30 June 2014

My jam is your jam

If I began this post by relating, "everyone should have a homemade jam recipe up their sleeve, " I'd slightly roll my own eyes. I don't particularly like to feel pressured when cooking publications tell me what I should be executing. To each pace her/his own. And yet so many times they're right. Yes, Maldon makes everything wonderful. Yes, quick-pickled onions are those bright pink earrings to accompany any little plain dress. Yes you should roast a whole bird at least occasionally, homemade breadcrumbs = money in the bank, and indeed, you can and should make your own jam. Especially the uncanny kind. This recipe is simple, customizable and DIY. Look twice and you might miss it.

(Lead photo: these scones but with blueberries instead of rhubarb. Yummy, I tell you.)

Refrigerator jam is a great start for making your own spreads. No worries about canning or sterilizing, and spreadable fruit at your fingertips made from your own (presumably bountiful; it's berry season!) supply. Here's some suggested reading. And here too. But once you read those, just go off on your own. Take any berry or mix of berries--for the above batch I used a mix of a rhubarb, blueberries and strawberries, and put into a saucepan with some sugar, an aromatic like zest or citrus peel, which you can remove at the end, and lemon juice, boil, then simmer, cool, and store. About the sugar. As most would contend, sweetness is in the tastebuds of the beholder. I want something sweetish but not cloying, and I'm finding a ratio of 1 cup fruit to a scant 3 Tbs sugar to be sufficient.

Stove Jam

1 heaped cup fruit (chopped strawberries, rhubarb and blueberries for example)
3 Tbs sugar
1-2 swipes lemon peel
1 tsp lemon juice

Place a spoon in the freezer. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and as the sugar and fruit begin to cook, use a wooden spoon to mash a bit.  Bring to a boil then quickly reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10-20 minutes, or until liquid reduces and the jam starts to thicken.  Keep an eye. Remove a spoonful and test on your frozen spoon. If it holds, you're good. Remove from heat and let cool, removing lemon peel, then spooning into a jar as soon as it is cool to handle. Store in the fridge.

23 June 2014

Amaranth Granola

Have you ever bought amaranth grains? Those tiny gluten-free seeds you may have thought quinoa-like (but soon realized they aren't). A package of a new grain can be a little intimidating. I'm not really a porridge girl and amaranth grains when cooked, look too slippery for me. Luckily, there's more to the amaranth story. Just follow the Mexicans! Alegria is a Mexican treat of amaranth and syrup where you pop the seeds before coating them with a cooked sugar mix and setting them up like bars. While that's next on my list, I wanted something even simpler this go-around. What if I popped the seeds and tucked them into my coconut oil granola recipe in place of some of the oats? This granola, just a curve down the road from this granola, is a nice little change-up, not to mention vegan and gluten-free. It's also a piece of cake to make, and a nice way to kick off the week.

About popping that amaranth. My best advice is to actually follow the back of the package. At first I was swirling the pan a lot. Then I noticed the instructions more clearly. Hot pan, cover tightly. That's moreso the key. In 30 seconds, get it out of there to prevent burns. Then you're good to add it to your oats and nuts, maple and coconut oil and bake it off long and low. I added chia seeds too and a kick of ginger. It's nice have something a bit different than your standard granola. I loved the crunch of this and it's great over yogurt. 

Amaranth Granola

~3 Tbsp raw amaranth*, popped to 1/4 c
1/2 c rolled oats
1/4 c sliced raw almonds
1 tsp chia seeds
Pinch ground ginger
1/8 tsp sea salt
Scant 2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp maple syrup
Handful dried fruit ( I snipped some dried cherries, raisins in half with a few dried blueberries)

*to pop: set a wide skillet on high heat for a moment. You want a hot pan. Add a small small amount of seeds, under a tsp at a time, and cover. Withing 30 seconds most of the seeds should pop. Move the pan around a little over the burner in circles and immediately transfer to bowl. Repeat with remaining amaranth, a little at a time. Set aside to cool.

Oven to 300. Line a baking sheet with parchment 

In a bowl mix popped amaranth, oats, chia, almonds. Stir together salt, ginger, oil and maple. Pour over oat mix and stir will to combine. Dump every last bit on the the parchment and bake 15 minutes, sir, then stir every 10 minutes until granola is crisp and nicely browed, about 5 stirs or 55 minutes is what I prefer. Leave to cool completely on a rack. Stir in dried fruit, and store airtight. Enjoy!

