Friday, December 31, 2010

Wines I Like

Not that I know a ton about wine, but I have learned lots by buying wine at Morgan and York in Ann Arbor.   I have taken a couple classes there, too about fondue and raclette.   The best thing about M&Y is that the staff is friendly and laid back and knowlegeable, and not food snobby at all, which they could be if they wanted to be.    They know their if you wanted to buy a fine French wine they could help you with that, and if you wanted some Boone's Farm, they'd offer to order it for you, no questions asked.

I took a "Reading Wine Labels" course there last winter, and wanted to learn more about the kind of wines I like.   I know that I like a really grapey tasting wine and that I had some good luck with Spanish tempranillo wines, but didn't know what kind of French wines would be like them.   Here was what I learned in the class - suggestions of wines I might like:

  • Côtes du Rhône
  • Vacqueyras
  • Gigondas
  • Cairanne
  • Châteauneuf-du-Pape
  • Languedoc:
    • Vin de Pays d'oc
    • Pic St Loup
    • St. Chinian
    • Corbieres
    • Cotes du Roussillon 
 Now to print this out and put it in my wallet!

January Spice Rack Challenge: Rosemary

I have tons of rosemary in my house right now.   For the holidays, I bought a beautiful rosemary wreath that I have hanging in my kitchen.   My neighbor Martha's mom gave me a huge rosemary plant that is shrub sized - I have tried to grow rosemary indoors many times and I just don't get enough sun (I live in the woods) and I tend to forget to water my plants and rosemary needs a lot of water.   It's name means "dew of the sea" because where it grows in it's native Mediterranean, it likes to live near the ocean.   But I am trying to keep my shrubbery alive this winter and it is doing fantastic thus far.   The question is, what to do with it all?

Looking forward to seeing what you can do with it....feel free to use fresh or dried.   Please post by January 21, 2011 and HAPPY NEW YEAR!  It's not too late to join the Spice Rack Challenge....if you wanted to be added to the blog roll, just email me at momskitchen{at}comcast{dot}net.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ground meat recipes I want to try

Thai Beef with Chilis and Basil over Coconut Rice - from the Everday Food Show on PBS

Turkey Meatloaf with Fontina and Mushrooms - ditto

2011 Spice Rack Challenge - A Food Blog Challenge

There are many food blog challenges out there - the Daring Bakers, where participants are encouraged to bake a specific treat, or Tigress Can Jam  where there's all sorts of food preservation going on, or the Dark Days Challenge where you make a meal that's truly local and blog about it.    I was cleaning out my spice cabinet the other day...they don't fit into a mere rack; instead my dried herbs and spices have taken over two cupboards in my kitchen.  It dawned on me that I have some herbs and spices that are my favorites and get used up at a rapid clip, and still others that I use only occasionally.     I need inspiration - enter the 2011 Spice Rack Challenge!
  • Each month we'll focus on one dried herb or spice and post a recipe you've cooked using it.  The recipe may include others but the herb/spice of focus must be integral to the recipe. 
  • The month's spice/herb of focus will be announced the last Friday of the prior month.    The focused herb/spice will not be repeated in subsequent months. 
  • Bloggers will post their recipes on their blogs during the 3rd week of the month with the deadline being Friday midnight. (exact dates will be clarified each month when new produce in focus is announced) 
  • On the last Wednesday of the month I will post a round-up here and announce the new spice/herb of focus. 
  • Although this isn't a local food challenge, use of ingredients found locally are strongly encouraged.  For many of us, finding a locally grown spice isn't possible.   In fact, the desire to import spices developed the trade routes centuries ago and are an important part of our history.   Hundreds of years ago, the spice trade was controlled by the wealthy Middle East and inspired Columbus, de Gama and Magellan to find a better way around the world.  Nutmeg was worth more than gold!    Spain and Portugal spent much of the 16th century fighting over cloves, while England and the Dutch dueled over nutmeg in Indonesia.  So, lets use herbs and spices to inspire us to cook more with local ingredients.  

