Monthly Archives: August 2009

Fritters and Farmer’s Market’s

My grandparent’s grew up during the Depression, in a small coal mining town, Republic, PA. My grandfather was a coal miner. He was Sicilian and an amazing cook. He could make the most delicious soup with just a ham hock, cabbage and beans. He never used stock, just plain old tap water. My grandmother would always tell me that his food was “depression day food”. She always feared that there was going to be another great depression, so she bought a farm in New Hampshire. My grandfather had a huge garden “up at the farm”. He grew everything from corn to cabbage. His tomatoes were huge and red and smelled like a tomato! He would bring them home and make my favorite salad of roasted tomato, red onion, olive oil, salt and pepper. That’s it! We would sit and eat a giant bowl of salad using a chunk of Italian bread to sop up all of the juices. Every summer when I see the tomatoes piled high on the tables at  farmer’s market’s, I think of my grandfather.
My grandfather also made the best fritters! He would use cauliflower, corn, broccoli whatever he had in the house. I loved them! I was too young to take advantage of his talent and learn his recipes.
My mother and I love to go to farmer’s market’s together. We love them for a few reasons:
1. Looking at all of the beautiful, organic, local produce ,mounded high on the tables, just picked, and brought to market, makes you healthier right then and there.

2. It is a way to gauge what is “in season”. A great reminder of certain favorite seasonal recipes.

3. It is incredibly inspiring and makes you want to go home and cook!

The corn at the farmer’s market reminded me of my grandfather’s fritters. I decided to try making them for the girls. The girls didn’t like the fritters. Ahhhhhh what is a mother to do? I tell you what! I made the batter a little more interesting and ate them myself! They were so good. The batter is thin and when cooked it is light and slightly crunchy like a tempura. You can make them as spicy as you want. I decided to top mine with fresh avocado and sour cream. OH MY GOD THEY WERE SO GOOD!

A word of caution…I  added more than 2 cups of fresh corn to the batter. I am not sure if that had anything to do with the fact that as they were frying they were popping like crazy! My whole stove, floor, hood, cabinets and arms were covered in grease! Please don’t let that discourage you from trying the recipe! Just be careful and get the kids out of the kitchen.

I tried several different utensils to turn them in the oil. I found for myself the easiest was  a fork. I felt I had more control flipping them than with tongs or a slotted spoon. Now that I think about it I probably should have used a deep dutch oven to fry. Higher sides may have helped keep the stove clean.

Corn Fritters
¼ cup flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp white pepper (you don’t have to add this much)
½ tsp cayenne (optional)
½ cup milk
1 egg
2 cups corn

In a bowl wisk together all dry ingredients. In a separate small bowl or measuring cup blend egg and milk. Wisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until well blended and smooth. Add two cups of fresh corn cut off of the cob.
Heat 1 ½ cups of vegetable oil in small skillet. When hot spoon fritter mixture into oil. You can make them as big or small as you would like. I used about 2 tbsp per fritter. Cook until golden brown on both sides.

Drain on paper towels. Eat!

The Making of My Reuben-Journey of a Beef Brisket

Well, today was the day. The beef brisket, which has been curing in my fridge, was ready to be made into homemade pastrami. I opened the zip lock bag and the sweet smell of the brining liquids filled the kitchen. So far so good. I started to drool.

I have been telling everyone about my piece of meat! Rose’s birthday party was on Saturday. I mentioned what I was undertaking to every guest at her party. They pretended that they were interested, but I could tell they didn’t care. What’s wrong with them! I mean, come on, HOMEMADE PASTRAMI PEOPLE! Every time I mentioned it to my mother (at least twice a day for the past five days) she just laughed or WORSE never paid attention! Nobody was even interested in taking a peek! Rose showed the most excitement out of anyone. She said, “Your putrami is in the fridge? What’s it doing it there mummy? Can I have a popsicle?”

The next step…I rinsed it well under cold water, patted it dry and covered it in crushed mixed peppercorns and whole coriander. Then I went out and started up the grill. I do not have a smoker and pastrami has a slightly smoking flavor. I knew I had to get the smoke in there somehow, so I figured a few minutes on the grill would be all it needed. I was a little worried about the leanness of the meat again. The flames were not shooting up at first, but then it happened, and again I was in heaven.

Look at those flames!
Normally pastrami gets slow roasted in a court bouillon (fancy words for flavored liquid for poaching), but that would take off the coating of spice. I couldn’t even imagine doing that. I could already taste it on my Reuben. I read about wrapping the meat in tin foil, putting into a roaster with a small amount of water and then slow roasting it for three hours. I decided to give it a try. I got it all wrapped up and into a 200 ° oven. I had a few hours to kill so I decided to take the girls to the park and then headed to the bakery for a loaf of Rye bread.

