Friday, November 27, 2009

Sweet Tomato Chutney

I meant to post this back during the late summer canning frenzy. I even wrote to the author for permission to include the recipe, and was given permission from the publisher. But I never got around to it.

I gave a jar as a thank you gift to my friend Laura, who sent me this lovely note this morning:

"Jim and I arrived at the lake Wed and I hadn't given dinner much thought ~ I figured I'd wing it. There was trout in the freezer and frozen veggies, so I pan roasted the trout, made some orzo with the few herbs still hanging on in the garden ~ but I was looking for something to punch up the meal. I spied Tami's Tomato Chutney/Jam in the pantry. Perfect! It absolutely made our meal and I'm not a huge fan of golden raisins, but it was spectacular. THANK YOU Tami ~ you are amazing. Now, can I have that recipe???"

So courtesy of Linda Ziedrich, author of The Joy of Pickling, and The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves, here is the recipe for the spectacular Sweet Tomato Chutney. I bet it will be good with some leftover turkey.....

Sweet Tomato Chutney
Makes 1 1/2 to 2 pints

I think of this thick, glossy, sweet chutney as an elegant, exotic version of tomato ketchuyp. You might serve this relish with fried fish or cold poultry.

4 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 7 cups tomato puree
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar
1 T. pickling salt
Juice and grated zest of 1 large lime or 2 small limes
1/4 c. chopped garlic (from one large head)
2 T. chopped fresh ginger
1/2 t. hot pepper flakes
1/2 t. whole fennel seeds
1/2 t. whole cumin seeds
1/2 t. whole fenugreek seeds
1/2 c. raisins

1. In heavy nonreactive pot, combine all of the ingredients. Bring them to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring often, until the chutney is thick.

2. Ladle chutney into pint or half pint mason jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace, and close the jars with two piece caps. Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

3. Store the cooled jars in a cool, dry, dark, place.

Excerpted from The Joy of Pickling, by Linda Ziedrich. (c) 2009, used by permission from The Harvard Common Press.

I love both "Joy of" cookbooks dearly - they were a great inspiration for the summer canning frenzy!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I took over hosting Thanksgiving dinner when we moved into our home in 1994. The first year was pretty primitive with a cobbled together mismatched set of chairs and tables in our furniture-less, still shag carpeted, living/dining room. Mostly classic dishes, which I was semi-terrified of preparing, including the turkey and gravy.

I got a little more proficient over the years, but it was still an ordeal consisting of days of prep for a meal that usually consisted of 4 guests: me, my husband, and his parents.

When my husband passed away suddenly in early 2002, his aging parents were still living in their home, but a few months later, after a bout with breast cancer, my mother-in-law was unable to return home, and went to an assisted living facility near their family home. That Thanksgiving I cooked at their home, we brought her home to eat, but I am pretty sure that's the last time she saw the family home.

In subsequent years, the facility hosted a family dinner a few days before the holiday, and I usually skipped the cooking part entirely, The last few years I actually worked and prepared and served dinner to one of my personal chef clients.

I've done a few mini-dinners for my sister and I, but I haven't actually hosted the full blown holiday since my husband died. This year is the first in 8 years.

I've come a long way baby from frozen Butterballs, frozen vegetables, and possibly gluey potatoes and lumpy gravy. And the days ahead prep and panic. I really didn't even know for sure what I was going to actually make until this morning.

The all-natural turkey from Brunty Farms spent the night in a brine with cider, veggies, and garlic in a 5# beverage cooler in the garage fridge. Ahh, garage fridges were invented for Thanksgiving. I was never able to juggle the massive amounts of food in one regular fridge, so the spare, especially when you can take out a shelf and stuff a 5 gallon cooler in it, is priceless.

The farmers market last Saturday at Happy Days Center, yielded some beautiful carrots, including these pretty, Purple Haze. They are getting a pomegranate, honey, balsamic glaze.

Now that I think about it, I don't think the internet played much of a role in my Thanksgiving planning eight years ago. We had dial-up that took forever and there weren't a ton of recipes out there. Wow, that's sure changed.

