  Seal the jar and shake.  Refrigerate- do not store at room temperature!

The peppers will last roughly 2 weeks in your fridge.  The flavored olive oil left over can then be repurposed!  The olive oil thicken as it chills, so take it out of the fridge approximately an hour before use to clarify.

Florentine Parmesan and Rosemary Bread

November 15, 2009

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I’ve been (slowly but surely) baking my way through World Breads: From Pain de Campagne to Paratha by Paul Gayler.  I chose this book to bake through 1.) it’s small, so I won’t be discouraged that I’m never going to get through it, 2.) I love the idea of baking my way around the world in bread, 3.) everything in the book looks delicious (and has been so far).  Last night, I had the biggest craving for bread. I went straight to this book and chose this recipe, which made two loaves. Husband and I devoured one last night- hot out of the oven- with sides of butter and olive oil with coarse salt and cracked pepper. The other was equally good for breakfast (since it does not have garlic) smeared with crabapple jam.

Florentine Parmesan and Rosemary Bread

4.5 cups strong white bread flour (500 g)

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, plus a little extra for dusting (100 g)

1/4 oz (1 standard packet) active dry yeast or 15g fresh yeast

1 tsp fine sea salt

1 large egg, beaten

3 tbsp virgin olive oil

1 cup warm water (220 ml)

2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary, plus 2 springs rosemary sprigs

1. Place the flour, cheese, dried yeast and salt in a large bowl.

2. Add the egg and olive oil and, using one hand, bring together with the water to form a dough.

3. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes to a smooth, elastic and pliable dough.  Add the rosemary and mix well.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film or a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

4. Turn out the dough again onto a floured surface and knock back to expel the air.

5. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180ºC). Lightly grease a baking sheet with a little oil. Shape the dough into 2 long batons, slash a cut down centre of each with a sharp knife, and place on the baking sheet.  Cover with a damp cloth, return to a warm place to rise again for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

6. Spray or brush with a little water, dust lightly with the Parmesan and arrange the rosemary springs down the center  of each loaf. Bake on the center shelf, about 30-35 minutes or until the bread is golden.  Transfer to a cooling rack.

Tart Wisconsin Cherry Frozen Yogurt with Chocolate Chunks- and A Short History of Ice Cream.

August 20, 2009

Tart Wisconsin Cherry Frozen Yogurt with Chocolate Chunks

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Looking in my fridge today, I saw a bunch of fresh Wisconsin cherries and a carton of plain yogurt.  I threw in some chocolate, and this ice was born.  Best yet- no ice cream maker needed!

Ingredients:

Cherry base

2-3 cups cherries (preferably fresh, but frozen will work, too)

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Frozen yogurt base

2/3 cup sugar

2 tsp cornstarch

1 egg, beaten

2 tbsp corn syrup

1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla bean, scraped)

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt

1 cup bittersweet or dark chocolate (I used Ghirardelli- something with at least 50-70% cocoa solids)

Equipment:

Nothing too fancy- a saucepan, metal baking sheet (preferably one with a sizeable lip), food processor and utensils.

Directions:

1. Start by making the cherry base.  If using whole cherries, remove the pits.  I like to pit cherries by cutting each in half and twisting the separate halves apart (much like you do an avocado).  Discard the pit using either a small melon baller or your fingers (I use my fingers, I find it’s easier).  If you want to skip this step, you could use frozen, pre-pitted cherries.  I’d thaw them first before putting them into the syrup, just to be sure you maximize the amount of juice they release.  You don’t need to worry about slicing them thin because they will go into a food processor later.

2. Add the cherries to a non-reactive saucepan (i.e, non-copper or aluminum) with sugar, water and lemon juice.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring and mashing with a spoon periodically to extract as much juice as possible.

3. Remove from heat and pour directly onto a metal baking sheet.  Put directly in freezer. 

4. While the cherries and syrup freeze, start your yogurt base.  Combine sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan.  Stir in the beaten egg and corn syrup.  Simmer over low, stirring until the mixture thickens and coats a metal spoon- usually only 1-2 minutes.  Note: I once tried to do this with over low heat, rather than simmer.  I didn’t pay enough attention and my egg cooked.  I highly recommend a low simmer.

5. Remove from heat and cool.

6. While your yogurt base cools, start your double broiler, or heat some water over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Add chocolate to your broiler, or to a bowl above the hot water in the saucepan (do not let the bowl touch the water) to melt it.  Stir occasionally.

7. While the chocolate melts, add vanilla paste (or bean), vanilla extract and yogurt to your cooled yogurt base mixture.  

8. Remove the cherry base from the freezer.  It should be relatively frozen by now.  It’s okay if it’s mushy in spots- the mushiness actually lets you blend it easier.  Pour the yogurt mixture over the top of it and spread with a spatula.

9.  When your chocolate is fully melted, pour directly over the top of the yogurt base.  Don’t worry about it seizing- it is reacting with the moisture from the yogurt mixture.  Use your spatula (or your hands!) to mix the chocolate, yogurt and cherry syrup together.  You don’t have to be too precise.

