FALL COLORS….

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The fall landscape is rapidly moving from orange and golds, to the neutral browns and greys of bare trees and solid ground. I always look forward to fall vegetables, the dark greens of kale and bright warm colors of fall squash. Besides the sweet and earthy flavors and the burst of color on the plate, these foods are packed with iron, vitamin A and other essential goodies.

Pepita Salsa is a specialty of the Yucatan. My litmus test for authentic Mexican restaurants is the salsa they are serving in season. Winter salsas are usually made from dried chilies nuts and various herbs. If you want this salsa hotter, throw in a Serrano or jalapeno pepper. I enjoy the subtle taste of the spaghetti squash and don’t want to overwhelm it with too much spice. This is a great side dish and perfect for your vegan friends. If you have any leftover salsa it is awesome with chips!

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SPAGHETTI SQUASH WITH PEPITA SALSA, serves 4-6

1 Spaghetti Squash

¾ cup pepitas, roasted on baking sheet in oven until brown around edges, 5-7 minutes.

1 poblano pepper

1 clove garlic

½ cup cilantro

½ cup parsley

¼ cup chopped chives (garnish)

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup hot water

salt and pepper

Cut spaghetti squash in half, seed, rub cut side with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast @ 400 for 40 minutes.

While squash is roasting, put the pepitas on a baking sheet and toast until brown around the edges.

Char poblano pepper on gas flame or under broiler until blackened, put in plastic bag for 15 minutes, peel and seed.

Put pepitas, poblano pepper, cilantro, parsley and garlic in food processor, slowly add the olive oil, then hot water and salt.

If the salsa is too thick add a touch more hot water. Shred the spaghetti squash, toss with salsa and top with chopped chives.

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TURKISH MEZE BEANS

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On one of my first trips to Turkey my sister’s nanny fixed a salad of flat beans with a light tomato, olive oil and lemon dressing, along with various meze dishes for dinner, all served room temperature. The original Turkish recipe uses more olive oil, but I have adapted the recipe to lighten it up, along with a few updates.

Romano beans are showing up more often in the green market and last week I even saw some yellow and purple ones. Look for beans that are a bright green color, firm and snap easily, avoid any limp ones.  Romano beans are fleshy, sturdy and almost impossible to overcook.

I love the silky sauce produced as the beans cook down in the olive oil and tomatoes. My summer fridge is always equipped with salads I can eat through the week, al freso. I especially love this paired with fried chicken and a cucumber salad, for an impromptu picnic.

Turkish Meze Beans

1 lb. romano beans, washed, trimmed, long ones cut to 3 inch pieces
1 medium size tomato, peeled seeded and coarsely chopped
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 small cloves garlic, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon ground cumin

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Sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat until translucent, add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and cumin and cook for 5 minutes. Add broad beans toss in sauce and add 1/2 cup water. Cover the beans with parchment paper and put a lid on the pan, this will keep the beans submerged in the liquid as they cook. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn the heat off, take off cover and parchment and let beans come to room temperature. Add juice from half a lemon, adjust seasonings and serve room temperature or refrigerate, beans will keep for at least 5 days.

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LUSCIOUS LABNE

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I love the sour, tangy, savory taste of labne, the middle-eastern strained yogurt. In Turkey it is usually served as a meze dish at the beginning of a meal, drizzled with olive oil and served with flatbread. Labne is basically yogurt that has been salted and strained to remove the whey. It was traditionally used in eastern Mediterranean cooking because the higher fat content wouldn’t curdle at high temperatures in cooking.

It’s a cinch to make, just line a colander with cheesecloth, add yogurt that has been mixed with salt, (1/4 teas. per cup) put the colander over a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. In just a couple days the yogurt will shed it’s whey and condense into a consistency similar to mascarpone. The best type of yogurt to use is strained greek-style yogurt, whole milk or 2%.