The mashed potatoes are getting some goat cheese, browned butter and sage, courtesy of Simply Recipes.

The green beans are getting a Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette and Parmesan Breadcrumb treatment using the first Meyer Lemon I am harvesting from my tree.

I am really looking forward to the Celery Salad with Walnuts, Dates and Pecorino.

Sis is bringing classic sage dressing and mom is in charge of pumpkin pie and deviled eggs.

I will be serving some Finger Lakes wines, Pinot Noir from Red Tail Ridge and Riesling from Keuka Lakes Vineyard.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Go Take a Hike!

Bet you didn't know that one of the top ten visited National Parks is in Northeast Ohio. Of the 58 National Parks, Cuyahoga Valley, ranks 9th in visitors, with 1.8 million visits in 2009. But at 33,000 acres, spread out in a large amoeba shape, with dozens of trails, you don't usually run into a lot of people crowding any given trail.

It's great having this resource in your backyard. Within 15 minutes I can easily be on one of dozens of trails featuring scenic views, waterfalls, wildlife, and varying levels of difficulty. Count on working those glutes and hamstrings. Regardless of the trail, it follows the 'what goes down, must go up' philosophy. You almost always descend some stairs (sometimes nearly 100), into the valley, but don't forget returning to your car is probably going to require ascending at some point. Sometimes you get stairs, sometimes you just have to suck it up and hike it up the hill.

These are photos from one of my favorite trails, aptly named, Ledges. There is a beautiful rock cropped scenic overlook, and a loop trail of about 1 3/4 miles that puts you right next to huge ledges carved by long ago glaciers.

Today was a perfect day to hit the trails. Partly sunny, low 50's, no wind to speak of. And it's a lot more fun than going to the gym.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

VegiTerranean Thanksgiving

One of Akron, Ohio's claims to fame is being the home of rocker Chrissie Hynde. About two years ago, claiming a lack of veg dining options, she opened a vegan restaurant in a newly revitalized section of downtown, called VegiTerranean.

I've been meaning to check it out, but for some reason, until tonight, it didn't happen. Tonight I went to check out the vegan Thanksgiving menu - appetizer, salad or soup, entree, dessert and two drinks for, get this, $28. And I am just as stuffed as if I had Thanksgiving dinner.

Appetizer was a delicious triangle of crispy polenta, topped with saute of wild mushrooms and baby arugula.

The soup option was celery root, which sounded yummy, but I opted for the baby arugula salad with fresh oranges, almonds, figs, and a maple balsamic vinaigrette.

The main attraction was a Gardein Turkey with Wild Rice and Cranberry Stuffing with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Sauteed Greens. The Gardein Turkey had a nice, crisp exterior, and meaty texture. The sweet potatoes weren't too sweet and were excellent. The gravy tasted like it had a bit of Braggs Amino and was also very good.

Dessert selections were Tiramisu, which my friend Cassie opted for. I only had a tiny taste, but the espresso flavor was outstanding.

I had the carrot cake which was dense, loaded with golden raisins and a light frosting. Couldn't finish - too full!

They are running the Thanksgiving special menu again next Friday and Saturday. It's a great deal for an outstanding price. (I'm going back next Friday...)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sinfully Gluten Free

More and more people are being diagnosed with gluten intolerances. While there are plenty of new products on store shelves, some of them honestly, just aren't very good.

Sandwich breads made with non-wheat flours can be dry and have strange texture. So I was really pleased to sample the sandwich bread made by Miamsburg, Ohio based bakery Sinfully Gluten Free. It was light, slightly chewy, and as close to a wheat based sandwich bread as I've tasted.

In addition to breads, they also offer a host of gluten-free treats like peanut butter cookies, brownies, shortbreads, and cakes. And you don't have to be in Ohio to enjoy these goodies - they are happy to carefully package and ship directly to you.

