Fruit


from Saveur, no. 115, November 2008

Every time I try a Saveur recipe, I think, “Maybe I can survive the disappearance of Gourmet.” For this year’s Thanksgiving, I made two recipes from the magazine: this one and the one for Cornbread-Sausage Stuffing. Both deserves repeated revisits. The cranberry sauce took me to entirely new places that no cranberry sauce had done before. It has something to do with the cardamon and olive oil, I’m sure.

With minor tweaks, here it is:

Heat oven to 450. Using a peeler remove peel from 1 orange, taking off as little of the white pith as possible.

[Shadowcook: A seemingly trivial direction. However, the more white pith there is, the more bitter the contribution to the dish made by the orange.]

Cut peel into very thin strips, about 1 1/2″ long. Squeeze juice over orange, strain and reserve 1 tablespoon juice. In a bowl, combine peel, 1 pound fresh or thawed cranberries, 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 4 smashed green cardamon pods, 4 whole cloves, 2 sticks cinnamon, and 1 small stemmed and thinly sliced jalapeño. Toss and transfer to a parchment [or aluminum foil] lined baking sheet. Roast until cranberries begin to burst and release their juices, about 15 minutes [or less, if using a convection oven]. Transfer cranberry mixture to a bowl; stir in reserved orange juice and 1 1/2 tablespoons port. Let sit for at least 1 hour so that the flavors meld. Remove and discard caradmon, cloves, and cinnamon before serving. Makes 2 cups.

[Shadowcook: Lacking port, you might try madeira or a heavy red wine.]

A couple of month ago, I decided to drop twenty pounds by New Year’s Day. As the first step on the road to Slimmerdom, I eliminated alcohol from my diet. That was hard until, suddenly, I got over it. Then in August, I realized that I had to return to the only method that has ever resulted in my losing weight: Weight Watchers. As the Sex and the City character Samantha says, overhearing two women in a bookstore talking about diets, in one episode, “It’s the only thing that works.” It’s true. If you follow WW’s program, you will lose weight. The genius of WW is its simplicity. Simplicity is also what makes it hard. It’s all about repackaging calories in a user-friendly form. You have to have a little bit of the control-freak in you to do it, since you weigh and measure everything you eat. In Spring 2004, I followed the WW regime for about 8 months, and by 2005 I had lost thirty pounds. Since then, my weight has slowly crept back to its starting point. It took a while, but I finally worked myself up to the decision to try WW again. And I’m glad to say that it’s working. Ten pounds down, fifteen to go. And then I’ll lose a last five pounds in a victory lap.

However, I am pissed off. Even though I am in my fifties, when metabolisms are notoriously slower, I am not ready to entirely relinquish my appetites. I like to cook and to eat in reasonable quantity and frequency. It’s the unfairness of life that gnaws at my innards. Some of my friends who are of a similar age eat like birds — or less. Others eat whatever they want and don’t gain weight. They all annoy me. I like to eat. But I am one of those people who will always have to be hungry in order to keep my weight down.

That, as I said, is life. I have to deal with it. The challenge in restraining myself for the next few months to only 1200-1300 calories worth of food a day lies in making it interesting. I don’t want to eat only steamed vegetables. Fortunately, in the five years since I was last on WW the recipe database has greatly improved. It still is by no means a Foodies’ paradise, but one can now make do very well and adapt the recipes to make them more flavorful without adding many calories. Whats more, there’s an iPhone app for WW! When I learned that, I thought all is well with the world.

The photo shows one green pepper cut in half and stuffed. That counts as two servings, if you’re eating anything else in the meal:

2 servings

350 calories or 7 points per serving

about pound of greens (Swiss chard, kale, spinach, or a combination of all three2 green bell peppers)

1/2 onion, chopped

1/2 oz pine nuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup Israeli couscous

1 ounce hard cheese (Comté, Gruyère, any hard cheese conducive to melting)

Preheat oven to 350.

