Friday, August 28, 2020

Covid Cafe: Gone Fishin'


Not literally, chefs, but the world is too much with us right now so we’re taking a little break. Down the road we’ll return to featuring all the delicious foods you’re making.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Covid Cafe: Pickle Problems + Herb Oil

Hello chefs. I’ve probably made a hundred Mark Bittman recipes over the years. His approach to food is workaday easy and uber-reliable. Check his recipes here for lots of simple ideas.

So when I got his newsletter with a recipe for pickles he calls half-sours, a kosher pickle with no vinegar? I was ready to go (even though I love pickles in vinegar). Click here for the pitch.

Bittman's directions, easy enough...

“Dissolve a third of a cup of salt in a cup of hot water. Put that in a bowl with ice cubes to cool it down. Add a few cloves of garlic, crushed, and a couple of pounds of cukes, cut up. (Or not, or just halved, if small.) 

Cover with water and a plate if necessary to submerge the cukes. Let sit at room temperature until ready — sometimes as little as a couple of hours, sometimes overnight. Refrigerate and eat. Add more cukes to the brine until it tastes too weak, and then add more salt or start again.”

The pickles looked good but they were a disaster, tasting mainly like a salt lick. I rinsed them and put them in a jar with fresh water and they still reeked of salt. Where did I go wrong?

Back on the horse, yesterday I made herb oil. The herbs are thriving in our gardens--mint, oregano, rosemary, cilantro, and lemon balm. I chopped up a generous half cup, added to the stick blender container with olive oil and salt, and whizzed away.

 Art grilled lamb burgers and I brushed it on.

I even brushed some on my fingers it was so good.

When the burgers were done I brushed on some more. Can I freeze this for winter, to add to meats, soups, and eggs?

Monday, August 24, 2020

Covid Cafe: Fig and Thyme Clafoutis

Hello chefs of Covid Cafe. How goes it and what are you eating? We planted seeds this week for a fall basil crop and have been feasting on garden produce. It's a bit of pressure keeping up with the summer squash, but we're up to it. Today, Connie's all about the figs and baking a sublime clafoutis...

Connie writes: I've been obsessed with fresh figs lately. Tried two good pork recipes but this dessert from Ottolenghi's Simple cookbook was wonderful!

Make sure you use really ripe figs for this. You may be surprised by the size of each portion, but the sponge is so light and fluffy that it’s very easy to eat a lot of it. I like to serve this with vanilla ice-cream or cream. Serves four, generously.

110g caster sugar
2 tbsp red wine
1 tbsp picked thyme leaves
1 tbsp lemon juice, plus 2 tsp finely grated zest
12 ripe black figs, tough stems removed and halved lengthways
2 eggs, separated
50g plain flour
1½ tsp vanilla essence
100ml double cream
Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3. Spoon 60g sugar into a small, oven-proof, high-sided saute pan with an 18cm base (if you don’t have one, cook the figs in a regular frying pan and transfer to a square 22cm baking dish when it’s time to move them to the oven), then put the pan on a medium-high heat for four to five minutes, swirling the pan a few times, until the sugar has melted and turned a dark, caramel colour. 

Add the wine and thyme – be careful, because it might spit – and stir until combined and thick. Off the heat, stir in the lemon juice and figs, and set aside to cool. (If you are transferring the figs to a baking dish, do so now.)

Put the egg yolks in a medium bowl with 25g sugar. Whisk until pale and thick – two to three minutes by hand, one minute with an electric whisk – then add the flour, vanilla, cream, lemon zest and a pinch of salt, and whisk until smooth and thick.
In another medium bowl, whisk the egg whites with the remaining 25g sugar (again, two to three minutes by hand, a minute with an electric whisk), until they form stiff peaks. 

Fold gently into the yolk batter, then pour over the figs in the saute pan (or baking dish).

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the batter has risen, turned golden brown and is cooked through. Remove from the oven, divide between four bowls and serve hot.

 Rooster spur hot peppers

Because of the sheer time it takes to plant seedlings in spring, the Rudy and Karin garden is about a week behind the Spirit Circle, which means it's still delivering a flush of food daily.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Covid Cafe: Another Summer Day, Another Peach Cobbler

Meet Tomato Man. Chris wrote to say that he's taken over his kitchen table. He thinks Tomato Man is organizing the others into an uprising before they're all cooked or eaten raw. (Save Tomato Man!)

Hope you're leaving some room for dessert, chefs, as you eat your way through summer. Maybe you're devouring bowls of seeded watermelon or you're baking with the fruits of the season. Rob is doing just that and this time he includes a recipe...

Rob writes: Another summer day, another peach cobbler. This makes about six servings depending on your crew. My neighbor eats her share between our kitchen and her front door. Of course ice cream, whipped cream, whatever, goes well.

Rob's Peach Cobbler
--About 3 cups peeled, sliced peaches (I use about six medium peaches from the farmer’s market)
--2 cups sugar, divided
--1/2 cup water
--8 tablespoons butter
--1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (you can make your own with a little baking powder and salt--just google it)
--1 1/2 cups milk

1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.    Put the peaches, one cup sugar, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
3.    Strain and reserve juice.
4.    Place the stick of butter into an 8X8 baking pan and put it in the preheating oven oven. The 8X8 pan is going to give you a thicker cobbler.  If you want thinner, you can bake in three-quart baking pan.
5.    Mix the flour and remaining cup of sugar in medium bowl.
6.    Stir in the milk in three portions, whisking as you go to avoid lumps.
7.    Once the butter has melted, pour the batter into the pan with the butter.  DO NOT STIR. The batter will come up while baking.
8.    Place the peaches on top of the batter.
9.    Bake for 40-45 minutes, depending on your oven. You want a risen cobbler that is golden brown on the edges.
10. Heat the reserved juice in the saucepan until reduced to a syrup/glaze.
11. Cool the cobbler. Pour the reserved sauce/glaze over before serving.