So check them out!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Michael Symon is the Real Deal

Of the line-up of celebrity chefs doing demos at the Fabulous Food Show, the most appealing to me this year was home town favorite, Michael Symon. For the record, I have yet to dine at his restaurants, but I will definitely remedy that very soon.

I did purchase on pre-order at Amazon, Symon's new cookbook, 'Michael Symon's Live To Cook' and I was very impressed when it arrived. He included several of his restaurant signature dishes, including one for fried brussels sprouts, which he demoed at the Food Show.

In addition to the Brussels Sprouts recipe, he also did a recipe for a pasta dish using leftover turkey. It looked (and smelled) pretty awesome. He did a mini sports trivia at the beginning and invited the winners on stage to eat the recipes he demoed. One of the winners was a girl who was celebrating her 10th birthday; her dad answered the last question correctly and sent her up and she was beaming.

He was definitely enthusiastic to be playing to the home town crowd. His mom and his 91 year old grandfather were in the audience and he acknowledged them to a nice round of applause.

Here he is doing a pretty funny demonstration of how not to use a knife. He also made fun of garlic presses and showed how easy it is to 'press' garlic with a sharp whack of the side of a chef's knife.

His demo was fun to watch. He was engaging, provided some good info, and you could tell he was clearly enjoying himself.

I was at the show Friday when two other Food Network stars were signing their books. One of the chefs I don't particularly care for their style, show, or recipes. The other chef I was ambivalent about, but I had time to kill, and the signing was supposed to start at 5:00 pm, so I bought a book, and got in line.

Star #1 was enthusiastically signing, hugging, and mugging for photos until the last person in line got through, probably a good half an hour past the scheduled time. Even though I am not personally a fan, I definitely respected that she was giving her all for the fans.

Star #2 was almost a half an hour late and was due on stage in about a half an hour by the time he arrived. Looked freshly massaged or awake from a nap. There weren't a lot of us in line, but he looked like he wished we'd burst into flames and disappear. He barely acknowledged anyone, forced a few fake smiles for photos when pressed, but for the most part, snatched the books, scrawled the same thing, and never looked up.

I got a photo - from about two feet away, and I look like I'm stalking him. So ambivalence has turned to contempt. I suppose some people can get by on their good looks. But seeing what someone is truly like in person, well ugly, is ugly. 'Ultimately', I am no longer a fan. And I won't be buying any more of his books, his expensive cookware, or visiting his cookware store in California. (I think that's enough hints to figure out it was Tyler Florence. Oops, did I say his name?)

Michael Symon on the other hand, was mugging with fans, laughing that laugh that makes everyone else laugh, and made it fun to go through the line to meet him. You can't fake that kind of personality. Michael Symon is the real deal.

Sweet & Spicy White Cheddar Cheeseball w/Apples & Bacon

One of the vendors at the Fabulous Food Show this past weekend was Adams Reserve New York Extra Sharp Cheddar. We ran across their booth towards the end when they were trying to sell the last of their supply, so we all ended up buying a tray of their 'cracker sliced' cheese that comes in a ready-to-serve tray.

It's excellent cheese - snacked on some when we got home. Also picked up a flyer that they are running a 'Cheddar Challenge Recipe Contest'. At first I thought there was no way I could come up with something worthy before the November 22nd deadline. But inspiration struck this morning! This is sort of riff on a white cheddar, bacon, apple, cheesecake I made at Halloween, but it's got it's own flavor profile and twist.

Sweet & Spicy White Cheddar Cheese Ball with Apples and Bacon

1/2 c. dried apple slices
2 teaspoons Applejack Brandy (I used 1 T. of Finger Lakes Distilling Maplejack)
1 t. pure maple syrup
6 slices of bacon
8 oz cream cheese, or lowfat (NOT nonfat) cream cheese, softened
8-10 oz of Adams Reserve New York Extra Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 c. Trader Joes Sweet and Spicy Pecans (substitute 1 c. pecans, 1 t. salt, 1/2 t. cayenne)
Cracker and apple slices to serve

Put apple slices in small dish and sprinkle with brandy and maple syrup while you prep the rest of the recipe. Fry bacon in large skillet, turning frequently, until crisp, then set aside on a paper towel lined plate.