Clean and stem the greens. Shake the greens of water, but don’t dry the leaves completely. Roughly chop. Set aside.

Chop the half onion. Set aside.

Cut the pepper in half, seed and take out the ribs. Place cavity-side up in a very lightly oiled small baking dish.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet wide enough to accommodate the chopped greens. Add onion and sauté for a few minutes. When the onions are translucent, add the damp greens. Stir to coat with the olive oil and onion. Let the greens throw off their water and wilt. If you want to experiment at this point by adding spices to the greens (a pinch of nutmeg?), do so now.

Meanwhile, place a small saucepan of water on to boil. When the water is boiling, add the half cup of Israeli couscous and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and add to the wilted greens in the skillet. Stir to combine. Add the pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fill the pepper halves with the greens-Israeli couscous filling. Don’t pack it, but you can mound it. You’ll probably have leftover filling. Grate the one ounce hard cheese and sprinkle it over the pepper halves.

Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Variations:

  • If you to add protein and have room for more calories, consider adding a few anchovies to the onions as they sauté.
  • Or skip the Israel couscous, beat an egg and mix it into the sauteed greens after cooling them. The egg will work as a binder.
  • Add a lttle lowfat ricotta to the cooled sauteed greens.

Manresa, 320 Village Lane (just off North Santa Cruz Avenue), Los Gatos, CA 95030
408.354.4330

No, I have no lost my mind and added diced bell pepper and cucumber to strawberry gelato. But I am mad enough about gazpacho to eat it in any form. And if there were ever a season for strawberries, now would be it. Until the real gazpacho season comes along, the strawberry version will do very well.

Two particularly generous friends treated my sister to a birthday dinner at Manresa in Los Gatos. Manresa is one of the relatively few restaurants in the United States to receive two Michelin stars — for what that’s worth. These diners reported that they had an excellent four-course dinner, among which were two amuse-bouches. The first was a soft-boiled egg yolk at the bottom of an empty egg shell, topped with sherry-vinegar whipped cream, chives, maple syrup, and salt. You can find a version of that recipe here. The strawberry gazpacho was the second amuse-bouche. Clearly, David Kinch, the chef, is a chemist. This recipe defies logic, I suppose, only if you don’t understand the chemical reactions of incompatible ingredients, which I certainly don’t. So, you’ll just have to take my word for it.

This recipe is dead simple:

1 pound, 4 ounces strawberries, hulled and lightly crushed

4 ounces white onions, thinly sliced

4 ounces red bell peppers, thinly sliced

5 ounces cucumber, peeled, seeded, thinly sliced

1 half clove garlic, crushed

1/4 cup tarragon leaves

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:

Strawberries, hulled and finely diced

Chives, finely minced

Red bell pepper, finely diced

English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced

1-2 tablespoons almond oil

Chervil sprigs (if you can find them)

Put first 8 ingredients in a bowl; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, puree the ingredients in a blender and season with salt and pepper. Thin with water if too thick. Allow to chill thoroughly before serving.

To garnish, mix together all the minced vegetables and fruit with almond oil. Mound in the center of a soup plate; top with chervil sprigs.

Shadowcook: The only observation I would contribute to this recipe is that it is easy to overdo the garnish. The garnish only exists for crunch, although the almond oil is a nice touch. You’ll appreciate the silky smooth texture of the gazpacho if you remember that less is more.

Update: watch the salt.

Up-update: David Kinch’s recipe is posted online. He provided it to a TV show in which he appeared. Google it, if you feel the need to check me.

from New Food of Life, pp. 170-171.

In the early 80s, I shared a house in San Francisco with friends, two of whom were Iranian. One of those Iranians, a gentle man name Hamid, cooked traditional Persian dishes  most of the time. I count my time in that house as one of the most formative culinary experiences of my life. Persian cooking remains very high on my list of favorite cuisines. From the crunchy rice called tah-dig to gormen sabzi to this dish, I love the fragrant complexity of Persian spicing — cinnamon, cardomon, ginger, cloves, cumin, dried roseflower, mint, and saffron.