Usually I serve labne spread on a plate, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with hot or smoked paprika, served with pita bread or crudities. Perhaps my Sister in Istanbul has some input on the uses in Turkey beyond meze dishes…
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I decided to experiment with labne in baking to see how it would hold up to high temperatures in a pastry crust. The crostata pastry recipe I use is Judy Roger’s rough pastry. Late August/September is plum season in the northeast, and poaching the plums in the sweet tea liquid takes care of the slightly unripe ones. Be sure and let the poaching liquid cool a bit so the plums don’t cook in it.
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Crostata with tea soaked plums, labne and pistachios

1 recipe Judy Rodger’s rough pastry

14 Italian plums, halved pitted

4 black tea bags

4 strips of lemon rind

4 T. sugar

¾ cup labne mixed with 2 T honey

½ cup chopped pistachios

1 egg yolk

Boil 2 cups water, put in tea bags, 2 T sugar and lemon rind. Let the mixture cool to lukewarm and add plums to soak for at least one hour.

Roll out crostata dough in a rectangle or circle and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread the labne in the middle, 2 inches from the edge of the pastry. Place the plums on the labne, sprinkle with the remaining 2 T sugar and pistachios. Turn in the edges and brush the top of the pastry with beaten egg yolk. Bake at 425 for 40 to 45 minutes..
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JACK RABBIT SUMMER PICKLES

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For many years I made bread and butter pickles from an Emeril Lagasse, Louisiana Real and Rustic Cookbook. The recipe was similar to the pickles my grandma made and put up in her cellar. I would buy a basket full of kirbys at the height of the season, boil canning jars, soak the cuke slices in ice and salt overnight and then add them to the hot brine. Another boil of the sealed jars and they were finally done when the jar lids popped as they sat on the counter cooling. There was something satisfying about the process and the pickles made great Holiday gifts. When I opened them throughout the year I discovered after 6 months they had turned to mush………. I don’t have a garden with produce to preserve, so now I am a convert to quick refrigerator pickles.

Pickles are trending right now and I’m a fan of them as a condiment, not as a meal! Recently I ate at Skal, an Icelandic restaurant on the lower east side of Manhattan. Each vegetable was given different brines and the plate worked perfectly with our smoked herring and salt cod fritters. Pickles are a great way to provide contrast on the plate, in texture, acidity and color. Here are two pickle recipes I’m fond of. The first is basically an Italian giardiniera.  These pickles are low calorie, no sugar and minimal salt, they have a clean and crisp flavor and add a shot of color to the plate.  I vary the vegetables as to what is in the market and cut them into equal sizes.  They are also an excellent accompaniment to braised dishes such as short ribs or any Italian salami, adding a crunch of acidity to the fatty meat. Also they are excellent with Mexican food, as a condiment with tacos or enchiladas and will add a cooling contrast to any spicy dishes.

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The refrigerator pickles are great on sandwiches, with fried chicken and chopped up in tuna or egg salad. When the jar is empty you just add more pickles, onions and dill into the same brine. The jar will last all summer and they are ready in one day.   My favorite pickle sandwich, Italian or good quality Virginia ham, on a cibatta roll, bottom half spread with butter, ham, pickles, arugula, with some olive oil and vinegar sprinkled on top…….

GIARDINIERA serves 6-8

1 small head cauliflower (purple or green looks great)

1 red bell pepper, cut in strips

1 large carrot cut in rounds on the diagonal

1 large celery stalk cut in rounds, diagonal

1 handful green and yellow beans, trimmed

1 fennel, cut into eights through the core

6 large radishes cut in half

2 bay leaves

6 peppercorns

1 cup white vinegar (Heinz is the best for pickling)

 

Place vinegar with 6 cups water bay leaf peppercorns and all vegetables except green beans and red pepper in a large pot. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 8 minutes and then turn off heat.   Add green beans and red pepper, sprinkle with salt and let sit for 1 hour. Transfer to a plastic or glass container and add enough brine to cover the veggies.

This can be kept in the fridge for 2 ½ weeks.

I usually use half of this recipe and vary the veggies……

 

ENDLESS CUCUMBER QUICK-PICKLES – 2 jars

Edible Boston Summer 2013

2 cups organic apple cider vinegar

¼ cup natural cane sugar

¼ cup kosher salt

1 T “pickling spices”, or a combination of coriander seeds, whole allspice, peppercorns, yellow mustard seeds, crumbled bay leaf

1 big pinch red chili flakes, or more if you like it spicy

2 cups cold water

6-7 kirby cucumbers, sliced about ¼ inch thick

1 small red onion or shallot, thinly sliced

4-5 sprigs dill, with flowers seeds if possible

In small saucepan heat the vinegar, sugar and salt and stir everything until it is dissolved and clear. Add the pickling spices, chili flakes and cold water and set aside to cool.

