Monday, December 13, 2010

GRAMMIE CONN'S COOKIES




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At my home we cooked and baked and crafted for weeks before December 24, Christmas Eve, that truly magical evening. Since the 1930s, Christian children have left cookies and milk for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.  We certainly did, by the fireplace; at some point my mother found a wooden shoe, probably at a thrift shop or a church rummage sale, so we added a bunch of carrots for the reindeer, too. She told us it was a Norwegian tradition, and I always thought of Heidi high in the mountains nibbling Lintzer cookies and waiting for Santa, just like me.

Of course, cookies are great any time of year, especially if you are a child, and this holiday season brought to mind my Grammie Conn’s cookies.  She made them all year long and always had some stored in a tin, high on the shelf in the pantry. 

Going to Grammie’s house was fun for so many reasons, but there was nothing so exciting as coming through the door and being given the privilege of collecting the kitchen stool and carrying it to the back of the pantry, knowing a cold glass of milk would be waiting on the kitchen table to wash those cookies down with. I would happily help Grammie with all kinds of chores if I was going to be rewarded with cookies and milk.

This cookies smell and taste like thick ginger snaps. It takes two days to complete because of resting time in the refrigerator, but you can easily put together the batter one evening after work, and bake them the next. But they are such a treat and more than worth the effort.



GRAMMIE CONN'S COOKIES



INGREDIENTS

2 cups Flour


2 tsp. Baking Soda


1 tsp. Salt


1 tsp. Cloves


1 tsp. Cinnamon


1 tsp. Ginger


1 Egg, beaten


¼ cup Sweet Butter


1 cup Sugar


¼ cup Molasses




DIRECTIONS


Cream together butter and sugar. Add beaten egg and molasses. Mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix. Chill in refrigerator overnight. The mixture may seem a bit crumbly, but that’s all right. Hand roll chilled dough into walnut sized balls. Roll in sugar (optional, but delicious.) Place on cookie sheet and flatten slightly with spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes. Let cool on cookie racks before packing into your special tin.


These cookies are crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, best served simply with a tall, cold glass of milk. And trust me, they are good anytime of the year!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

CARAMELIZE

 [KEHR-ah-meh-lyz, KAR-ah-meh-lyz] 


To heat sugar until it liquefies and becomes a clear syrup ranging in color from golden to dark brown (from 320° to 350°F on a candy thermometer).

In the proportion of two parts sugar to one part water, melt sugar over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the sugar turns liquid and browns to the degree desired.

Granulated or brown sugar can also be sprinkled on top of food and placed under a heat source, such as a broiler, or cooked on the stovetop, until the sugar melts and caramelizes. 


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Friday, December 3, 2010

RED ONION RELISH



One of my grandmother’s most reliable mantras was, “Simple is elegant.”  That little platitude has served me well over the years; when I get too muddled over anything I always revert to keeping it simple.

Such is the case for my Red Onion Relish. Unlike many relishes, which have an abundance of ingredients and a complex flavor, this caramelized onion recipe is simply composed creating an intense, uncomplicated flavor. This onion condiment enhances everything from burgers, beef or chicken, to grilled vegetables or a sandwich.

The following recipe is for a small batch that can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month. You can double or triple the batch and process in a hot water bath for storage on the pantry shelf or gift giving. Some people prefer red wine vinegar in place of balsamic, so I recommend making two small batches first, to discover which one you prefer and so you can  practice  caramelizing the onions.


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RED ONION RELISH

INGREDIENTS

2 large Red Onions, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 cup firmly packed Brown Sugar

1 cup dry Red Wine

5 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (or ¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar)

1/8 tsp each Salt and White Pepper


DIRECTIONS

Slice onions as thinly as possible. I use my Cuisinart for this step. Combine onions and sugar in a heavy non-stick skillet. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat for about 25 minutes or until onions turn golden and start to caramelize, stirring frequently.

Stir in wine and vinegar. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

Remove jars from canner and ladle relish into jars to within 1/2 inch of the rim. Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes for half-pint jars. Otherwise ladle into small container that can be tightly capped and store up to one month in the refrigerator.