Imagine my joy when I discovered Mediterranean Market here in Sacramento. Never have I lived in close proximity to this halal store that has yet to let me down when I need an ingredient for the Persian, Greek, and Middle Eastern food I cook. Now I buy tins of Ceylon, Darjeeling, and Early Grey tea there as good as any I can find in London and far cheaper than I pay for tea at Peet’s. This is the only place in town, as far as I know, that sells barberries. They keep them in the refrigerated section.

To feed my friends, I decide to make my favorite Persian dish, Zereshk pollo. The tart red barberries look like rubies cast among the golden saffron rice. Delicious. I also made a Yotam Ottolenghi caponata, which was delicious. You’ll find it here.

I made a significant change in the Barberry rice and chicken recipe. Instead of roasting a whole chicken, I used the Gourmet Cookbook’s excellent Flawless Grill Chicken — essentially, you brine, grill, and then toss chicken thighs with a vinaigrette made with the spice in the rice. I think it worked pretty well.

Timing is everything…

Makes 6 servings; preparation time: 40 minutes; cooking time: 2 hours, 5 mins.

3 cups long-grain basmati rice

1 frying chicken, about 3 pounds, or 2 Cornish game hens

Shadowcook: Or an equal amount of chicken thighs. Make a brine of 8 quarts water, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup kosher salt early in the morning; let it cool. Six hours before grilling, brine the chicken pieces. Pat dry before grilling.

2 peeled onions, 1 whole and 1 thinly sliced

Shadowcook: Or just one, if you’re grilling already cut up pieces.

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 4 tablespoons water

2 cups dried barberries (zereshhk), cleaned, washed, and drained

2/3 cup clarified butter (ghee) or oil

Shadowcook: Oh, the only way to go is ghee!

4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

1 teaspoon Persian spice mix (rice advieh) or 1 tablespoon ground cumin seeds

Shadowcook: I felt sheepish asking for advieh at Mediterranean Market. It turns out that advieh means “spice mix,” so asking for it won’t get you very far. Look for packaged rice seasoning and then look at the ingredients. You want to see a combination of cinnamon, cumin, cardamon, ginger, cloves, and dried rose bud flowers.

2 tablespoons slivered almonds

2 tablespoons slivered pistachios

1. Clean and wash 3 cups of rice 5 times in warm water.

2. Place the whole chicken in a baking dish. Stuff the bird with one of the whole onions, the garlic, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon saffron water. Cover and bake in a 350 oven for 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

3. Clean the barberries by removing their stems and placing the berries in a colander. Place colander in a large container full of cold water and allow barberries to soak for 20 minutes. The sand will settle to the bottom. Take the colander out of the container and run cold water over the barberries; drain and set aside.

Shadowcook: Don’t skip this part. Sand does indeed settle to the bottom of the bowl.

4. Sauté 1 sliced onion in 2 tablespoons butter, add barberries and sauté for just 1 minute over low heat because barberries burn very easily. Add 4 tablespoons sugar, mix well, and set aside.

Shadowcook: The above is what I called Under-instruction. Give yourself time to sauté the onion. You are caramelizing the thinly sliced onion, but so to the point of greatly diminishing the amount of onion. The sweeter and more caramelized you get the onion, the best the contrast with the tart barberries.

5. Bring 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large, non-stick pot. Pour the washed and drained rice into the pot. Boil briskly for 6 to 10 minutes, gently stirring twice to loosen any grains that may have stuck to the bottom. Bite a few grains; if the rice feels soft, it is ready to be drained. Drain rice in a large, fine-mesh colander and rinse in 2 or 3 cups lukewarm water.

