Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fame and Fortune

 
When I started this blog, the idea of doing something so public was (and remains) very exciting.  My ambition knew no bounds…. Not only was I going to help Sylvia and others with kitchen challenges, I was going to be the ‘New Millennium Julia for New Cooks’.  In my fantasy I was not only helping people towards a healthy relationship with food, I was on my way to fame and fun!  I’d go to cooking school!  Manufacturers of fantastic kitchen tools would vie for a mention on New Kitchen Primer.  Then there would be the public speaking dates.  Quit the day job!  Have handlers!  Someone to manage my appointment book!  Oh hell…. Let’s throw in a new wardrobe and makeover too!

In a funny sort of way, some of that stuff did happen.  Alas not the wardrobe and makeover, but that’s so superficial.  This has been an experience with substance.  There have been many ‘hits’ for a blog that was sparsely promoted and, at the end of the day, I have fully enjoyed myself.   I knew that I loved food and photography, but I also discovered that I love to write!  Who knew?!  

So this is it (for now at least).  The blog as it stands will remain accessible (apparently nothing dies in the blog-o-sphere) and I will do my best to finish the index so that if any of you out there want to return for a recipe, ingredient or method tip, whatever you need will be a little easier to find.  No new entries on this one.  If I find myself pining for a public fantasy life, I’ll simply start up again.

Ultimately it was my readers that really made this labor-of-love a not only a pleasure but a very important part of the last three years.

Thanks to all of you and Bon App├ętit!

PS  Thanks to Ken Lax for the kitchen portrait

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Far Flung Correspondent: Hot Tea on a Hot Day



Pardon the  'blog absence'.  What I neglected to tell you when I wrote last is that after California, there was a long planned visit to the UK, and I trotted off to Wales to visit my mother and Cathy (the pastry chef sibling).

It was a beautiful day for a drive, perfect for engaging in a purposeful abandonment of purpose and direction.  The result?  We found ourselves at a lovely little hotel called Tudor Farmhouse, which is tucked inside The Forest of Dean. Not only were we in a historic spot, we were also experiencing a historic hot day, the hottest recorded for an October in 100 years.

As any Englishman or woman will tell you, nothing cools you down like a hot cup of tea. What better time to engage in a quintessential British indulgence, Cream Tea?  "Cream" in this instance means clotted cream, and as my 91-year-old mother will tell you, it's not something that you do everyday, but is entirely survivable. So a nice pot of Earl Grey, scones, jam, butter and clotted cream.  Heaven. What was also 'heavenly' was eating something that is not easily had here in the States (clotted cream has a very short shelf life). Dairy in the UK is a different animal (less processed) from what we experience here in the 'colonies', and the flavor is amazing. The Brits may be discrete in their social habits, but when it comes to cream and butter there simply is no restraint!

All that lovely fat to the brain the got me thinking.  Romans were living in this spot at one time; perhaps it's a sign of long embedded civilization that can produce something so, well, civilized!    

As a postscript, I want to let you know that I am in the process of rethinking New Kitchen Primer.  This is almost the 200th entry and maybe it’s time to ‘shift gears’ (just a little).  Suggestions are more then welcome and please stayed tuned.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ready for Ice Cream

 

Have I ever mentioned my father here? There have been cameo appearances of Marge (my mother), Cathy (the pastry chef sister), Sylvia, Ben and Pip... and the not so occasional mention of my "Family of Choice"-the people with whom I’ve shared not only meals but all the rest.

Alan came over to the ‘States’ from Liverpool in the early 1950’s.  Like most immigrants he was seeking a new life and new adventures.    I’ve shared in some of those times and now that I look back, have an appreciation for the zest with which this gregarious man not only ate his ice cream but savored anything even remotely related to fun.

I’m about to take a small break from Kitchen Primer.  The little guy in glasses is now 80 and it’s off to California to see how he’s doing.  If he still savors his ice cream, I’ll be reassured.  It hasn’t always been easy being Al’s daughter (I know my children would say the same of me), but it’s never been dull and I’d like to think that my inheritance has been knowing how to be a little whacky at times, irreverent throughout and always ready for ice cream.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lychees



At the moment, you could make the argument that New York is tropical.  That’s an over-heated brain talking.  This may be cruel, but remember winter? I usually write about the seasonal and local this time of year, but couldn’t resist these beautiful tropical fruits. After all, Lychee are not local to us, but they are local somewhere (I heard once that there is a world outside of Brooklyn). Also, chinatown has these in stands everywhere so it’s certain that in some spots on the planet Lychee are in season as well. Chances are you will be able to find these plum sized tropical fruits in your own alternate shopping universe.

Intrigued (just a little)?  What do you really need to know?  Just like cherries, Lychee are picked when ripe and do not improve after harvest.  Choose them intact and red to pink in color.  Unlike cherries, they will keep for a couple of weeks.  If you don’t have a cool place in your kitchen, they are best stored loosely in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator.  The pretty pink shell color will turn brown, but the interior fruit will remain juicy and ready to eat.  Splitting the shell carefully with either your fingers or a knife, and carefully peeling it away, pale white flesh will be revealed.  Sweet and pleasantly floral, full of vitamin C and with healthy amount of potassium, lychees will sooth even the most over-heated culinary adventurer.  Don’t eat the seed and don’t worry about winter…. plenty of time for that!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ah… Bings!