Monday, November 29, 2010

FOOD IS A CELEBRATION

Preserve your recipes, they have historical value.

How boring would food be if it were to become homogenized, if tradition and culture were not infused into our meals?  Preserving your recipes, from the way the food is prepared to the cultural lore of your concoction, in my humble opinion, is ultimately what makes food most pleasurable.

When a meal is prepared, the individual recipes are not only flavored with their origins but have the potential to inspire new memories, create new traditions.









Cook with your family and friends; share the stories of your recipe’s origins, because food is not just for eating, food is a celebration.




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Thursday, November 25, 2010

JANE'S BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

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I have always loved squash. Well, for the sake of honesty -  as a foolish youngster I grew tired of the endless zucchini that thrived in my mother’s garden, but as a more knowledgeable adult I have come to appreciate squash in all her wondrous varieties. It is hard for me to choose a favorite, but two varieties I usually grow in my own garden are Acorn Squash and Butternut Squash.

Both these squashes are of the winter variety and differ from summer squash in that they are harvested when the seeds have matured and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. The hard skin of a winter squash protects the flesh and allows it to be stored longer than summer squash. They can be kept in a cool dark place, like your cellar or pantry, for months. Store on a shelf, or if you are keeping them in a basket or other container, layer newspaper between them so they don’t touch each other. Winter squashes can be baked, steamed or simmered. They are a good source of iron, riboflavin and vitamins A and C.

Acorn squash are known for their sweet golden flesh and unique ribbed shell, which resembles the shape of an acorn. Marie Oster called acorn squash a rock star among super foods in an article she wrote for Yahoo! Green.



Winter Squash
photo from Pixmac


Butternut is an elongated squash with a pear-ish shape and a sweet, nutty taste. It has yellow to orange skin and pulp that becomes a sweet and rich dark orange as the squash ripens. Not only do these two squash taste delicious, they are easy to grow, simple to cook, and last an amazingly long time if properly stored.

Winter Squash can be canned (no pun intended) and acorn and butternut squash are both perfect candidates for the process if you use a pressure cooker. Squashes are low in acid and the process is a bit time consuming, but there really is no need to can them since they can be stored whole without processing in a cool dark pantry or basement for the winter season.

BAKED ACORN or BUTTERNUT SQUASH


To bake either Acorn or Butternut simply cut in half lengthwise – you will need a heavy-duty chef’s knife because of their thick skin and bulk, remove the seeds and strings with your fingers and a spoon.

Place halves on a cookie sheet or in a baking dish cut side up, put a dollop of butter in each cavity, salt and pepper the fleshy parts, cover each half with tin foil. Place in an oven pre-heated to 400 degrees for about an hour, although it could be more or less depending on the size of the squash.

Test for doneness by piercing with a fork (think baked potato) to make sure they are soft all the way through. Remove and serve.



If you would like to entice the children, or you prefer a bit of extra sweetness yourself, you may replace the salt and pepper with either honey or maple syrup (please use the real thing!) Place a spoonful of either into the cavities with the butter. When the squash are cooked through, drizzle some of the melted goodness over the ends (particularly for the Butternut) before serving. 


Squashes also make delicious soups; the Internet is literally stuffed with recipes. Emeril (Bam!) has a wonderful  Squash Soup recipe, but I think my Mom’s Butternut Soup recipe is the best.



JANE'S BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP


INGREDIENTS

2 large Butternut Squash

4 Tablespoons Butter

2 Onions sliced

4 - 5 apples - mix of tart and sweet

Cider

Fresh Nutmeg


DIRECTIONS

Cut Squash in half, remove seed and place face down on a cookie sheet. Bake (@ 400 until soft, cool a little so you can handle.

While squash is cooking, melt 4 Tablespoons butter in stock pot.

Add onions, let simmer while you cut up seed and peel apples, add to the onions in pot. Cook all until tender. Scoop cooked squash from skin and add to mixture. Stir until all is blended and warmed through.

Stir in 2 cups of fresh cider, keep cooking. Salt and pepper to taste.

Put mixture through a Food Mill, or use a food processor to blend soup. If soup is too thick, add cider. If runny, cook down a little.

Add grated fresh nutmeg to taste and serve.