Fill your jar with layers of sliced cukes, onions and dill and pour the cooled brine over the vegetable and close the lid. Chill overnight and they are ready the next day.

When the jar is empty simply save the brine and reload with cukes, dill and onion throughout the summer.

ENDLESS CUCUMBER QUICK-PICKLES

 

 

 

 

PEANUTS AND POBLANOS

PEANUTS AND POBLANOS

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Peanuts should have a more prominent place on the American table.  Former president Jimmy Carter’s family roots as “peanut farmers”  suggested modest, humble, hard working values and not the southern glamour of Tara. During George Washington Carver’s Administration in the 1930’s a program was initiated to encourage farmers to increase peanut production, and recipes were developed to support this program.  In Colonial America the peanut had mostly been used as a garden crop or for animal feed.   In spite of this promotion peanuts are rarely used in savory dishes and stews as in South America, Africa and Indonesia.  I’m not sure why peanuts are now just starting to show up in the farmer’s market’s here in the Northeast but I’m up for the challenge of developing some vegetarian dishes based on this legume.IMG_2151

I’m a committed carnivore who is just as committed to my non-meat days 2 to 3 times a week.  Here is a vegetarian stew I made after picking up “local” peanuts at my farmers market.  It is best to shell them and toast them briefly in a hot pan or on a baking sheet in the oven to bring out flavor beforehand.  I like my stews chunky and cutting the veggies in ½ inch cubes gives them time to cook and achieve a carmalized surface.

Winter Peanut Stew

Winter Peanut Stew (4 servings)

2 carrots

1 large parsnip

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

2 poblano peppers

¼ cup chopped parsley

large pinch of dried oregano

¾ cup shelled peanuts

¼ cup peanut butter

1 28 oz can peeled tomatos

1 cup vegetable broth

Quinoa- 4 1/2 cup servings

Roast the Poblano chilis over the gas flame on your stove or blister them under the broiler and place in a plastic bag.  Cut the carrots and parsnips into ½ inch cubes, cut the onion into large dice.  Saute the onions in 2 T. grapeseed oil until transparent.  Add the parsnips, carrots and garlic, sauté on medium high heat until they start to brown, salt and pepper.  Add the whole peanuts and a teas of dried oregano.  In a blender puree the tomatoes with the peanut butter and add to the stew.

Cook down for about 10 minutes and then add the vegetable broth, cook uncovered for 30 minutes.  Peel the poblano peppers and cut into ½ inch cubes.  Chop parsley and set aside.  Add the poblanos to the stew for the last 10 minutes.  Cook Quinoa and place ½ cup in the center of a bowl and spoon the stew around the quinoa.  Garnish with chopped parsley.

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Pork Braised in Stout…..

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Stout, chocolate and coffee have been on my mind.  Destiny arrived in the form of Shinerbock Stout, which magically appeared at my local NYC grocery store on my return from Austin in August.  Autumn weather sparks my interest in deeper bolder flavors and a bottle of stout, dark chocolate and ancho chile provided the perfect muse for this fall recipe.  I use stout as a braising liquid for the pork tenderloin and finish with chocolate, inspired by the mole’s of Oaxaca.  Catalan and Oaxaca cuisines are the only two regions I know of that use chocolate in savory dishes, perhaps there are others.  Adding the dark chocolate at the very end gives the reduced sauce a lovely velvet texture and savory bitter finish.  It is important not to over sauce in general and especially with a rich sauce like this one.  I put a spoonful of the sauce on the plate  and place the pork loin slices on top.  In September I served it with grilled peaches and recently in November with saffron rice or parsnip mash and  sliced avocado.   Leftover and shredded it is perfect for tacos.

Stay tuned for the coffee experiment…….xo Carlita

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Pork Tenderloin Braised in Stout with Chili and Chocolate

Pork Tenderloin – 2 ¼ pound

1 btl stout, guiness or equivalent

½ cup chicken stock

1 carrot, diced

I small red onion, diced

1 ancho chili, reconstituted, stems and seeds removed, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

8-10 fresh sage leaves

3 squares from a dark chocolate bar, bitter, or baking chocolate

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Slice silverskin and fat from pork tenderloin and rub with salt and smoked Spanish paprika or hot paprika.