  • When do I need to sign up?  To participate in the challenge, sign up before the deadline for the first post, which will be January 21, 2011.  
  • How do I sign up? Send an email to: momskitchen(at)comcast(dot)net please put Spice Rack Challenge as the subject and include your name and blog url.  Participants will be listed here.
  • Do I have to have a blog to participate?  Yes.  It's really easy to start a blog.   This blog is written with Google's Blogger.  Or there's others out there like WordPress 
  • What happens if I should miss a month?   To participate, you will need to blog all 12 months.   If you miss a month, you can still participate, but will not be included in future roundups.   But you are welcome to post in the comments section of the round up post with a link to your blog post. 
  • What if it's past the Jan. 21 deadline and I still want to participate?  Great!  Just post a link in the comments section of the round up post each month.  
I look forward to your spicy posts!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Slow Cooker Sticky Toffee Pudding

I am a huge fan of the Not Your Mother's series of cookbooks.   I loved the slow cooker one so much I have given it as a gift and I just recently gifted myself with the latest one regarding microwave cookery.    In the slow cooker cookbook, there is a whole chapter on desserts, many are steamed cakes in a water bath, a la British puddings.    I decided for Christmas Eve this year, I would try sticky toffee pudding.   According to Saveur, this dessert was introduced  at the Sharrow Bay Hotel restaurant in England's Lake District in the 60s.  It is a steamed date cake that is very moist, and it is served with a toffee sauce and creme anglaise.   I looked at the techniques used in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook  and gave it a shot using the Cook's Illustrated recipe as a base and adapting it as I saw fit to make things easier and less fussy that the usual CI recipe.  If you are worried about not liking dates, don't worry.   The dates will be unrecognizable in the finished product.   Also, try it with different dried fruits like prunes or apricots, which I am sure would be lovely as well.
British pudding mold
To make a steamed cake in a slow cooker, you need a large oval one.     I have an All Clad Slow Cooker - it's large enough to do the job.  (note that I have been less than thrilled with this cooker - I got it with a gift card from Williams Sonoma and have had to send it back twice to All Clad for repairs)  There are other brands of slow cookers that are much less spendy that are better.    I used a proper British pudding mold to make my sticky toffee pudding.    I am not sure where something like a pudding mold could be bought in Ann Arbor these days, but you can get one easily online .     Originally, I bought one the now closed Ann Arbor cooking emporium Kitchen Port (may it RIP). Check Hollander's Kitchen and Home which I really want to like but never seem to find anything I want to buy there, or Barnes Hardware which is exactly the opposite - I always find too much stuff that I want to buy there.  You too?  On second thought, don't run out and buy a new pudding mold - I've seen them kicking around garage sales and the Ann Arbor Kiwanis Thrift Shop from time to time.  A steamed cake can be made in a ceramic bowl with aluminum foil tightly tied on top too.  The important thing is to have it tightly covered in the water bath.

Slow Cooker Sticky Toffee Pudding

1 ¼ c unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¼ c whole dates, pitted and sliced.  Chop half of them into as tiny pieces as possible.
¾ c warm water
½ t baking soda
½ t baking powder
½ t salt
¾ c packed brown sugar
2  eggs
1 ½ t vanilla extract
4 T unsalted butter (1/2 stick), melted

Grease and flour a small lidded pudding mold (1 ½ qt) or a medium sized ceramic bowl.   Fill a tea kettle with water and put it on to boil.  Combine the chopped tiny date pieces with water and baking soda and soak for 5 minutes.  CI says that the baking soda helps soften the skin on the dates.   Good to know!  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

In a food processor, combine remaining (large pieces) of dates with the brown sugar and process for about 30 seconds until the mixture looks like wet sand. Drain the  soaking liquid from the dates (reserve dates) and add to the processor, plus the eggs, and vanilla and process until smooth, about 5 seconds. With food processor running, pour melted butter through feed tube in steady stream and process until smooth.  With a spoon (don’t process) mix in the softened dates to the bowl.  

Gently stir dry mixture into wet mixture until just combined.  Pour batter into prepared baking dish or mold.  Cover with lid or aluminum foil tied down with kitchen twine.   Place in slow cooker, and add enough boiling water to reach halfway up sides.  Cook on high for 2 ½ - 3 hours, until cake is firm and springs back when touched. Set on wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then invert on a plate.

Toffee sauce

Toffee Sauce
8 T  unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 c packed brown sugar
2/3 c heavy cream
1 Tablespoon rum – Captain Morgan’s Private Reserve is wonderfully spiced and great in this sauce!

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in brown sugar until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and mixture looks puffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly pour in cream and rum, whisk just to combine, reduce heat, and simmer until frothy, about 3 minutes. Pour into serving pitcher.

Crème Anglaise

½ c whole milk
5  egg yolks
¼ c sugar
Pinch salt
1 t vanilla

In a medium saucepan heat milk over medium heat until steaming, about 3 minutes. . Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt together in medium bowl until pale yellow in color, about 1 minute.  Slowly pour 1/2 cup hot milk into yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly. Return mixture to saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until mixture thickens slightly, coats back of spoon with thin film, and registers 175 to 180 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 8 minutes. Add  vanilla.  Immediately pour mixture through fine-mesh strainer into serving pitcher.