6. In the same pot heat 4 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons water.

7. In a bowl, mix 2 spatulas of rice, the yogurt, and a few drops of saffron water and spread the mixture over the bottom of the pot to form a tender crust (tah-dig).

8. Place 2 spatulas full of rice in the pot, then sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon Persian spice-mix or cumin over the rice. Repeat these steps, arranging the rice in the shape of a pyramid. This shape allows for the rice to expand and enlarge. Cover and cook 10 minutes over medium heat.

9. Mix the remaining melted butter and saffron water with 1/4 cup of water and pour over the pyramid. Place a clean dish towel or paper towel over the pot; cover firmly with the lid to prevent steam from escaping. Cook for 50 minutes longer over low heat.

Shadowcook: You know have 50 minutes to pat dry the chicken pieces and prepare your grill. If you’re using charcoal, as I did, you should already have started a chimney of briquettes. Let the fire die down to medium-hot before putting the pieces on the grill.

10. Remove the pot from heat and allow to cool, covered, for 5 minutes on a damp surface to free crust from the bottom of the pot.

11. Remove lid and take out 2 tablespoons of saffron-flavored rice and set aside for use as a garnish.

12. Then, gently taking 1 spatula full of rice at a time, place rice on a serving platter in alternating layers with the barberry mixture. Mound the rice in the shape of a cone. Arrange the chicken around the platter. Finally, decorate the top of the mound with the saffron-flavored rice, some of the barberry mixture, and almonds and pistachios.

Note: You may place the barberries in the rice and steam them together but the color of the barberies will not be as red as when you layer them with the rice at the last minute.

Shadowcook: Absolutely right. Visually, the red barberries are very pretty.

DSC04986

from The Gourmet Cookbook, p. 153.

Nearly every time I post a recipe from a cookbook, I feel confident that my reproduction of the recipe, with my amendments, here constitutes fair use. Very few cookbooks contain as many good recipes as it would take to violate copyright law. I seldom have to restrain myself from posting too many good recipes from one book. The Zuni Café Cookbook comes to mind.

The Gourmet Cookbook constitutes my greatest challenge. I have yet to find a dud recipe in it. I cook out of it a lot. But there are a zillion recipes in it. I’m not even sure how many recipes would equal one percent of the contents! Therefore, I’m proceeding in good faith.

Anyway, here’s a great summer dinner:

For the dressing:

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika (mild or hot)

Shadowcook: If you’re not familiar with this spice, look for a small metal red can with “Pimetón” displayed on the side and then read the fine print to make sure that it’s smoke paprika. Don’t worry about the heat. “Hot” is not so hot here.

1/4 teaspoon salt

Shadowcook: Diamond Crystal Kosher salt calls for about 1/2 teaspoon.

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:

4 cups 1-inch pieces cantaloupe (2 1/2- to 3-pound melon)

4 cups 1-inch pieces honeydew (from 2 1/2- to 3-pound melon)

Shadowcook: Go for color here. If another melon besides honeydew is in your market, use it. But be mindful of the color contrast between the orange cantaloupe and a lighter color melon.

1 1/2 pounds arugula (4 large bunches), coarse stems discarded

1/2 pound sliced (1/16-inch thick) Serrano ham, cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-wide strips

Shadowcook: In other words, the ham should be thicker than you would normally ask your butcher to slice prosciutto.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the dressing: Whisk together lime juice, paprika, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until well blended.

Shadowcook: Then again, putting all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shaking the hell out of it works just as well.

Make the salad: Toss cantaloupe and honeydew with half of dressing in a medium bowl. Toss arugula and ham with remaining dressing in a large bowl. Add melon and salt and pepper to taste, tossing gently. Serve immediately.

Shadowcook: And enjoy an unusual combination of sweet-and-salty flavor. Personally, I went heavy on the kosher salt, but that’s just me.

DSC04559

from Outstanding in the Field: A Farm to Table Cookbook, p.42.

