Thursday, September 24, 2009

Plummy Scallops

I am still going to cook the pork tenderloin as mentioned in the previous post. The NZ'er loves pork, pork belly, pork chops, ribs, trotters, knuckle, head, (I can't say for sure about the head, but it wouldn't surprise me, he does eat the heads of fish). He once had a ten course pork dinner in the French Alps, and surprisingly has no signs of gout, yet. Anyway, I am still harping on about plums I used the excess juice from the sauce I made the other day, heated it up and sat my local, Long Island scallops atop, what a saucy surprise! a titillating union; plums and scallops, the words alone conjure up an image of a buxom, port town barmaid, skirt too short, lipstick too bright, yelling "last orders!" (childhood memories). My plummy scallops were dished up with green tea noodles, mingled with miso and wakame. Plump and juicy, sweet and salty, all of the flavors worked so well together I thought I had created a new umami (yummy in japanese), but plums and scallops have been keeping company for sometime, after making this dish I googled the pair, there's no shortage of recipes, I wished I had thought about using the shiso, I have a plentiful supply in my garden.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

No Prunus Maritima

We went in search of the dainty beach plum, in the dunes, on a perfect September morning, all bright and cheery, and returned home plumless. Probably a bit too late in the season to be looking for them and there wasn't enough sun early in the season to ripen the fruit, but we didn't spy one, not one! I have since learned of some secret spots (we weren't anywhere near them) so I will have to wait until next year to make beach plum jelly. Me and my foraging friend did, however see carpets, upon carpets of cranberries, so we'll be tramping back over those dunes in a few weeks. I am going to make a savory plum sauce (as I write) with these plums from the North Fork, it was a toss up between the sauce or a clafoutis, and as I am more savory in nature, the sauce won, but I do love a clafoutis and make sweet and savory versions. This recipe is a combination of Peter Gordon's Pickled Plums and Jane Grigson's Chinese Plum Sauce. 
a dozen plums cut in half and pitted 
1/2 cup of water
2/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
4 star anise
1/2 red chili
1/4 cup of grated peeled ginger
Put everything in the pot and simmer for 3/4 hour, and as Jane Grigson instructs Taste and consider your sauce. If it is very thick, add a little water. If unbearably tart, add a little sugar.
My plum sauce is going to accompany grilled pork tenderloin, roasted sweet potatoes with lemon (a Peter Gordon recipe, he is another constant companion in my kitchen) and the last of the mesclun.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Brown Rice Risotto

I made a brown rice risotto with mushrooms, zucchini, celery and the ten fava beans, oooh if you look really closely you can see the wee fabaceae. I love fava beans, (broad beans in the UK) and try to grow them every year, with little success, and this year was no exception, but I will persevere, I am due for a glut. Risotto is another favorite, I love to cook it, I enjoy the fact that it needs my undivided attention and find it a very calming and meditative experience, the constant stirring and pouring of broth....hubble, bubble, toil and trouble, maybe it's the witch in me that finds it so appealing. One of the best risottos I ever had was at a friend of a friend's house in Eastbourne, (I know, hard to imagine) she was Italian, which made all the difference, it was a simple dish of broad beans, pecorino and lemon, unforgettable. I make a quick risotto, or pilaf on a regular basis using brown rice, I cook the rice until it is almost done and then add it to whatever mix I have with a little broth and finish cooking. I make it with spices such as cloves, cardamom and turmeric and toasted almonds, or with tomato and saffron, more like a paella, and other times with mushrooms and peas and a sprinkling of mint, the list is endless, rice dishes are so wonderfully adaptable. The truth is I would eat the starchy, creamy arborio ALL the time, with mountains of pecorino if my cholesterol would allow, but my brown rice version offers up a lovely nutty, wholesome alternative, and there is still a bit of stirring involved. We sliced the pears and ate them with ginger ice-cream.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Two Pears And Ten Fava Beans

Picked today......not sure what I am going to do with my bumper crop, nothing springs to mind using pears and fava beans together, a salad maybe, but there's a bit of a nip in the air tonight and I want something that has been cooked in a pot.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Good Company

As I mentioned in the last post, The Cook's Companion is a very trusty friend in my kitchen, it is very thorough, and extremely readable (thanks to my dear friend W in NZ for introducing me to it). Stephanie Alexander describes each ingredient in detail, the margins are crammed with recipes, with hints and tips on each page, this is my favorite part of the book....say for example you have a bowl full of plums, and you want to include them in a dinner, you go to the plum section and it gives you a long list of other ingredients that go well with plums, this feature encourages experimenting with ingredients.