18 June 2014

Goodly Greens

It's during this season that big bushels of greens and herbs seem to appear and multiply like water turned to wine. Open the fridge. You may find something there already. 

The other night, at the very end of a long day away from home, after the drive back through quiet farmland, highways and finally into our little borough nestled between the vortex of  highways and the edge of the Hudson river, I still found myself standing in the kitchen over the sink taking care of some business.

One voice told me to sit, stream a TV show, drink tea, the other told me to attend, attend. Perhaps the thoughts of cherishing and holding on to what you have, were still fresh on my mind from the events of the day, for my thoughts were abuzz.

After the drive, my boyfriend's brother's girlfriend gave me a twist-tied bunch of organic spinach she didn't think she'd use in time of its life, completely intact but covered with a little dirt. I gave them a once-over and took them home. They just needed a "treatment." It's greens season in my kitchen and that means a little more grunt work for a lot of payoff.

When I started buying more ingredients in their bulk state, I learned immediately: give whole bunches of farm greens from big heads of lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, beets, the proper TLC, wash, dry and store them right and you will have greens at the ready, for up to two weeks for probably a third of the price you could spend on boxed salad mixes that need to be consumed in just a few days. The yield from one head or bunch never ceases to amaze. I always think: that was $1.99?

And beet greens are free. 

I washed and stored those spinach leaves and the next few meals were complete. And then I sat and drank some tea.Fear not the big bunch of greens; tame them. Then toss some salads, sauté into egg scrambles, mix with beans and fish, and make a greens tart.

Here's your greens primer. Before you start, you'll need to gather a few things:

A salad spinner. (If you don't have one, watch this. But it's a good investment.)
Paper towels
Large Zip Lock bags
Several minutes, depending on how much greenery you have, preferably right after buying your produce...

1. Remove all rubber bands and twist ties. 
2. Chop off rough stem ends while you...
3. Fill the big clear basin of your spinner with water in the sink. 
4. Chop or tear the greens from their rough stems and douse them in the basin water, work in batches.
5. Swish them around and let them sit a minute or two. 
6. Lift them out and place into the colander part of the spinner.
7. If there was a lot of dirt, repeat the bath. If not...
8. Pour out the water, rinse the basin of any straggler dirt, place colander inside and spin spin spin.
9. Set out long paper towels on a table. Place your greens in handfuls spread out on the towels.
10. Air dry a few minutes. Then roll up into paper towel burrito (see right side of above photo) and stick those into the zip locks and store for a week or two in the fridge.

Note: You can rinse some of those stems and keep them in the freezer to boil for vegetable broth needs in the future.

Pictured: Heidi's greens tart in a cornmeal crust. Made it twice in a week using beet greens I'd stored in the above method. One regular 8-inch tart (below) last week and one mini with leftover dough I froze, as a side this week with Deborah Madison's lentils, also via Heidi which are hanging out in my fridge to eat for the next few days. Did I mention I love Heidi? 

The tart-shell is a good one, buttery with extra depth from cornmeal and a little whole wheat pastry flour. Have a great week everyone. MN

09 June 2014

Blackberry rhubarb streusel bars

Ah the streusal bar.  Jammy fruit, one hand-mixed dough, part to pat in the pan, part to crumble atop. I think I'll be on a kick here with these mixing up the fruit and spice via the season. Everybody likes a streusal bar. Am I wrong about that? I mean, when you decide to throw these in the oven the exact hour before you need to leave the house, place the pan on the rack to cool, scurry out, and come home a few hours later to ready-to-cut bars, you will not say no. And when your significant other walks in, happily accepting a pre-dinner snack (because you are not that organized to have dinner on the table already, are you?), they will thank you, too. People like things they can pick up with their hand. People like portability. They like things that are sandwich shaped. And they like bars. 

At this point, you're probably aware, there are lots of ways to make a streusel bar. There's the nuts and rolled oats topped one, the melted butter based one, the blind baked bottom one, etc. This one is none of those things. It's less fussy, and has been passed around the web, which I'm glad for, because there's nothing more annoying than a lone, comment-less recipe. So today, I add to the chorus, bringing notes of blackberry and rhubarb, lemon and ginger and deepened with a little oat flour and brown sugar (thanks, TartTart). These are a great little afternoon treat and make a breakfast, too. Take a few out of the fridge to temper while you dress and enjoy with tea or coffee. Alongside an egg and fruit for some balance of course...

Update: straight up strawberries are also delicious as the fruit in this.