The wonderful thing about this soup recipe is that you can freeze in containers or ziplock baggies for future use. It is certainly one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy it too.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

PICKLED EGGS


This is a dish that is not as popular in the United States as it used to be, and I’m not sure why. There are many variations of pickled egg recipes, but this small batch recipe is quick and easy. There is no sugar added so the eggs remain tart. 

Eat them sooner instead of later, and get creative by adding them to a tossed green, potato, or tuna salad. 

If you like trying foods a little outside the box, this recipe is for you; besides millions of great-grandpas can't be wrong!


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PICKLED EGGS


INGREDIENTS

12 eggs

1/2 cup White Vinegar

1 Cup Water

2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt

2 teaspoons Pickling Spice

1 Onion, sliced

5 Black Peppercorns


DIRECTIONS

Place eggs in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and cook eggs for 5 minutes, remove from heat. Cover and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes longer. Remove from hot water, drain add some cold water, let rest a few minutes, then peel and place the eggs into a 1-quart wide mouth jar.

In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, salt, pickling spice, most of the onion (reserve a couple of slices), and black peppercorns. Bring to a rolling boil. Carefully ladle hot liquid over the eggs in the jar. Place slices of reserved onion on top and seal the jars. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 2 days before serving. Keep refrigerated after opening.

Friday, April 2, 2010

PICKLING SPICE BLEND

If you are going to preserve by pickling you are obviously going to need pickling spices. Pickling spice is most often used for canning pickles, but can also be used for preserving other dishes. You can find plenty of pre-packaged pickling spices in the grocery store, but it is very easy to mix a batch together using the spices already at home on your kitchen shelves.

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The main ingredients in a pickling spice usually consist of a blend of: cinnamon, mustard seed, bay leaves, allspice, dill seed, cloves, ginger, peppercorns, coriander, juniper berries, mace, and cardamom. There are plenty of ways for blending these spices for a variety of flavors. 

Half the fun of preserving and pickling is to develop a recipe that is individual to your tastes. For example, if you prefer a hotter mix you can always add crushed hot peppers.

 Here is the Basic Recipe I use when pickling cucumbers.



PICKLING SPICE


INGREDIENTS

4 Tablespoons Mustard Seed

1 teaspoon ground Ginger

1 Tablespoon whole Allspice

1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

2 teaspoons Coriander Seeds

2 teaspoons Black Peppercorns

1 teaspoon Dill Seed

1 Bay Leaf crumbled

4 whole Cloves

1 Cinnamon Stick (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Combine all ingredients.  If adding Cinnamon Stick, place stick in a plastic bag and crush into small pieces before combining. Makes approximatly 1/4 cup. Stores in an airtight jar or container for 6 months.

 

Friday, March 19, 2010

IT IS TIME TO GET BACK TO SLOW FOOD

What Is Slow Food Anyway?
                                                                                                                                                                    Slow Food is a resistance movement founded in 1986 by Carlo Petrini in response to the opening of a McDonald's in the Piazza di Spagna in Rome.

Now a nonprofit organization, Slow Food counts members in more than 50 countries. Local chapters in the United States often host events such as picnics featuring local foods prepared by chefs, or Slow Food Hudson Valley’s recent support of the No Farms No Food Rally in Albany, New York.

By the way, if you are interested in letting your New York State State Legislators know that you do not want dramatic cuts made to Farm, Food and Farmland Programs click here.

Slow Food is an idea, a way of living and a way of buying food, preparing it, and enjoying the fruits of that labor. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world who link the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.


Preserving and promoting local and traditional food products, along with the culture of their lore and preparation, this is ultimately what makes food pleasurable. A homegrown cook without culinary school training, I love to preserve the flavors of my life in beautiful jars, the way I was taught by my mother and grandmothers. It's a traditional process, it is a part of my heritage, and so in a way it is Slow Food.

 
To read the first chapter of Michael Pollan's book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," which explains where food comes from, check out: http://www.michaelpollan.com/


To find out more about the Slow Food Organization, check out: http://www.slowfoodusa.org/


Slow Food’s Hudson Valley branch can be found here: http://www.slowfoodhv.org/