I gasped when I saw them. In the Co-op’s cheese section, I saw a basketful of individually-wrapped burrata cheeses. Not domestic. From Italy (and the price reflected its distant provenance). Despite all the time I’ve been in Italy — in Venice, mainly, which might explain it  — I’d never noticed or come across this luscious glob of cheese that Denevan describes as “a thin sheath of mozzarella stretches to enclose a velvety center of ricotta-like cream and mozzarella threads.” Of course I bought one.

Denevan’s recipe is a purist’s delight. Six ingredients combined in their simplest form. Delicious. Devine. My only comments are on the ingredients.

Serves 6

Shadowcook: HA! Six servings my fanny. Even someone hyperconscious of portions would be skeptical. More like four servings or even three.

1/4 cup shelled hazelnuts

2 ripe nectarines

Shadowcook: I used a small ripe peach for myself.

3 to 4 ounces mâche

8 oz burrata cheese (1 small or 2 large balls), at room temperature

Shadowcook: Denevan notes in his introductory paragraph to this recipe that it’s best at cool room temperature, which is to say keep it in the fridge until you’re ready. I liked it cool.

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Shadowcook: Get out your fruitiest kind.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until they are fragrant and their skins loosen, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the hazelnuts to a plate and let cool slightly. Rub the hazelnuts in a folded kitchen towel to release their skins. Coarsely chop the nuts and set aside.

Cut the nectarines in half and remove the pits. Slice the fruits into thin wedges. Wash the mâche in a sink filled with cold water. Carefully remove any dirt or sand stuck between the leaves and discard any root ends. Dry the mâche in a salad spinner.

Cut the burrata into 1/4-inch slices; because it is very soft, it might be easier to slice with a serrated knife. Arrange the cheese on 6 chilled salad plates. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.

In a medium bowl, toss together the mâche and the nectarines with the remaining olive oil. Season with salt. Arrange on top of the burrata. Sprinkle with the hazelnuts and serve.

DSC04557

by way of In Style magazine, June 2009, p. 222.

Just as I learned in Italy to eat pizza with a fork, so, too, I learned to eat watermelon with a fork in Greece. Years ago, one of the highlights of visiting in-laws in northern Greece was the sweet, thirst-quenching karpouzi, or watermelon, that we found in the markets. Eating it with a fork makes it even more enjoyable. In the same period, I learned to pair watermelon with a slab of feta cheese. The sweeter the watermelon, the sharper and brinier the feta. I get nostalgic just remembering the hot weather and a white ceramic plate with a piece of red melon and white cheese.

In a recent issue of In Style, which I encountered at the hair salon, I came across this recipe, concocted, so the one-page feature indicated, by Hugh Acheson of the Five & Ten in Athens, Ga. How appropriate. Never been there, but the chef came up with an interesting combination of flavors. Now that I’ve made this once, I’m convinced that it’s a good combination — provided you know your ingredients well. For instance, next time I won’t use the creamy French feta I buy at the co-op. I’ll try another, sharper tasting one. And the watermelon really has to be sweet and the arugula young and not bitter. I would increase the amount of lime, although I approve of the bright blast supplied by the champagne vinegar. The thyme — I might leave it out.

Here’s how it appears in the magazine:

Serves 6

1 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1 small shallot, minced

1 serrano chile, stemmed and sliced into small half rounds

salt to taste

1 small seedless watermelon

1/3 lb wedge feta cheese, sliced 1/8″ thick (about 12 slices)

1 bunch arugula

Sliced serrano chile for garnish

1. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine olive oil, lime juice, vinegar, thyme, shallot and serrano chile. Shake well. Season with salt to taste; chill in refrigerator.

2. Remove rind from watermelon and slice flesh into 3″ squares.

3. To assemble salad, layer one piece of watermelon on one piece feta. Repeat. Drizzle with vinaigrette and garnish with arugula and sliced serrano chile.

Next Page »