Finely chop apples.

Combine cream cheese, Adams Reserve New York Extra Sharp Cheddar, cayenne pepper, and apples in food processor. Pulse until mixture is throughly mixed and combined.

Combine pecans, brown sugar, and cooled, crumbled bacon in mini-food processor (or wash out regular processor and dry) until finely chopped.

Use spatula to remove cheese mixture to a cutting board. Lightly wet hands and roll the cheese into a ball. Roll in the bacon pecan mixture and pat to coat.

Arrange on serving platter with crackers and apple slices dipped in lemon juice/water. Enjoy!

Edited: I am a finalist in the contest! I will be appearing on "That's Life" with Robin Swoboda on December 3rd along with the other two finalists.

Update:  And I won!!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fabulous Food Show Recap 2009: Wooden You Know

Just back from the final day of the Fabulous Food Show in Cleveland.
I think this year was the best yet. The food vendors were a little more diverse, and there weren't a lot of non-food related vendors better left to exhibit at the Home Show.

The redesigned wine tasting area, with the wines grouped by wine type and some by region, made finding what you like the best, easier. Unfortunately, the wine selections that I tried were mostly disappointing, and there wasn't any that I even considered purchasing.

Upon entry to the I-X Center, before the actual show entry, there is a large area with handcrafted art and gift items. We didn't make it through there this year, but there was a really nice wooden spoon vendor, Jonathon's Wild Cherry Spoons, that caught our attention. I bought one of these Spootle Lazy Spoons, basically a flat wooden spoon with a notch so it rests on the side of your pot while cooking.

The selection of utensils was extensive and they were all beautiful. But even better, they make a good selection of their items specifically for left handed cooks. So I bought a left handed version as a birthday gift.

Jonathon's Wild Cherry Spoons is located in Kenton, PA, but they ship all over. The website also lists retail outlets that carry them and upcoming shows.

Great gifts for your favorite cook.

Stay tuned for more recaps, including Michael Symon's show, and other favorite vendors.

Makin' Bacon (Pancetta, actually): Part 2: In My Belly

Last night I dreamed of bacon. Seriously, it was like I was in the Candyland of pork. And for the record, I always dream in color, and never understood dreaming in black and white.

After spending roughly a week, give or take a day or so, in the fridge with the cure, and getting a flip and massage when I remembered, I took the pancetta to be out, rinsed her off, massaged her with some more cracked pepper, and dispatched her to the basement bathroom.

It was a little thick for rolling into the traditional roll, which I wasn't planning on doing anyway, and I wasn't crazy about attempting to hang it, so I put it on the above drying rack over a half sheet pan and flipped it over every day or so.

This is the little chunk I fried for breakfast. Pretty, huh?

It's always been a frequent refrain of guests, that my house is cold enough to hang meat. My husband liked to keep the place nearly artic, yet still wore shorts in the dead of winter. He actually bought this thermometer/humidity gauge, which was handy for this process. When I took it out of the basement, the reading was 60 degrees and 60% humidity; perfect bacon making weather.

I bought a couple of these bags of Teeny, Tiny, Potatoes from Trader Joe's. Aren't they adorable? So for breakfast, I chopped the pancetta, fried in a little olive oil, tossed in the potatoes, and made a modified version of this fun Fine Cooking recipe for crispy smashed potatoes.. I just smashed them with the tip of the tongs when they got soft.

I couldn't fry a decent egg to save my life this morning, but managed to get a half decent one on a bagel with some of the pancetta. It was damn ugly, but absolutely delicious.

I was a little skeptical about curing meat in the basement, despite what Ruhlman claims, but I'll be darned, it works great.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cranberry Apple Dessert Burritos

Looking for a quick, easy, seasonal dessert that won't add too many calories? I've got a good stash of apples right now, but this would work with pears, or a mixture. Bonus points for flambe flair if you opt for splash of brandy.