I love Clear Flour Bakery. My mother and I are addicted to their Pain de mei loaf. I had a choice between two different Rye breads, a heavy dark German Rye or their Deli Rye. Of course I had to mention my homemade pastrami to the man behind the counter and FINALLY some excitement. He used to run Star Deli in Brookline. He highly recommended the Deli Rye. He said the German Rye would over power the pastrami. Sounded logical, so I took a loaf of the Deli Rye.
I was almost ready for my feast. I just needed to get a couple more ingredients ready…Russian dressing and sauerkraut. I thought about making my own sauerkraut but it takes almost two weeks to pickle. Plus the thought of having cabbage bubbling away on my counter grosses me out. I decided to just buy it at the supermarket. I made up my own Russian dressing recipe which came out pretty damn good.
The time had come and the pastrami was ready to come out of the oven. The smell inside the house was amazing. I sliced it as thinly as I could. It was like “butta”. I drove a few pieces over to my parents. My pastrami finally got their attention! Of course, they weren’t even going to be around to have a Reuben. They had been invited over to friends to enjoy BLT sandwiches with fresh out of the garden tomatoes. Mmmmm that sounds good too! Oh well their loss!
I assembled the sandwiches and put them on our griddle. When the Emmenthaler started dripping down the sides of the bread, they were done! They were amazing. I never compliment my food. I have lower self esteem than a slug. I am never pleased with my results. This time I really got it right. I don’t think I would change anything! My Reuben was everything I have dreamed about for the past five days! I finished every last bite and had a big glass of icy cold coke! What more could a person want. I even got a compliment from Big Daddy!

Here’s the recipe if you want to try it for yourselves:
2 ¼ lbs Beef Brisket
8 cups Water
2 Tbsp. Mixed Peppercorns
1 Tsp. Crushed Red Pepper
4 cloves of Garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
¼ Tsp Cinnamon
2 Tsp Pink Salt (curing salt)

Bring all ingredients EXCEPT brisket to a boil. Chill in fridge until cold. Put brisket in a large zip lock bag and pour in brining liquid. Close zip lock releasing any air from inside. Refrigerate for five days. Turn bag at least once a day to make sure all sides of meat are being touched by liquid.

Russian Dressing

½ cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp ketchup
2 Tbsp sweet relish
Dash of Worcestershire Sauce

Mix all ingredients together in bowl.

Hot Pastrami Sandwich On My Mind

I have a picture of a Pastrami sandwich covered in sauerkraut and melted Swiss cheese burned into my brain. I am dying for one! I could just run to a local deli and order one, but after ingesting the grease laden, overly salted, and on stale bread sandwich, my stomach will be calling for Pepto Bismo! I have been cooking at home so much lately that no matter what restaurant or sandwich shop I go to it just does not taste good. It tastes old. It is almost always too salty and the taste of whatever I have ordered lingers far longer than it should. The food is just is not fresh! Let’s face it, as my mother calls it, it is “restaurant food.” I can’t even enjoy my usually takeout pizza anymore. The dough taste like the card board box it is delivered in and it is always so salty that I am up throughout the night drinking water!

I have been reading a lot about brining lately. I really want to try making the pastrami myself. So, I went out yesterday in search of a well marbled piece of beef brisket. Unfortunately none of the pieces that I looked at were as well marbled as I would have liked. Leaner cuts of meat seem to be taking over the butcher’s counter. It has gotten so crazy that I feel like I have to grind my own hamburger to ensure enough fat for a really tasty, juice burger! Back to the brisket, we’ll have to wait to see how it turns out. Hopefully it will not turn out too dry. If it does I might have to try a different cut of meat. I plan on making this my new mission in the kitchen. I am going to become a charcuterie queen!

I got up this morning ready to make the brine which this yummy piece of meat will sit for 5 days. The question is will I be able to wait??? As the brine came to a slow simmer on the stove, I was worried that I did not put enough peppercorns and whole coriander in to the pot. A few minutes later everyone in the house started coughing and Rose complained about her eyes watering. I knew I was off to a great start! After simmering the brine for a couple of minutes I put it into the fridge to cool down.
The brine is cold and the meat is ready for it’s vacation.
I’ll keep you posted!

Ginger Snaps with a Twist (of lemon!)

