Monthly Archives: September 2011

“Black Soup” could sound more enticing…

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There is nothing remotely enticing about “black soup.” Of course, “chipped beef” wasn’t created by a marketing genius. Neither was spotted dick. The recipes however…simple and amazing!

Caldo negro is a classic Portuguese soup of kale and sausage. Cavolo nero, or lacinato kale is not the curly, frilly kale you may know, but has long, smooth-edged leaves. It also has a much more delicate texture. In short, it is fabulous and the first time I found it from Gardener’s Gourmet at Eastern Market, I just had to have it. Then I had to figure out what to do with it.

A Google search quickly revealed kale and Linguiςa soup. It’s so simple – onion, potatoes, kale, sausage and water. But that wasn’t good enough. Add brown chicken stock, and finish it with some rich butter and bright, warm sherry vinegar. The first time we made it we went running back to the kitchen for a second bowl. And I made another batch the very next day.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock*
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 2 Linguiςa Portuguese sausages**, skins removed, sliced, and sautéed
  • 1 pound Lacinato Kale*, ribs removed and cut in fine strips
  • 2 tbs butter
  • Sherry vinegar
*Brown chicken stock is amazing with this recipe, but it tastes amazing even with plain water.
**OMG this soup is too good NOT to make. Substitute Spanish Chorizo or even Andouille sausage for the Linguiςa. Use any kale you can get your hands on, but cut it into the finest ribbons you can.

Directions:

  • Sauté onion in olive oil over medium heat in a 6-8 quart stock pot.
  • Add garlic, potatoes and a cup of stock,. turn heat to medium low and stew for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, sauté sausage over med-high heat, browning on both sides.
  • Add remaining stock, bay and thyme. Simmer until potatoes can be mashed.
  • Mash potato in soup. Add sausage and simmer for five minutes.
  • Add kale and simmer 5 minutes
  • Season to taste with butter, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Start the second batch now. The first one will not last long.

Homemade is better. Part II

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Chicken stock is cheap and easy.

Okay. Go ahead. Get the jokes out of your system. I like my coffee black too*. Ready to move on?

Stock is the perfect weekend project. Hit the market in the morning for your ingredients – or pick them up on your way home Friday night. Saturday or Sunday you are going to be home for a few hours: working in the garden, cleaning house, or sitting on the couch watching an America’s Next Top Model marathon while recovering from Friday night happy hour, right? So, dump your ingredients in a pot, set it to a low simmer, and kick your feet up on the couch. Tell everyone not to bother you. You’re cooking.

*I’ll buy you a cup of coffee if you got the joke.

Homemade white chicken stock

“White” here refers to the fact that your ingredients go right into the pot without browning them first.

Ingredients:

  • 6 lbs chicken parts (see notes)
  • 1 large carrot (2″ diameter and 8″ long)
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 large onion (about the size of a baseball)
  • 1 leek, white parts only (optional)
  • 8-10 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6-8 parsley stems
  • 4-6 sprigs thyme
Directions:
  • Cut the chicken into 3 inch pieces. Better yet, have your butcher do it. Place them in an 8 quart stock pot and add water to cover the chicken by 2 inches.
  • Meanwhile, roughly chop the vegetables. This is not the time for fine knife skills.
  • Bring the pot to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat and hold at a slow simmer – just a few bubbles per second.
  • Cook the chicken for 15-20 minutes. Skim off the grey/brown foam that gathers on the surface, and discard.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to simmer for three hours.
  • At the end of three hours, remove and discard the solids.
  • Strain your stock through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth or a coffee filter.
  • Remove the fat from the stock. the easiest way to do this is to cool the stock to room temperature and cool it in the fridge overnight. The fat will congeal on the surface and is easily removed. If you need the stock right away, let the stock rest for 15-20 minutes. It will float to the surface of your stock. You can remove the liquid fat with a spoon.
  • If the stock is too thin, or bland, reduce your stock down to 8 cups over a gentle boil.
Notes:
  • Most grocery stores have their chicken delivered pre-butchered. Buy cheap meat with plenty of bones, like thighs and wings. You could also chop up an entire chicken. If your market or specialty grocery breaks down whole chickens into parts, ask them for chicken backs and have them cut them into 3″ pieces for you. You will pay about $.98 a pound.
  • Letting the chicken cook for 20 minutes first makes it easier to skim off the foam. Otherwise you are fighting with the veggies floating on the top of your pot.
  • Don’t let the stock boil until the end, after you have removed the solids and the fat. Otherwise your stock will get cloudy
  • You can test the level of flavor by putting a little in a small dish and adding a pinch of salt. Taste it. If it tastes to watery, reduce the stock further.