This would also be good with drizzle of caramel or dulce de leche sauce. Mmm, the possibilities are endless.

Cranberry Apple Dessert Burritos

Serves 2

3 T. granulated or brown sugar
3/4 t. ground cinnamon (Penzey's preferred)
1 T. unsalted butter
1 apple, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
3 T. dried cranberries (or diced dried figs, dates, apricots, raisins, cherries)
1 1/2 T. apple brandy - I used Finger Lakes Distilling Maple Jack - use cider or apple juice if desired instead
2 8 inch flour tortillas
vanilla Greek yogurt, vanilla frozen yogurt, vanilla ice cream - or- my favorite, Ben & Jerry's Creme Brulee Ice Cream

Combine cinnamon and sugar in small bowl. Heat butter in skillet over medium heat and cook the apples, stirring, for a few minutes until they start to get soft. Add cranberries and all but a spoonful of the cinnamon-sugar. Cook til sugar dissolves and caramelizes and the apples are tender - 3- 5 minutes. Stir in the brandy, flambe off heat, and cook a minute or two more.

Meanwhile warm tortillas in the microwave for about 20 seconds, or wrap in foil and heat in the oven about 5 minutes at 350.

Spoon filling down center of each tortilla. Fold and roll to enclose the filling. Slice on diagonal in center and arrange one half over the other. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar and serve with desired topping.

Friday, November 13, 2009

An Evening with Thomas Keller in Cleveland

Opening day of the 2009 Fabulous Food Show in Cleveland. The FFF is an annual November trade show type event featuring a (sometimes odd) variety of food vendors peddling their wares and offering samples, a huge wine tasting pavilion sponsored by the Cleveland Wine School, and a slate of 'celebrity' chefs who do a talk/demo, then humor the masses by signing books at a prescribed time.

The so called celebrity chefs the last few years certainly haven't caused me to melt my credit card trying to reserve a seat for extra bucks; I haven't been excited to see anyone since Alton Brown a couple of years ago.

After the initial line-up this year of Sandra Lee, Guy Fieri, Tyler Florence, Bobby Flay, and Michael Symon was announced, I let out another yawn. While I am going back to see Michael Symon on Sunday, at the rate he is opening new restaurants around town, I'll probably see him around anyway.

And while you think there might not be a lot of benefits to living in Northeast Ohio (think 6 months of dark, grey winter), the fact that author Michael Ruhlman is a resident, has benefits, such as him inviting Thomas Keller to town for an intimate chat on home cooking and a book signing. Ruhlman co-wrote Keller's cookbooks, as well as Michael Symon's, and one with Eric Ripert, in addition to his own books. I'm pretty sure Thomas Keller wouldn't really have considered swinging through Northeast Ohio otherwise.

A special ticket for $60 included a reserved seat for the discussion, and a copy of the newest cookbook, Ad Hoc at Home. Which I think weighs about 10 pounds. The book retails for $50, so it was a pretty good deal, since it included admission to the show too.

Although Keller is famous for his French Laundry and Per Se restaurants which feature impeccably crafted, high end food, Ad Hoc, the restaurant, takes a different approach, and has a 4 course menu that changes daily, served family style, and is based on whatever looks good that day.

The book Ad Hoc at Home features recipes more likely to be tackled by home cooks, than those in the French Laundry cookbook, although one enterprising blogger, cooked her way through the French Laundry book.

Ruhlman asked questions to get the conversation going, including some that were taken from the audience in advance and written down.

When asked what he thought were important things for home cooks to learn to be successful, Keller said that learning to correctly season food, and when, were one of the most important. He suggested buying some spinach and practicing by sauteeing a bit plain, tasting, then doing some with a bit of salt, tasting, and continuing to season until it tasted heightened to your palate. Mise en place, or organizing and having your tools and ingredients prepped and ready to go so you do not have to stop the cooking mid-process are also critical.