I love the alphabetical listing on the contents page - apples, bugs, chervil, duck, eggs, figs, ginger, jerusalem artichokes, kangaroo, you get the idea, and even though the subtitle of the book is 'The complete book of ingredients for the Australian kitchen' I refer to it all the time here in the northern hemisphere at the very end of Long Island, most of the ingredients are universal, well maybe with the exception of kangaroo and wallaby (until quite recently one could get a plate of kangaroo tail at Public on Elizabeth Street in New York). Every recipe in the index is meticulously cross referenced, I love that, no, I really love that, I have a borderline obsession with recipe indexes, they are my preferred bedtime reading, ok maybe not borderline.

There are recipes in this book that have become part of my everyday cooking, like the cabbage salad with anchovy sauce, this is a fantastic dish that I cooked all summer long served hot and cold, with grilled lamb, chicken and fish. Stay tuned for cumquat marmalade, well yes, that is one of the more southern hemisphere recipes, but I do actually have a cumquat tree, have to bring it inside in the winter of course, and it's really quite tiny, but we still get to enjoy the highly perfumed blossom, I counted 8 dangling cumquats and it's just starting to flower again.

I lose myself in this book, I start with cabbage and before I know it I am in the walnut section, followed by the duck section, mmm roasted duck legs with eggplant (Long Island duck of course). Jam-packed with recipes, preparations and techniques, this book is so generous, it answers a million questions, it is precise, authoritative and friendly, a dear companion indeed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tumbleweed Tuesday Soup

It really does happen, every year, they leave, the people who come to our resort town for the summer and fill the restaurants, bars and beaches. Tumbleweed Tuesday marked the beginning of calmer days, and cooler nights and the bitter sweet realization that summer is over. The sweet thing is, the people leave and the fish arrive! Fall is fast approaching and the serious fishing will begin soon, time to get the old Aladdin Stanley flask out. I have been looking forward to making big hearty soups and stews again, and have even welcomed the idea of wearing socks. My Tumbleweed Tuesday soup was made with the leftovers of the 'end of summer potatoes' and as I was witchily, yes that's right witchily, stirring my bubbling brew, I looked out the kitchen window, the wind whipped up, the sky darkened, brrrrrrrrrrr, I closed some windows, and wondered when I might be tempted to put the heating on again.
The recipe I used was adapted from The Cooks' Companion by Stephanie Alexander this book has become my cooking companion, I refer to it every time I cook, it doesn't sit on a shelf, it's always on the table.
sweat a chopped onion with some garlic and 3 large diced potatoes in olive oil then cover with water, add a bay leaf and simmer until potato is tender (I used cooked potatoes) drop in a bunch of washed and stemmed spinach and simmer for 5 minutes, blend in a food processor, then season with salt, pepper and a pinch of roasted ground cumin, I added some wholewheat cheese quesadillas 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

End of Summer Potatoes and Little Fishes

Labor Day Monday we took the homemade net down to the bay and went 'whitebaiting' and got a bucket full of spearing, we deep fried them and they were ok, a bit of a weird gut taste, we did it earlier in the year and they were great, but not quite like the experience of eating New Zealand whitebait, a delicacy, a short lived affair in NZ, delicious in a fritter, I would choose it as my last meal. Here on the beautiful Long Island Sound the NZ'er goes out to shoulder height in the water, and I stand ankle deep by the shore, keeping the pole angled....much shouting from NZ'er, keep it down, keep it down! much heaving reveals jumping bright silver little fish. Our fishing friends think we are a bit strange to be eating 'bait fish' but we enjoy the wading, the haul, and the crunchy reward. I am reminded of eating deep fried sprats for teatime on the east coast of Old Blighty, in a relative's smoky kitchen, condensation on the windows, the NZ'er of whitebait fritters cooked in copious amounts of butter sandwiched between white bread also plastered with copious amounts of butter, and getting seriously sunburned.

Summer savory was the other star of my garden this year, I planted it as a border around the mesclun and tomatoes, it was also the prettiest herb in the garden, with its lovely diminutive pale lavender blue flower and frothy habit. It goes well with tomatoes (lucky you, if you have some) fish, chicken and mushrooms. I started my plants from seed, for some reason nurseries don't seem to stock it, it's just not the most popular herb on the plot, but it hasn't always had such a low profile, the Romans loved its strong flavor and believed it to be an aphrodisiac, it is a traditional ingredient in 'herbes de Provence' this summer I made my own mix, savory, oregano, lavender, marjoram, thyme and rosemary, rubbed on fish and chicken, a great marinade for grilling. Summer savory is the perfect herb for roasting potatoes, I picked big rustic handfuls and sat the spuds on top, sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for about 40 minutes, we were very greedy little piglets and scoffed them right out of the dish, alternating, potato, fish, potato, fish, Moose (the dog) also got some fish. The next day, tumbleweed tuesday, I made soup with the leftovers and the house was once again filled with a pleasant and lingering aroma. When the summer savory disappears, oooh hopefully not for a while, winter savory will appear, just in time for the stewpot.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sally Grows Shiso By The Seashore