Homemade is better

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You should make your own stock. Why? Not because it makes you better than that friend who always has better pots, pans or a more exclusive source of Humboldt Fog goat cheese than you do. While that may be a perfectly legitimate reason to make your own stock, there are far better ones.

Number one – your food will taste better. Much better. Sooooooooo much better.

Number two – salt. When you cook, your stock will invariably reduce. Even low-sodium stock can end up tasting too salty. I am not worried as much about your health here. In fact, you should salt your food. The real risk of high-sodium comes from packaged, processed and fast foods; not cooking from scratch in your kitchen.

Number three – your entire house will smell awesome! but please, plan on cooking something else at the same time. When stock is done you throw all the solids away. So while your family has been salivating over the rich smells wafting from the kitchen, you’ve got nothing ready for them to eat. On the other hand, they’ll be desperate and hungry. Get them to wash the dishes before you feed them.

Vegetable Stock

Your stock will cook in under 45 minutes. You can put it on the back burner while you go about cooking something else, or kicking your feet up on the couch. This stores well, so put some in the fridge or freezer. You can add lots of veggie scraps to flavor your stock, but avoid bitter and acidic foods like peppers, tomatoes and any member of the Brassica family – cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large carrot (2″ diameter and 8″ long)
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 large onion (about the size of a baseball)
  • 1 leek, white parts only (optional)
  • 8-10 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6-8 parsley stems
  • 4-6 sprigs thyme
Directions:
  • Roughly chop the vegetables. This is not the time for fine knife skills.
  • Add 10-12 cups water to a 6 quart stock pot. Add all of the ingredients.
  • Bring to a simmer over medium low heat and cook for 45 minutes or so.
  • Strain and discard all solids.
  • Boil stock and reduce to about 8 cups.
  • You can test the level of flavor by putting a little in a small dish and adding a pinch of salt. Taste it. If it tastes to watery, reduce the stock further.

These are not pictures of arugula walnut pesto.

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The pictures shown here are of a wonderful sage, brown butter sauce served over penne with sharp asiago and rich, earthy walnuts. However, I don’t have any pictures to go with this delicious pesto recipe so they’ll have to do. Thank you for your understanding…

Marvin Ogburn from Long Meadow Farm emailed me one Friday morning. “I have A LOT of arugula this week. What can you do with it?” We headed to the kitchen that night and worked on an arugula pesto. Out of several variations we learned that blanching the leaves first removes too much of the arugula flavor, chopping the walnuts before lightly toasting them eliminates the raws taste without burning the outsides, and salt carefully – the cheese already adds a lot. We tested the recipe over pasta, but it was wonderful the next morning, at Eastern Market, over boiled and sliced fingerling potatoes.

*Did you have a copy of Free Stuff for Kids when you were young? It was a list of free things you could send away for. Often they required so many boxtops or SASE’s that no one but a bored child would ever actually send away for them. I remember at least one or two required some small change, usually a couple quarters, to pay for printing of the edifying pamphlet describing banana spiders or the geography of Arkansas that you would receive in return. The instructions always admonished that the coins needed to be securely taped to your request letter. I assumed that not doing so would shame my elders.

While this comment seems totally random, I am going somewhere with it. I really think you should try this recipe in a mortar and pestle. It’s a little more work, but the texture and control over the final product is well worth it. As an incentive, if you give it a try, send me an email at jonathan.bardzik@gmail.com. I will send you a letter of congratulations and two quarters. I’ll make sure they are securely taped.

Arugula and Walnut Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese*
  • 2 cups arugula (not packed)
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil – the good stuff

* Grate the parmesan on the middle side of a box grater. This gives you a nice bite of cheese and doesn’t get too gummy when pounded.

Directions:

This can be made either by hand in a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor.

By hand:

  • Add garlic and a pinch of salt to the mortar. Pound garlic into a paste.
  • Toast walnuts over low heat in a small fry pan. Watch carefully, nuts burn quickly. they are ready when golden and lightly fragrant.
  • Add walnuts to garlic paste and pound until it looks like thick, chunky peanut butter.
  • Add the parmesan cheese and pound until incorporated.
  • Add the arugula a handful at a time and pound away. Add more when you have room in your mortar.
  • Add cracked pepper to taste. Start with 5-6 grinds and go from there.
  • Add olive oil to thin and bind. Start with a table spoon. You shouldn’t need more than two.