He also said that becoming a good cook requires becoming inspired by what you find that's fresh and in season in the market, and cooking what you find, rather than finding a recipe and trying to round up the ingredients. Even consumers can, and should, work with their vendors, including the produce, meat, and seafood managers at the grocers to affect change in what's available. "Understanding the quality of food, and resourcing it, are key to the learning process", Keller stated.

When asked what skills or techniques a cook should learn, he stated that repetition is the key to becoming a good chef. "Everyone wants to try something new. But when you're having a party, or even feeding your family, it's not the time to try more than one new thing. Become comfortable with some things, that you can do without thinking too much about it, then you can try something different".

He really enjoys cooking fish because it's delicate, and breaking down a whole fish, gives him the opportunity to get familiar with it on a tactile level. He said that people have become afraid of touching their food (and I agree with him). He said killing an animal teaches you respect for that animal, and is part of the learning process.

He also believes in tempering meat (letting it come to room temp before cooking) and said that at the restaurants that the chickens are sometimes out for 2 or 3 hours and fish up to 45 minutes before it's cooked (I can hear all my fellow personal chefs who were subjected to the food safety course collectively gasping), but I suspect Keller gets a higher quality protein than the average Piggly Wiggly shopper.

Another thing he talked about is how everyone has a catalog of flavors in our minds of those that work well together (Ruhlman mentioned tarragon with orange), many of which were formed in childhood, but said that cooks could learn by reading books (The Flavor Bible is a personal favorite of mine) and magazines, and experimenting with flavors you enjoy.

All in all, a nice, down to earth discussion, from probably the most respected chef in the U.S. I can't wait to dig into my new cookbook and try a few recipes.

I brought my copy of Charcuterie for Ruhlman to sign in honor of my maiden pancetta voyage (it's curing in the basement bathroom) - he signed it: 'All Hail the Pig"!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cranberry, Orange, Walnut Relish with Chai Spice Blend

While I really don't mind the canned jellied cranberry sauce - it certainly helped me provide much needed moisture to swallow my paternal grandmother's holiday turkeys, which were subjected to a long, painful, turn in the roaster oven, fresh cranberries are something I like to take advantage of when they're in season.

I created this quick, easy, no cooking needed, relish with a little inspiration again, from the spice rack.

Cranberry, Orange, Walnut Relish with Chai Spice

1 12 oz pkg of fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1 large orange, thoroughly scrubbed, stem end cut off and discarded, then roughly chopped
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 t. McCormick Chai Spice Blend
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. walnuts

Put everything in the food processor and pulse until chopped fine and has the texture of relish. Let sit for awhile for flavors to blend before serving. Add seasoning if needed.

Yep, that's it, and yes the orange, including the peel!

The Chai Spice blend says it contains cinnamon and ginger, but it has to have some cardamom in there as well. You can certainly substitute whatever spices you have on hand. A little hint of sweet helps balance the tart cranberries and orange peel.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pork with Rosemary, Apples, & Spiced Pecan Vinegar

I'm a flavored oil and vinegar junkie. Part of the reason I wanted an open shelving/lazy susan system in the kitchen was so I could house these treasures where they are accessible and at the ready to provide inspiration. Don't you hate it when you find some aged (aka spoiled) treasure in the depths of your cupboards, unopened, and unloved?

One of my personal clients requested a Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary and Apple dish for today. So I took a spin on the lazy susan when I was packing panty items, and saw a beautiful, unopened bottle of Cuisine Perel Spiced Pecan Vinegar. The recipe I created, smelled and tasted amazing, so I figured I better write down what I did - because if she asks for it again, I may only vaguely recall what I did.

Pork Tenderloin with Rosemary, Apples, and Spiced Vinegar


1 T. Cuisine Perel Spiced Pecan Vinegar
1 T. Fresh Rosemary, chopped
2 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 pork tenderloin, silverskin removed

Combine marinade ingredients in small bowl and pour over pork in a shallow dish, season with salt and pepper, then turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate while you prep the rest of the recipe.