When life gives you summer squash...

Chop and saute over high heat with onion and hot pepper, 
finishing with a glug of fish sauce and tamari/soy

I want to remember the flavor of these Goldie heirloom tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and a shake of salt, come November.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Covid Cafe: A Family Noodle Shop

Biang biang noodles are made by slapping dough on a table and ripping it into pieces. The dish is a staple of Xi’an in northwestern China, and the name comes from the sound of dough hitting the table. We went to a traditional biang biang noodle shop to see how it’s made.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Covid Cafe: Hands Off My BLT

Chefs of Covid Cafe: It's a beautiful summer day and apparently we all love our BLTs...prepared just so. Chris asked for a poll to determine whether people liked thick or thin tomato slices and we heard about that and much more. Toast vs non-toast, mayo substitutes, and precise assembly instructions...

Art's BLT in process
(NB: he likes wiggly bacon)


Camille belatedly tells us she’s a member of the small group who eats corn in a circular fashion. She adds: I like mayo (only for this sandwich) on both sides of the bread with lettuce on each and a thinner slice of tomato on each and then the bacon goes in the middle. 

Kay: Half-inch tomatoes that overlap a bit. No mayo (I’m with Chris on this), so sometimes I use butter or pesto, hummus or avocado to add some smoothness. 
(Ed note: There will be no BLT-shaming, but we're going to have to discuss the hummus, honey.

 Art's BLT, fini

Rob says: It’s not thick or thin--it’s coverage. Each bite should have tomato. And the tomato should be lightly salted to release maximum juice. We can’t neglect the lettuce issue. I am firmly on board with leaf lettuce, romaine is too stiff.  A mayo-free BLT? Heresy. (Ed note: how about that hummus?)

Nancy: I like several slices of thin tomato on toast with bacon (of course), lettuce, and definitely mayo. BLT with sweet corn was a must-have meal when I was growing up. We had a "corn man" who drove a rickety old truck into our neighborhood loaded with fresh-picked sweet corn. Back then a dozen ears was 50 cents. I think the corn man had a crush on my mother. I have looked but cannot find sweet corn as good as the old man's.

Jon: I’m a medium-slice person but always two slices. Also, lightly salted to bring out the tomato flavor.

If your belly (unlike mine) doesn't reject most breads, consider yourself lucky. I sense I could get into some trouble for posting this, but here's my solution: BLT with mayo schmear rolled up in chard leaves. They're delicious.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Covid Cafe: Summer First Meal + BLT Banter

Hi chefs. The BLT poll posed by Chris yesterday has generated quite the vigorous response. If you missed it, click here to check it out. From what we've heard, tomato thickness is not the only issue. People also apparently feel strongly about lettuce type and mayo substitutes (did I just type that?). So let us know and also send us a photo of your BLT.  

The bountiful diversity of foods in season now make for extraordinarily colorful, easy, and delicious repasts. Our first meal today was a grassfed grilled hamburger with fermented beets and red cabbage; tomato, cuke, and avocado salad; and a watermelon and nectarine bowl with a few errant slices of raw kohlrabi from the farmshare (Art: are these supposed to be in here?).

Monday, August 17, 2020

Covid Cafe: Cast Your Vote in the BLT Poll

Chefs, if you're not eating BLTs regularly during this summer tomato onslaught, why not? There's something magical about the flavorful acidic juices of a fresh tomato marrying with the salty goodness of bacon. The rest is window dressing. Uh oh. Am I going to get in trouble for saying that?

 Black krim, 
sliced for a BLT before this poll

Chris returns today with a new poll question. You'll recall his last one had to do with eating corn on the cob. Apparently there's dissension at his table once again...
Chris asks: Thick or thin tomato slice on your BLT?  Lisa and Trev like thin, I like it as thick as I can get my mouth around. Tomato below is an heirloom Virginia Sweet (click here for more). 

That's a nice slice, Chris

It's worth mentioning that Chris is mayo-averse, which is a whole separate discussion. I have to give more thought to thick vs thin. If thin, then only because I can line both pieces of bread w slices, which might exceed Chris's one slice of thick. See my dilemma?

Do you have thoughts? Leave them in comments or send directly to me. Also please send a photo of your BLT...

Here's my last BLT,
a medium tomato slice on each piece of bread before assembly
Jon's BLT looks like it has a side-by-side 
two-tomato-slice approach, but are they thin or medium?

Rob's BLT
 seems to incorporate one thin-to-medium tomato slice

I've been known to build mine
 three tomato slices high
(you'd almost think Chris and I were related) 

 Dustin's BLT at left
 features a hefty tomato slice

Need a palate cleanser? Here's a pup Rob's tending today at Chicago Anti-Cruelty.

His name is Steve Madden

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Covid Cafe: Breakfast Salad in San Miguel de Allende

Hello chefs. Where does this pandemic find you? Our longtime friend Carolina divides her time between Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende several hours to the northwest. Click here for some pictures of San Miguel, its cobblestone streets, and colorful doorways. A good choice for these limiting times and she's clearly eating the rainbow.

Carole describes her salad: Fresh asparagus, figs, tomatoes, black olives, red leaf lettuce, and a dressing of mustard, yogurt, mayonnaise, and olive oil with herbs de Provence.

We're picking half a dozen tomatoes daily
from Rudy and Karin's garden
The Goldies are especially prolific this year. We grow all-heirloom tomatoes to keep these treasured varieties going.

Yesterday we made Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes. You can easily used canned, though. In fact her recipe (click here) calls for canned tomatoes. Via some alchemy I can't fathom, four ingredients transform into a heavenly sauce. Here we're just getting underway...