Heat grapeseed oil in enamel cast iron skillet, when hot add tenderloin, sear on all sides and remove to a plate.  Cover and keep warm in a low oven.

Chop together soffritto mixture: 1 small red onion, 2 clove garlic and 1 carrot with 8 leaves fresh sage..

Add 1 T more grapeseed oil to the pan and sauté the soffritto mixture, ancho chili and a dash of salt, when the mixture starts browning add the chicken broth, pork tenderloin and 1 bottle of stout.

Simmer for 20 minutes turning the tenderloin once and keep the pot partially covered.  Cooking time depends on the thickness of the tenderloin, it will still cook while resting in the warm oven.  Good quality pork should be cooked to a pink center.

Take the pork out, cover on a plate and keep warm in a low oven

Puree the sauce in a blender or immersion blender and then reduce by at least half.

When the sauce is reduced and somewhat thick add shaved chocolate from 3 squares of a dark chocolate bar.

When the chocolate has melted spoon some on a plate

Slice the pork loin and place on the sauce.

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Hudson Valley Painting Workshop

Oh, Cherrybaby, Cherrerrerrrrie, Cherry Baby!

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The heat and torrential rains of summer 2013 in the Northeast have put a damper on my beach days, fortunately the climate is perfect for juicy ripe berries and cherries.  Last summer I finally purchased a cherry pitter for pie making.  This summer I’m armed and dangerous, pitting away with new ideas and possibilities!

July’s bonus offer, a large box of cherries at the farmers market for 6 dollars.  After exploring several paths down cherry lane here are some of my favorite recipes,  sweet and savory……..these recipes are made from regular bing cherries, I love rainier cherries but they are quite pricey here on the east coast and I have yet to experiment with sour cherries,……stay tuned.

Beet Cherry Gazpacho

The New Spanish Table, by Anya von Bremzen, reflects the creative food revolution that has taken place in Spain during the last 15 years.  My copy is well worn and separated from the binding with many crumpled post-it tabs, and requires delicate maneuvering to peruse.  The cold soup section along with traditional regional gazpacho recipe’s, includes some great updates:  strawberry and fennel, almond and figs, cherry and beet.  The base on the cherry and beet is traditional with tomatoes, cucumbers, Italian frying pepper, onions, garlic, breadcrumbs.  Also essential is good quality sherry vinegar and mineral water, I use volvic for all my vegetable based soups, because it has the best minerality.  The addition of roasted red beets and cherries, give the gazpacho a beautiful magenta hue and a very slight sweetness to play off the savory.  I’m thinking about a variation on this with yellow beets and peaches.

Still more cherries in the box,,,,,,,,cocktail time!

Carlita’s summer Negroni:

8 cherries in a cocktail shaker, muddle, add ice, add 1 shot of gin, ½ shot of Campari, a squeeze of lemon and a dash of bitters, shake and serve up in a chilled martini glass.  You could also serve this on the rocks with some soda water.

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Carlita’s Negroni

Early in the summer I finally ordered the Cuisinart ice cream machine I’ve always coveted.  Did I really need another kitchen appliance, apparently I did!  The remainder of the box of cherries went into my very first batch of ice crème.  My sister in Turkey always keeps me stocked up on saffron, thanks sis!

Buttermilk Ice Cream with Saffron, Cherries and Pistachios

¾ cup lowfat Buttermilk

¾ cup heavy crème

1 cup whole milk

¼ cup sugar and a pinch of salt

½ teaspoon saffron crushed in a mortar

Put all ingredients in a sauce, bring to a slight simmer until sugar dissolves and remove from heat.

5 large egg yolks

¼ cup sugar

Whisk yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale and then add ½ cup warm cream mixture.  Then whisk the yolk mixture into the crème mixture.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat a wooden spoon, 2-4 minutes.  Strain custard into a bowl and set over a larger bowl filled with ice water.

1 ½ cups cherries, pitted and halved

½ cup pistachios, cut in half or coarsely chopped

Add the cherries and pistachios the last 5 minutes of processing.

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