Besides choosing firm, fleshy, glossy plump fruit with stalks that are not dried-up, what do you need to know about cherries? There are two types, the sweet, eat-as-is-type that you see in the photo and sour cherries that are used for pies and other delights.  For our purposes let’s stick with the eat-now variety.

Cherries do not improve after being harvested, which means that they are ripe at harvest and fragile, an exemplar of the seasonal.   If you haven’t eaten your cherries already (they don’t last long in this house), refrigerate them loosely in a bag with holes and away from strong smelling foods.  Don’t let them languish there too long.

The cherries in this photo were both labeled as "Bing" at the supermarket.  The dark red is the classic Bing.  My favorite food geek, Harold McGee, writes that the deep red fruits contain more antioxidants, which means that they are very good for you.  The California Cherry site makes all sorts of health claims.  Naturally they have a vested interest in extolling the virtues of cherries, but who can resist believing all of it with such a lovely and delicious fruit?

What you don’t need to know, but what is fun and interesting, is that Bing cherries were named after Ah Bing, a Manchurian Chinese foreman who helped the horticulturist Seth Lewelling in the late 1800’s develop this particular variety. 

Ahhhh…. Bings!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Gazpacho Toledano or Attack of the Killer Tomato!



Here’s a recipe for some killer gazpacho (a chilled tomato soup that is not only delicious but also pure health-in-a-bowl).  This recipe is adapted from The Vegetarian Epicure Book Two, by Anna Thomas.  My copy of this book is so tired that the pages have gone from white to whole wheat.  That said-there’s nothing to tire of regarding this recipe.

This makes 6-8 servings…. enough to send a liquid ‘thank you’ to the farmer across the street.  Keep those tomatoes coming Jerry!

Equipment

  • Chopping stuff (surface, knife)
  • Peeling stuff (a peeler)
  • Measuring stuff (spoons and cups)
  • Two large bowls
  • A blender or food processor

Ingredients


7-8 medium ripe tomatoes (this is a very inexact recipe, so feel free!)
2 medium cucumbers
1 green bell pepper
1 small onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 slices of rustic white bread (not the mushy soft stuff)
1 1/2 cups of cold water
6 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
4-5 Tablespoons of wine vinegar (I usually use red wine or sherry vinegar)
3 teaspoons of salt (or to taste)
2 teaspoons of paprika (paprika comes in hot, mild or smoky- careful with the hot variety)
A pinch of ground cumin
Freshly ground pepper to taste



Method

  • Wash all your vegetables
  • Cut the tomatoes into 4 pieces and put them in the bowl
  • Peel the cucumbers, slice them lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  Cut into inch pieces and put them in the bowl
  • Cut the bell pepper in half and seed it.  Cut into inch-sized pieces and put them in the bowl.
  • Peel and dice the onion and (you’ve got it) put into the bowl
  • Peel the garlic, roughly chop it and put it into the bowl (starting to see a trend?)
  • Cut the bread into cubes and add it to the bowl

Roughly mix up the vegetables and bread in the bowl and put into the blender in batches, adding a little water each time. Blend until it’s pureed (soup).  Add the puree to the second bowl as you go.

When all the vegetables, bread and garlic are pureed and in the second bowl add the oil, vinegar, seasonings and any remaining water.  Add more water if it’s too thick; also adjust the seasonings to your liking.

Chill for a couple of hours before serving.  Serve with some extra chopped vegetables and croutons if you are feeling deluxe!

Summer in a bowl!  Bon Appetite!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Zucchini wars strike Brooklyn! Or: What to do with an unexpected cucumber.


This isn't the country, but that doesn't mean that we don't grow food or raise chickens (evidenced by large bags of chicken feed at Pip's favorite pet store).  I am not ready to write about chickens, but I am ready to write about unexpected cucumbers.  Lucky me! Yesterday on the gate was a bag of locally grown tomatoes, a zucchini and a cucumber.  Very locally grown, in fact.  The contents of the bag were the fruits of my neighbor Jerry’s gardening labor.  Jerry lives on the other side of the street, the side of the street that gets morning sun on the garden.  This accident of directional fate means that his patch of terra firma produces an abundance of what I can't, namely tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini.  I won't be able to engage in zucchini wars by hanging a revenge bag of courgettes on his gate, but I can return the favor with this terrific recipe for Agua Fresca from Oaxaca.  It requires cucumber, pineapple, celery, sugar and lime.  (Follow the imbedded links for ‘how to’s’ regarding pineapple preparation et al.)

Equipment


  • Something to chop with and a place to do it 
  • Blender 
  • Mesh Strainer ( a medium mesh strainer is best for this)
  • Something to squeeze juice out of a lime

    Ingredients

    • 2 cups of chopped pineapple
    • 1 cup of chopped cucumber (after it's been peeled and seeded)
    • 1 cup of chopped celery
    • Lime juice (from one or two limes- your call)
    • Sugar (to taste)
    • Cold water (maybe 1/2 cup, again- entirely up to you, you’re the boss!)

    Method

    • Place chopped pineapple, cucumber and celery (in batches if necessary) in blender.
    • Add cold water to facilitate blending and to make this into a beverage!
    • Add Lime juice and sugar to taste (you can do this... cooking is an inexact art!)  
    • Blend and strain

    Enjoy!

    Now to contemplate the fate of those lovely tomatoes and an equally lovely zucchini.  Not exactly warfare.  In fact, things are pretty neighborly here in Brooklyn!