10. Put in the freezer until it is solid- usually about 30 minutes.  Remove when no liquid remains in the pan.

11. Break up chunks with a spatula or wooden spoon.  If it’s too hard to break, leave it on the counter for a few minutes.  It will melt quickly.  Run chunks through a food processor, making sure it’s not too smooth.  You don’t want to lose the texture of the chocolate chunks and cherries. 

12.  Garnish with cherries, whipped cream or mint.  Serve immediately.

Shortcuts for this recipe: 

Combine the cherry base with high-quality store bought ice cream or frozen yogurt.  Add melted chocolate as above or mix in chocolate chunks (either bagged or broken off of a chocolate bar) after you run the mixture through the food processor.

A Short History of Ice Cream

Ice cream has been around for centuries.  The earliest ice creams are thought to date back to China, as early as 3000 BC- starting out as flavored ices.  These ices were made by packing a container of syrup into a combination of snow and saltpetre (potassium nitrate, a naturally occurring chemical compound that forms deposits on walls, rocks and within caves) to freeze.  This technology is rumored to have spread to Italy through Marco Polo, explorer of the Silk Road (a network of trade routes between Europe and Asia), in the 13th century, after Polo allegedly returned to his home country with a recipe closely related to what we know as sorbet.  It is also rumored this it was this recipe that evolved into ice cream as we know it today.  Many food historians debate the claim that Polo was involved in bringing sorbet to Italy, claiming instead that the Italians learned about sorbet, or sorbetto, from the Arabs (who learned from the Persians, who learned from the Chinese).  Sorbet is a frozen ice, similar in texture to ice cream, typically made from fruit purees and sweeteners that are slowly frozen while being churned. Unlike ice cream, it contains no dairy products.

It is rumored that Catherine di’Medici brought sorbet to France in the mid-16th century, where it then spread to England and elsewhere in Europe, but no evidence has been found to prove this.  The first recorded recipes for sorbet dates back to  1692, in the Treatise on Various Kinds of Sorbets, or Water Ices by Antonio Latini, a cook in the court of Philip IV at Naples, and detail how to mix sugar, salt, snow, lemon juice, fruit, chocolate, cinnamon water and other flavorings to make different sorbets.  It is in this short essay that we also see what can be regarded the first written ice cream recipe- a “milky sorbet”.  

Although the first recipe for “milky sorbet”, i.e., ice cream, can be traced back only to 1692, it is known that “one plate of ice cream” was among the dishes served at the Feast of St. George at Windsor (England) in May of 1671- supporting the theory that sorbet/ice cream making was being performed earlier in the 17th century.

 

The first known book dedicated to the craft of ice cream making was L’Art de Faire des Glaces (The Art of Making Ice Creams), published by an anonymous author.  Watermarks on the pages date back to circa 1700.  The book itself details how to prepare ice creams of apricot, flowers, chocolate, caramel and more.  At the time, floral ice creams (such as violet, rose, lavender and jasmine) were the most popular- most recipes started with the cook gathering fresh blooms or petals.    

The New World also embraced ice cream- the first mention of it in America is found in a letter from 1744, written by William Black, who had been served ice cream with strawberries as as dinner guest of the Maryland Governor William Bladen.  The first ice cream parlor in America opened in 1776, in New York City.  President George Washington spent nearly $200 on ice cream during the summer of 1790- an amount that would equal approximately $4,800 now.  Thomas Jefferson’s recipe for vanilla ice cream, written in his own hand, is on file in the Library of Congress (and can be viewed here).  

The Victorians were especially fond of ice cream- particularly when it came in fancy molds, known as “ice cream bombes”.  It was not uncommon for ice creams to be served in the molds of fish, ducks, turkeys, chickens, cauliflower, pineapple, and especially asparagus.  Victorians loved asparagus-shaped ice creams, and often tied bunches with ribbon:

 

Ice cream from an asparagus mold.
Ice cream from an asparagus mold. Typically vanilla ice cream was mixed with pistachio for green tips- although some adventurous cooks did use the juice of pureed spinach or asparagus to achieve their green coloring.

It was not until the mid-19th century that ice cream became more accessible to everyday Americans.  In 1843, Nancy Johnson, a New England housewife, was granted the first patent for a hand-cranked ice cream freezer.  Unable to produce and market the freezer herself, she sold the patent to a Philadelphia manufacturer who made enough to satisfy the growing demand. 

The first commercial ice cream plant in America was established in 1851 by Jacob Fussell, a milk dealer who wanted to prevent his product from souring.  He opened ice cream parlors all over the US, as far west as Texas.  He later sold the plant to Borden.  Other manufacturers followed, including Hood’s and Breyer’s.  

As time and technology progressed, we saw the invention of ice cream sodas, sundaes, sandwiches, cakes and more.  You can find frozen ices made from soy, cheeses such as ricotta and mascarpone, yogurt (greek and plain), and more flavors that you would really ever want to try (go here to see 101 of the worst).  

Now, horsemeat and ox tongue aside- what is the most popular flavor?  

Plain ol’ vanilla.