To serve – plate pieces of cake and pass the toffee sauce and crème anglaise to pour over the top.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ammoglio in Winter

Everybody just LOVES Italian restaurants.   People always pick Italian for special occasions....ask 10 people what their favorite Ann Arbor restaurant is, and the majority will say Gratzi.   Heck, even Billy Joel wrote a song about Italian restaurants.....

I'm in the minority when it comes to both Billy Joel and Italian restaurants.   They are both not my first choice for the same reason - boring stuff that you've experienced too many times.    So I was prepared to be underwhelmed at a holiday luncheon I had at the Dearborn branch of a ho-hum Detroit based Italian restaurant chain called Andiamo this week.   I have never had a memorable meal there before... pasta is a cop out meal for me to make at home when I am crunched for time.   I don't care if it is hand rolled with semolina imported from Italy....I can't taste the difference.  I'm afraid Mario Batali is going to show up on my front porch for a throw down just for saying this.   Italian food is like Billy Joel on the radio - I'll put up with listening to the occasional "Piano Man" maybe once a year, but otherwise he's a guaranteed channel changer for me.

So imagine my surprise when I had this fantastic meal at Andiamo's...first of all, the building is really beautiful and sunny and overlooks the Rouge River and the woods.   I was going to get a salad because I'm trying to eat light this holiday season, but ended up sampling tons of appetizers and got a wonderful spicy seafood risotto that I am still thinking about, it was that good.   One of the appetizers we had was ammoglio, which is something I see around these southeastern Michigan parts.   It's a garlicy tomato based bread dipping sauce.   My brother served it with chicken fingers last spring at my nephews First Holy Communion.   I'm not sure if it's an Italian American thing or a true native dish from Italy, but it's very good!    I wanted to try making it at home with canned tomatoes.   The good people over at Red Gold tomatoes had recently sent me a case of their products for I decided to experiment.    I have always bought Red Gold tomatoes because they are a local Midwest brand and the tomatoes are grown here on Michigan farms.   Canning tomatoes myself isn't worth the effort for me - I find Red Gold tastes just as good and I can't can tomatoes any cheaper myself.    Just for fun, my family tasted Red Gold tomatoes and compared them with spendy canned San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy, and it was agreed that we all liked the Red Gold better.   It tasted less like the can and more tomatoey, and had a better texture, too.  I'm glad I can keep my food dollars here in Michigan where we need them.

I made ammoglio with canned tomatoes and dried herbs, instead of the traditional fresh ingredients, and it was great for this time of year.   Serve it with thin sliced Italian bread - I had some day old Zingerman's Farm Bread and it was delicious.

Winter Ammoglio
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
2 T dried basil
1 T olive oil
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 can petite diced tomatoes drained
2 T balsamic vinegar

In a blender, coarsely blend the ingredients in two stages.  Start with the garlic, salt, basil, olive oil, and  pepper.  When that is thoroughly mixed, blend in add the diced tomato and balsamic vinegar.  Tastes better if you can refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to meld,  but it can be eaten right when it is made and it's good, too.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Can Jam December - Cranberry Mustard

What a great canning year it has been for me!   I've canned some really great stuff this year, thanks to Tigress and her Can Jam.  I've also had the opportunity to teach lots of people how to can things at Ann Arbor Rec and Ed or demonstrating at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market.   For the last month of the Can Jam, we were requested to can something with dried fruit, and I have to admit, I took some liberties.  First, I decided to make a mustard.   I figured isn't mustard seed the fruit of the mustard plant?   I was hell bent on making a mustard because I am teaching a condiment class this winter and needed to try a few more recipes.   Plus, I am making ham for Christmas and I wanted to have something interesting to serve with it, and mustard is where I wanted to go.   So mustard it is!

I was inspired by a recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for cranberry mustard that said it was particularly delicious with ham, and it adds color and interest to meat and fish entrees.    I had some cranberries kicking around in fridge from the Thanksgiving holiday.   Dried cranberries could be used - just rehydrate a cup or so of dried berries in boiling water instead of using fresh.   

makes about 5 4 oz. jars

3/4 cup sugar 
1/4 cup dry mustard 
2 1/2 tsp ground allspice 

Bring vinegar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and add mustard seeds. Cover and let stand at room temperature until seeds have absorbed most of the moisture, about an hour or so.  
Combine mustard seeds and liquid, water and Worcestershire sauce in a blender. Process until slightly grainy. Add cranberries and blend until chopped. 
1 cup red wine vinegar 
2/3 cup yellow mustard seeds 
1 cup water 
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce 
2-3/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

Bring cranberry mixture to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in sugar, dry mustard and allspice. Continue to simmer, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by a third, about 15 minutes. 

Ladle hot mustard into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.