I want to get my shiso post in before summer is over! isn't that today? hopefully September will be balmy. There are so many summery things to with this exotic and striking herb, a little bit minty and a tad spicy. I put some plants in the vegetable garden 3 years ago, each spring they come back, and this year with a vengeance, I have been giving away plants like nobody's business, it's vigorous and plentiful, which sort of makes up for the poor performance of tomatoes this summer....dreaded blight. You can find shiso (aka perilla and aoshiso) in Asian markets, when I lived in the city I would by it from Sunrise Mart on Broome Street, a great japanese grocery store. Shiso is an interesting addition to the vegetable garden, a no fuss plant and the deer don't like it, hurrah!
Easy things to do with shiso

throw some littlenecks on the barbie and make a dipping sauce of chopped shiso, soy sauce sesame oil and mirin

grill some pork tenderloin, slice it into bite size pieces and wrap in shiso leaves

add chopped shiso to miso udon noodles

make a nectarine and tomato salsa with chopped shiso and olive oil

add a shiso leaf to a gin and tonic, or any cocktail, my favorite non-alcoholic drink this summer - in a jug put ruby grapefruit juice with tonic water add a bunch of shiso leaves and steep to release flavors, a refreshing change from iced tea

toss angel hair pasta with olive oil and chopped shiso

shiso summer roll
nectarine, tomato, cooked shrimp, chopped shiso, spring roll wrappers (rice paper rounds) cooked vermicelli noodles, ( I used green tea noodles, that was all I had, they turned out to be very tasty, and looked pretty too ) 

dipping sauce
1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup of fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sweet chilli sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce

I have also made a sweet version of the summer roll, using grilled nectarines and slivers of shiso, served with ginger ice cream.

Use shiso as you would basil and mint with fresh raw foods or added at the end of cooking, too much heat will destroy the fragrant aromas. I think that's it for the lovely shiso, until next summer anyway.......

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Smoked Blues

The smoker that we purchased from a yard sale for 10 bucks was put to good use this past weekend, a bluefish was caught by the husband who loves to fish, of course he was really after a Striper, but he was having a blue day, although some nice chap gave him two huge bass heads, we had two dinners from those heads and very tasty they were too, nothing quite like a bit of pan fried cheek and jowl. After smoking, the bluefish was destined for pate, next time I must use the food processor to make it and not the blender gwenda...just wasn't enough liquid to get it going, strange smell in kitchen of smoked fish and smoking blender. Smoking the fish made me feel very connected to my salty seafaring ancestors, and to the fishing village in England where I grew up on winkle sandwiches, pints of cockles, pints of whelks, and Colchester oysters, they tasted so much better when shared with my dad who was the biggest saltiest sea dog of all. There are smokehouses dotted all over the East Anglian coast, trout, mackerel and eel are the most popular for smoking.

smoked bluefish pate

1 pound of smoked bluefish, skinless and boneless

60z cream cheese softened

1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons mayonnaise


a splash of cognac

mix all together in a food processor

Have been eating this for breakfast, (very good on the divine bread, toasted) lunch and dinner.

A Simple Ceremony

I made this bread for the first time in April and have been making it every week ever since. For those of you who know Vogel's bread from New Zealand, this is the most Vogelly homemade bread there is, the recipe came from a baking friend in New Zealand and it's wonderfully simple to make. I had never made bread before thinking it took way too long and was too much of a fiddly process, therefore I have spent decades buying expensive loaves from gourmet stores, but that's ok, we do love our bread, and it was money well spent, but this bread has changed our lives! two loaves are baked each Thursday morning without fail, one loaf is devoured over the weekend, and the other gets us through the week, it's a joyful ritual and divine eating.

3 cups high grade white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

3/4 cup seed mix, sesame, sunflower, flax

2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon of dried yeast, the stuff they use in bread making machines

2+ cups cold water...start with 2 and add a little more if needed

mix all this together, you want the dough to be really quite sticky and sloppy

cover and leave 15 - 20 hours, doesn't need to be in a hot place

pour the sticky bubbly mess into a 9 inch greased loaf tin (I use a spray cooking oil)

let settle about 30 mins while oven heats to 400f

cover with a little tent of foil that is sealed all around the top of the tin so loaf can rise in oven in its own little micro-environment (I also use the spray cooking oil on the foil as the bread can sometimes rise quite a bit)

bake 30 mins with tent in place, take off tent and bake for a further 25 mins to brown top 

It takes all of a few minutes to throw together