Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Oven-dried tomatoes

Here's a quick recipe for the end of tomato season: I got armloads of underripe plum tomatoes from the Morningside farmers market, let them ripen up on the windowsill, then slowly dried them in the oven. Like canning for lazy people!They took about 4 days to become sweet and ripe.Sliced them all in half, or quarters, depending on the size...Laid them out cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet and drizzled a little bit of olive oil over the top. Then a bit of salt.These get baked in a 200 degree oven for between 2 to 4 hours. At 2 hours they will still be sort of juicy. After 4 hours they'll be less liquidy and the flavor will be very concentrated. They're basically like making your own sundried tomatoes. If you want them really dried out, try lowering the heat and leaving them in for even longer. Then report back because I want to know how they turn out. These ones were in for 4 hours.I packed them into jars and covered with olive oil to preserve in the fridge. They're good for a week or two like that.Good use of tomato bounty, right? Great for pizza topping or anywhere you just need a little punch of tomato flavor.

New Orleans absinthe

I had the greatest time in New Orleans watching our fantastic bartender at Pirate's Alley Cafe prepare glasses of absinthe--it felt like something out of another century. It made me think of last Thanksgiving when we all had some of Steve's eastern european contraband absinthe, except the process here was more fetishized with its specialized equipment and probably less illegal.She poured the absinthe through the sugar cubes balanced on top...They got a little melty. Then she lit the absinthe-soaked sugar cubes with a match.And let icy, purified water drip through the sugar from this crazy olde timey glass contraption to mix gently with the liquor.It made a groovy, cloudy green mixture in the glass.Best enjoyed by an open window in the best city in the world when you have nowhere to be anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Oatmeal jumble cookies

I decided I needed to bake some of my own after getting an emergency oatmeal cookie at the grocery store last week. I based them on Mark Bittman's basic oatmeal cookie recipe, which allows for about 1 ½ cup or so of tasty extras, like nuts, chocolate, raisins...I wanted these to be jumble cookies, with a little bit of everything good in them. I started by creaming together 1 stick of butter (softened and cut into tablespoon sized chunks) with ½ cup white sugar plus ½ cup brown sugar. Of the brown sugar, I actually used something more like ¼ regular brown sugar combined with ¼ cup of large crystal turbinado, but it doesn't matter too much as long as you get to 1 cup of sugar total and some of it is brown for that nice molasses-y flavor. After the butter and sugars were creamed together, I mixed in 2 eggs, adding them one at a time. In another bowl I combined 1 ½ cup flour with 2 cups rolled oats, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cardamom, a pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons baking powder. Then slowly added the dry oat-flour mixture into the sugar/butter/egg combination. I added about ½ cup milk so it would mix more easily.Also added ½ teaspoon almond extract--I got this bottle as a gift in my Christmas stocking last year!At the same time I got my extras ready, like this wonderful dark bittersweet chocolate. I had something like about 1 ¾ cup total of various add-ins: slivered almonds, chopped pecans, golden raisins, dried cranberries and that delicious chocolate.They all got stirred into the combined batter. Full disclosure: I did not personally stir in all these chunky delights as that would be far too much like work. Instead, I found a pair of willing forearms and enlisted their help.The forearms also volunteered to drop teaspoons of cookie dough on the sheets because apparently cookies are at their most delicious when unbaked and still attached to the spoon. Pop them into an oven that has been preheating at 375 degrees for about 12 - 15 minutes. Let them cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet then transfer to a wire rack for cooling.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Boeuf bourguignon

Everybody who saw the Julia Child movie this past month probably wanted to try to make the boeuf bourguignon that was featured. I haven't even seen the movie yet and I still went ahead and made one, just because I was in the mood from hearing about it constantly. I guess I'm pretty impressionable that way. The New York Times had a good quick version posted last week and I went ahead and made a version of that instead of the amazing but time-consuming Julia Child one. Cheater! But then again, hey, I didn't see the movie. Mine is made in slightly smaller amounts--if you're doing a dinner party, go with the amounts for ingredients listed in the New York Times recipe.Boeuf bourguignon is basically just a delicious beef stew with red wine and mushrooms (yes, that does sound good, keep talking). I started by dicing 1 small onion and sautéing it in my big heavy cast-iron dutch oven together with half a package of bacon, chopped. Cook them until browned, then remove from the pot and set aside.Without cleaning out the pot, add about 1 pound of beef stew meat and brown on all sides. Add in 2 tablespoons flour, stir with beef and let that brown for a minute.Then add in 1 cup of stock--I used chicken but obviously beef would be fine too.Then you add back in your bacon and onions, plus one cup of red wine. I'm a big believer in the whole "don't cook with something you wouldn't drink" school of thought. Also in the "don't cook without drinking, especially if whatever you're cooking would taste better with some of what you're drinking in it."At this point you also need to add in a bouquet garni. This is me giving you advice I did not take myself. A bouquet garni is generally herbs bundled together--fresh parsley, thyme and bay leaf--that you can later fish out and discard after it has seasoned its little heart out sufficiently for your purposes. I did not have fresh thyme. I did not bundle. I just chopped up some parsley and added it in with a bay leaf, which was janky.At this point you just let it simmer gently for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. It cooks itself! So easy. Meanwhile, slice you up a package of mushrooms. Stir them in when you have 30 minutes left in your cooking time. You can serve your delicious stew over any number of different substrates--I actually intended to make a creamy polenta and have it over that but ran out of time and energy. So I went with something like the traditional egg noodles--I used these egg pasta nests and cooked them in a small amount of leftover chicken stock so they would be highly flavored.They looked sort of neat while cooking. I added butter to the stock as well.When the stew is finished, you'll be so stoked about eating because everything will have smelled fragrant and amazing for the last 2 hours.By the way, I did have leftovers and ended up reheating them into a more traditional beef stew--put cut up potatoes and carrot at the bottom of an oven-proof covered dish, added some extra stock, then put the rest of the boeuf bourguignon over the top of that. Let it cook at 350 in the oven for about an hour then stirred in 1/2 cup frozen green peas to cook for another 5 minutes. I also added a tiny drizzle of balsamic vinegar right before serving to perk up the flavor. If it's too saucy, you can reduce it on the stovetop over higher heat, uncovered.