Many years back a friend of a friend came to work for us at Cremaldi’s. Her name was Amanda. She was from Tennessee. She was always saying something to make me laugh. At the time we also had a Chinese woman named Yu working with us in the kitchen. She was in the US with her husband who was studying at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Between Yu’s poor English and Amanda’s southern accent it was like a TV sitcom in the kitchen. One day I asked Amanda, “has Yu made the Bolognese Sauce?” Amanda turned around and in her thick southern accent said, “hooney I haven’t made anythang.” One day, Amanda brought a box of Carr’s Lemon Ginger Cookies to work. I was hooked! I am a huge fan of Ginger Snaps and Carr’s version with lemon cream is just irresistible. The habit is not cheap! When I saw this recipe for Ginger Sandwich Cookies in Nick Malgieri’s book, The Modern Baker, I had to give it a try. I have to say it’s delicious. The cookies have enough of a ginger bite and resemble the taste and crunch of a store bought Ginger Snap. They stand on their own pretty well (I couldn’t wait until the lemon cream was finished!) The finished product is heaven!

Here we go…

1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 unsulfered molasses

Preheat oven 350

In a bowl wisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, and salt.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment (or bowl with hand mixer) beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until incorporated. (Don’t forget the salt! I did on my first batch and the cookies were thinner than a piece of salami!)

Drop tablespoons of the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, 3 inches apart. I used a small ice cream scoop (#00)

Let cool slightly, then transfer the parchment paper to racks and let the cookies cool completely.

Make the filling:
6 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the lemon juice.

Arrange cookies in pairs. Spoon or pipe 1 tablespoon of the lemon filling onto half of the cookies. Sandwich with the remaining cookies.

Make a cup of tea…sit back…savor!

Sweet Potato Salad

Sweet Potato Salad is such a great summer side dish or buffet salad. Not to mention how outrageously yummy this recipe is! I am pairing it with a couple of big fat steaks tonight! It tastes better as it sits, so if you need to make a potluck dish ahead of time this salad is a great choice. Here it goes…get your pen and paper out…these are some of the ingredients you will need:

4 small sweet potatoes or yams, boiled until tender, peeled and cut into chunks

(I used garnet yams)
2 poblano peppers, charred, seeded and sliced
(these give the salad a little bite if you don’t want spice you can substitute with regular green or red peppers)
2 Scallions, sliced

I char my peppers right on the burner of my gas stove top. If you do not have a gas stove you can char them on a grill or under a broiler. Once they are nice and black and tender then you want to put them inside something to steam (a paper bag or a bowl covered with a dish)
In the mean time get your sweet potatoes boiling…you want to boil until a knife can pierce without tension, be careful because you do not want them to be too mushy

Once the potatoes are cooked remove and let cool until they are comfortable for you to handle. They need to be peeled.

Then cut in chunks…

Mmmmmm…I’m starting to drool. Now you have to peel and slice the poblano peppers. Don’t forget never rub your eyes after touching the seeds!

Somebody remind me to have a manicure before taking pictures! Not bad for a one handed picture!

Leave some of the black bits on the pepper and NEVER rinse your peppers under water!!!!!! If you do all of the wonderful smoky flavor goes down the drain!

Now you have to slice your scallions. I didn’t have any scallions so I decided that the vidalia onion that has been sitting on my counter would taste really yummy as a substitution. I think red onion would also taste and look great!

Now for the rest of the recipe…

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
fresh ground black pepper
(I never add salt! You can always add salt but you can’t take it away!)
Wisk everything together in a bowl…

Pour over the sweet potatoes, poblanos and onion…Stir very carefully you don’t want to break everything up…Oh my how fantastic does this look!


Finding Fondant!

So, there I am with 48 Petite Fours and no fondant icing. My supplier of fondant powder went out of business. I left the corn syrup out of my homemade fondant and had to throw it away and it was definitely too late to mail order. I quickly searched the Internet praying to find a new local source. I was in luck! One popped up! Lorraine’s Cake and Candy Supply in Hanover, MA

The only problem, Hanover is 40 miles south of Cambridge, heading towards Cape Cod, on a Thursday afternoon, in the summer time! A recipe for disaster, but I wasn’t giving up! By golly my dad was getting his Petite Fours! I dropped the girls off with my mother and got truckin’. I was in bumper to bumper traffic from the minute I got into the car. When I turned off of the main road towards the shop I was a little leery that I may have taken a wrong turn. Suddenly there it was and things were looking up.

Lorraine was so nice! She has owned the shop for over 30 years. She runs it with her daughter, who she hopes will take over some day. We talked about how cake supply shops are a dying breed. The generation that owned most of them have either retired or have passed away. Between the Internet and the lack of interest in cake decorating by the young generation, shops like Lorraine’s are becoming extinct. She has noticed that shows like Ace of Cakes and The Cake Boss are beginning to bring cake decorating back to life. As a result, her classes are filled with eager students from all over the state, some as far as 60 miles. Lorraine will be posting her fall classes soon so check out her website and GET BAKING!

Thank you Lorraine you saved my life and my dad’s Petite Fours!