1 T. unsalted butter
3 Fuji Apples, peeled, cored and diced, and tossed with 1 T of fresh lemon juice
1 T. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 T. Cuisine Perel Spiced Pecan Vinegar
1 1/2 c. fresh apple cider, divided

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in large skillet, then add apples, fresh rosemary, and Spiced Pecan Vinegar, and toss for a few minutes until apples are semi-soft. Add 1/2 c. cider, cook until most of the cider evaporates, then remove apples from pan and set aside.

Reheat skillet with 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat until oil shimmers. Add pork and brown until a nice crust forms on all sides. Add 1/2 c of cider to the skillet, then move it to the oven to finish cooking the pork - 15-20 minutes until reaches 150 on instant read thermometer. (don't tell my mom, but your pork should be slightly pink).

Remove pork to rest. Return skillet to medium-high heat, deglaze the pan with about 1/2 c. cider, then re-add the apples and toss to coat and reheat,

Slice pork on the diagonal and serve alongside the apples. Garnish with fresh rosemary sprigs.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Painless Spring Planting

It's a perfect fall day for planting spring bulbs. Sixty five degrees, sunny, dry, and the bulbs are 50% off now! I had a few boxes purchased with my favorite spring bulb, alliums, and some daffodils. I usually buy them at Sam's Club. The packages are usually high quality, and have anywhere from 40 - 100 bulbs per box, with a nice selection of different types. Regular price is about $14-$15 a box. What's left, which is mostly tulips, are now marked down to $7.50.

Lowe's also has a good selection left, and all are marked down 50%. Picked up a couple of 100 bulb bags of daffodils there.

My secret weapon for planting about 650 bulbs in about an hour or so, without bending over, or getting dirty? The brilliant long auger attachment for the drill. If you've got a powerful cordless drill, you can cover a lot of territory. Otherwise you will also need a long outdoor extension cord.

Plug it in, pick your bed, and make like the gopher in Caddyshack. As long as you aren't trying to drill through thick landscape fabric or tree roots, you can drill 50 holes in no time. I plant a few inches apart in a more or less random pattern - it looks better to have thick groupings than soldier line-ups or lonely strays. Use a good bulb fertilizer and toss it around and into the holes.

Toss the bulbs into the holes - general rule is, pointy side up. If you forget, look at the bulb; the end with the little strings is the bottom and those are the remains of the root. If you really can't tell, don't worry. Mother Nature knows what she's doing, they'll still grow fine. I planted about 300 in this bed in the front of my house.

Once you've filled the holes (and it's ok to put a few different kinds in a larger hole, like a crocus and a daffodil, they'll bloom at different times), you can use a broom to sweep the soil over the bulbs and gently pat them in. Another brilliant, no bending technique.

Pick a variety of bulbs with different bloom times to extend the bloom season. Today I planted daffodils, crocus, alliums, jonquils, tulips, and hyacinth. You can plant until the ground really freezes, which probably won't be for another month, so if you see a good deal on bulbs, buy 'em and get 'em in the ground.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Zesty Black Bean and Wheat Berry Chili

I cooked some wheat berries yesterday and had them in the frig, so this recipe was a natural choice. To cook wheat berries, rinse them, cover 1 cup with 6 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for an hour 'til tender. Drain, rinse and store in frig or freeze them.

Zesty Wheat Berry-Black Bean Chili

From EatingWell: March/April 2007, EatingWell for a Healthy Heart Cookbook

This rib-sticking chili offers a hearty mix of wheat berries, beans, peppers and onion. Feel free to add an additional chipotle pepper to crank up the heat in this one-pot meal. Cooked wheat berries will keep for up to 1 month in your freezer and there's no need to thaw them; just stir them directly into the chili.

6 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each | Active Time: 25 minutes | Total Time: 1 hour

* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 large yellow onion, chopped
* 1 large yellow bell pepper,chopped
* 5 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 teaspoons chili powder
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
* 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed
* 2 14-ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained ( I used one large can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted diced)
* 1-2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced (see Tip)
* 2 cups vegetable broth
* 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
* 2 cups Cooked Wheat Berries, (recipe follows)
* Juice of 1 lime
* 1 avocado, diced
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, chipotle to taste, broth and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes.
2. Stir in cooked wheat berries and heat through, about 5 minutes more. (If using frozen wheat berries, cook until thoroughly heated.) Remove from the heat. Stir in lime juice. Garnish each bowl with avocado and cilantro.