Note: If your paste gets too thick during pounding, you can add a little olive oil to thin it out.

In a food processor:

  • Add garlic, walnuts and cheese to a food processor. Pulse until chopped together. About 4-6 times.
  • Add arugula and process until coarsely blended. Keep it rustic as opposed to pureed.
  • Remove pesto to a bowl. Stir in pepper, salt and olive oil.

I ♥ jamón.

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Jamón is Spanish for ham. But it is so much more. Jamón Serrano is common, cured, Spanish ham. That, of course, is like saying that Prosciutto is just common, cured, Italian ham. It is rich, salty, gamey and cured longer than Prosciutto – over 18 months.

Jamón Ibérico is cured Black Iberian pig from Western Spain. Jamón Iberico is a special treat. Jamón Ibérico de bellota is Black Iberian pig fed exclusively on a diet of acorns during the weeks leading up to slaughter. This delivers an incredible rich, fine ham.

Sounds kinda weird, right? What’s up with the acorn diet thing? This is actually not so unusual. In fact, an animal’s diet overtly influences the taste of the meat. A cow fed a diet of corn has a rich, buttery flavor, while grass-fed beef, though trendy, tastes gamey and is often unappealing to the American palette. As a result, you will often find grass-fed beef – with all of its accompanying Omega-3 health benefits – finished with a diet of corn that gives it a decadent, Midwestern flavor.

So, how good is Jamón Ibérico? It’s amazing, and you will pay for it. Usually around $150 per pound. But it is well worth it. The good news is that you buy and eat jamón just like Prosciutto, a paper-thin slice at a time. The really good news is that Jamón Serrano is relatively affordable at around $22 a pound.

Now, I am not struggling to find ways to dump excess cash. De bellota is a special event in our home. Try it for an anniversary, a visit from your foodie in-laws, or the night you propose to the love of your life. For the rest of the year, Serrano ham will do just fine. Do me a favor: buy 1/4 pound of Serrano ham and 1/4 pound of Jamoón Ibérico de bellota. Sit down with your friends and do a tasting. In fact, get them to bring the wine. It will more than pay for the ham and your life will be forever richer.

Pan con tomate y jamón-ish.

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Toasted bread, rubbed with raw garlic, topped with grated tomato, sprinkled with crisp sea salt, drizzled with fruity, round olive oil and a slice of salty, fatty, richly gamey jamón Serrano. Pan con tomato y jamón is a classic spanish tapas, or small plate, and a favorite of my husband, my family and my good friends Craig and Annie (who you probably don’t know – but they are really lovely, I promise).

So, with 10 beautiful, locally grown San Marzano tomatoes on the counter whose days were numbered, pan con tomato came immediately to mind. San Marzanos are an heirloom plum tomato classically grown in the ashy soils of Mount Vesuvius. Not a great choice to grate for pulp, but the best plum tomato ever! So, into the kitchen to work on a garlicky, smokey, spicy tomato jam. Here are the results, spread over over toast with jamón Serrano, for a not so classic, but still delicious bread with tomato and ham.

*BTW this tastes like bacon. No lie!

Tomato Jam

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 lg shallots, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs Spanish paprika
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 10 San Marzano tomatoes or 6 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary
  • Sherry vinegar
Directions:
  • In a small sauté pan, melt butter with olive oil. Sauté shallot over low heat until softened, 6-8 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook until softened, 2-3 minutes.
  • Add paprika and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to burn.
  • Add sugar and dissolve.
  • Add tomatoes and cook until thick and jammy. 15 -20 minutes.
  • Add parsley and rosemary and stir through to warm.Season to taste with salt, pepper and a splash of sherry vinegar.

Because a few mushrooms are poisonous.

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Just in case you were possibly thinking of going out and collecting wild mushrooms and eating them:

I bought my first copy of “Wildman” Steve Brill‘s book on foraging for edibles for a course in college. “People and plants” was a class offered mostly for upperclass students who had been too lazy to finish their science requirements. It was the biology equivalent of “rocks for jocks.”

I knew way too much about plants to be in this class – a fact that left me bored and my professor understandably frustrated with my total lack of effort. I offer this post as a long overdue apology. And a thank you for assigning Steve Brill’s book. I cherish it, and I learned something. I promise.

Read more about “Wildman” Steve Brill and the safe harvesting of wild mushrooms here. (He has iOS apps and flashcards too. Heaven!)