Blackberry rhubarb streusel bars
Adapted from Tart + Smitten
Makes a 9 x 9 inch pan

scant 1/4 cup granulated sugar
scant 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (can swap in 1/2 cup oat or other flour)
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/8 tsp ground ginger or spice
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter (4 ounces)
1/2 an egg whisked

1 T  lemon juice
~1/4 tsp fine grated fresh ginger or 1/4 tsp ground ginger or other spice
2 cups fresh berries + rhubarb (chopped 1/4 inch)
scant 2 T granulated sugar
scant 2 T brown sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch

-Oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 9×9 inch pan.
-In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. -Use a pastry cutter or fingers to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat roughly 2/3 of the dough into the prepared pan.
-In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the fruit. Sprinkle the fruit mix evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.
-Bake 45-60 minutes, until top is slightly brown. (This took an extra 10 to 15 minutes in my oven.) Cool completely (fridge is good for this) before cutting into squares. Once cut, store in fridge, bring to room temp to eat.

03 June 2014

Bittman Butter Salmon

I've made this salmon every Monday night for the past 3 weeks. Monday evenings just seem to beckon for a meal with only a few ingredients and high flavor punch. Though the light was just with me enough to produce a publishable exposure this last time around, I hope you'll pardon the moodiness. Because this simply prepared fish, not particularly prone to moods, bears sharing. I've been dabbling on a few roads with salmon lately; a one-side down high-heat stint was my go-to, then a slow and low roast, then a pan-sear finished in the oven. But recently I had been experiencing a slight Goldilocks effect with all them...slow and low cooked the inside marvelously silkily but I still preferred the texture of a bit more outer char. Pan roast is great, cast iron fish smell, the sacrifice. I hear about parchment, but don't like things to be left unseen. I was in the market for a hack, therefore, and a few things about Mark Bittman's Butter Roast Salmon made me put my money on it. It seemed like a hybrid effect at play. High heat, both sides, oven only, no broiler. This one, unearthed from his cookbook more than a few years old at this point, is one to keep in your back pocket.

The technique involves preheating a sheet pan with a knob of butter on it and letting it melt a minute or two. Then you drop in some seasonings, maybe some minced garlic or shallot, zest...into the butter. You season and plop down the salmon on its front side and stick it in the oven for about 5 minutes. Then, in a nifty trick I learned this way, you can peel the skin that's starting to loosen, right off. Season that now skinless side and flip it over to finish for 5 or 8 more minutes. I like to rest it with a little foil over after. And that's that. Slice after it rests against the grain, like meat, and you get this lovely moist, meaty interior with tender little juicy flakes. The outside will have that small seared tinge. One thing with this recipe and the internet...some versions have you flip, others do not. I flip and that's what I think makes it more foolproof. That's the hack. Because if you have a thick cut say from the center, you really need to get both sides in contact with heat/pan/fat. A note on the butter. It's not a ton. Don't worry, if you're worried about butterfat, but do use a good quality. The original recipe is for a 2 lb fillet and he has you use about 4 Tbsp. I do a wee bit under a pound and get away with about 1.5 Tbsp. And after it cooks, you of course, spoon the accumulated seasoned buttery fish juices over the fillet along with some lemon, and there's no need for any other sauce. Enjoy!

Bittman's Butter Roast Salmon

2 Tbsp butter
1 lb salmon fillet, with skin
Sea salt and pepper
Any or all of the following:
1 small garlic clove, shallot, minced, pinch red pepper flakes, 1 Tbsp mixed fresh minced herbs like dill, parsley, cilantro, chives, pinch lemon zest.
Lemon juice to serve

Oven to 450 (he does 475, yesterday was hot enough)
Blot the salmon with paper towels to dry, season the upside with salt and pepper. 
Place the butter on a rimmed baking sheet or shallow dish, and place into the oven for a moment or two. When you hear it melting, and see bubbles, remove, and spoon garlic/herb mixture over the butter, swirling. Place the salmon presentation side down, into the pan, swirling it around to coat. 
Place in oven 5 minutes. Remove and quickly peel off skin, which should be heated enough to slide off. If it isn't, let it go another moment. Pinch salt and pepper onto the newly skinned side. Flip the fish so skin(ed) side is down, cook 5 to 8 more minutes, 10 if the piece is very thick. The tip of a knife should slide through without much resistance, and the center just opaque. Slide a piece of foil over and let cool a few minutes. Serve in crosswise slices with accumulated juices and squeezed lemon.