Per serving : 386 Calories; 11 g Fat; 1 g Sat; 7 g Mono; 61 g Carbohydrates; 14 g Protein; 15 g Fiber; 703 mg Sodium; 311 mg Potassium

3 Carbohydrate Serving

Exchanges: 3 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 very-lean meat, 2 fat
Tips & Notes

* Tip: Canned chipotle peppers (smoked jalapeƱos) in adobo sauce add heat and a smoky flavor. Look for the small cans with other Mexican foods in large supermarkets. Once opened, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.

I used two chipotle peppers, so it was on the spicy side. We'll see how it is tomorrow. Most soups and chilis taste better the second day. It was good, and and I liked the texture the wheatberries brought to the party, but I think a spoonful of sour cream stirred in would add some needed balance. Sadly, I didn't have any on hand. And maybe a can of drained fire roasted green chiles.

Edited to say that I like this a lot more after it's had a chance to sit for a day or two and have the flavors mingle and mellow. Should freeze perfectly - I put a few servings in the freezer for later.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chicken Salad with Orange, Fennel, and Cranberries

I love fennel. Love it raw. Love it cooked. Love the seeds. So it drives me a little crazy when people say they hate it. Especially people that have never actually eaten it. I feed it to my personal chef clients and dinner party clients often, and almost always the response is positive.

It is often mislabeled at the market as 'anise'. They are actually two different plants. Anise is typically only used for it's seeds, while fennel bulbs, fronds, and seeds are all used. Similar flavor profile, but different none the less.

Fennel is one nutritious, delicious vegetable. Crunchy and refreshing raw, and delicious in a totally different way when cooked.

Fresh tarragon also echoes the flavor profile, so it is a natural addition to this chicken salad. I adapted the recipe from one in Cuisine at Home magazine. It's a fantastic magazine with no advertisements.

Chicken Salad with Orange, Fennel, and Cranberries

Yield about 5 cups

1/2 c olive oil mayonnaise
1/4 c Greek Yogurt
2 T fresh orange juice
zest of half an orange
1 cooked rotisserie chicken, cooled slightly, meat removed from carcass and shredded
1 c diced seedless grapes (red for color, but green if that's what you have handy)
1 c fresh fennel bulb, diced
1/4 c slivered almonds, toasted (sub pecans, if desired)
2 T chopped fennel fronds
1 T chopped fresh tarragon
1/4 c orange flavored dried cranberries (I used Trader Joes) (sub dried cherries, if desired)
Mini rolls or butter lettuce leaves for serving

Whisk mayo, yogurt, oj and zest in large bowl. Add chicken, fennel, grapes, tarragon, season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and check seasoning. Add nuts before serving.

Serve in mini-rolls or butter lettuce leaf cups for a light luncheon or appetizer. Or serve in hollowed out orange shells for a fancier presentation (and low-carb).

Keeps in frig up to three days.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Makin' Bacon (Pancetta, actually): Part 1: Rub My Belly

At last week's final farmer's market of the season (there are some winter dates, though - very exciting!), I picked up a piece of pork belly a little bit shy of 6 pounds to make pancetta from Curly Tail Farms.

Other than pink salt, which I ordered from Butcher Packer, and it arrived in a stunningly fast 36 hours, the other items are pretty common. Well maybe not juniper berries, but I did have some from Penzey's on hand.

The pink salt is shockingly, Pink Panther, pink. The garlic came from my stash from the Ithaca Farmers Market, and the fresh thyme right from my garden. I followed the recipe from Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polycn.

So here she is all rubbed up and ready to go into a 2 1/2 gal zip bag into the frig for a week. She'll get rubbed and flipped every other day. Contemplating where to hang for the final cure.....