Cloudy Apple Juice

What you will need:

  • a stock pot
  • a lot of apples
  • a jelly bag, muslin, or a pillow case
  • a funnel
  • bottles

Ingredients:

  • apples
  • maybe a little bit of sugar, but probably not
  • other flavorings as desired: ginger, cinnamon, etc.

cloudy apple juiceIn light of the apple harvest, I thought I might make some apple juice for Tambo’s lunchbox. In the interest of not making life too difficult for myself, I decided to make straight-to-the-fridge apple juice, so that I wouldn’t have to bust my hump sterilizing jars and whatnot. A stock pot’s worth of apples made about 4 liters of juice, which I anticipate we will drink pretty quickly, hence the no-fuss methodology.

Like a fool, I didn’t weigh the apples I used for this, though chopped they filled a large stock pot. I didn’t bother peeling them–just chopped off the tops and bottoms, quartered them, and in they went. I added enough water to cover 3/4 of them, and let this burble away for about 45 minutes, then came at it with a potato masher. Once you’ve got a nice amount of wet pulp comes the fun/arduous part, depending on what sort of person you are, since it has to be strained through a jelly bag, helped along by you squeezing. Sterilize the jelly bag by pouring boiling water through it first; if you don’t have a jelly bag a bit of muslin or a pillowcase, even, will do, though you have to find a way to rig it up (my jelly bag has ready-made loops, through which I stick large wooden spoons, suspending it over a pot via the use of carefully-placed chairs). Alternatively, you could sit it in a strainer over a pot, I suppose, and let it drip and squeeze.

apple juice

So through the jelly bag went the pulp. I let it drip on its own while I did other things, but had to return to it to squeeze. This was like milking something. I squeezed and squeezed until I could get as much juice as I could out of the pulp, and was left with a beautiful, thick, cloudy liquid, which I returned to the first pot to heat while I added a really minimal amount of sugar to it (whether or not you need to add sugar will depend on what kind of apples you use, or what type of taste buds you have. For my 4 liters of juice, I only added about 3/4 of a cup of sugar. The usual admonitions apply: add a tiny bit of sugar, taste; tiny bit more; taste, etc. One can always add but not subtract, my friends.) While heating it you could add other things to it, maybe some slices of fresh ginger, or a bit of cinnamon–this batch was pure as the driven apple, though.

Out came the funnel, and into the bottles went the still-warm juice. I used bottles that I’ve had lying around, nothing fancy or new. If you were preserving this juice, all scrupulosity would apply, and new lids would have to be purchased, bottles sterilized, heat treatment, etc etc. Our fridge juice though, Bob’s your uncle.

Nigvziani Badrijani

eggplant

One night when Meg first got here, she cooked Tambo and I a big Georgian meal, the precursor to which was Nigvziani Badrijani (ბადრიჯანი ნიგვზით). She warned us that if we tried to eat too many we’d feel uncomfortably stuffed, but Tambo ignored her, had five, and was uncomfortably stuffed. He doesn’t mind though.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 eggplants/aubergines
  • A little bit of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups ground walnuts (get out the mortar and pestle, or the food processor if you’re modern)
  • 1 cup finely chopped cilantro/coriander
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed (use mortar and pestle again, or garlic crusher if fancy)
  • A few tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • salt to tasteFirst, slice the eggplants lengthwise thinly; about 1/8 inch (3mm) thin. Fry thes slices in some olive oil (be generous with the oil, they’ll soak up a lot) until brown and set aside to cool.Next, mix walnut, cilantro (coriander leaf) and garlic with enough mayonnaise to bind it.

    Then, roll eggplant slices with a layer of filling shmeared within. Serve to party guests, issuing the standard warning that they are as filling as they are delicious.

    A few days later, with lots of eggplant and walnuts left over, we made a salad version of this. Sautée roughly-chopped eggplant and allow to cool. Then mix as above with remaining ingredients.

Apple and Rose Hip Jelly

rose hip jelly When I was young we used to go to the beach in Long Island, and towards the end of summer you’d see people in the dunes among the beach roses, gathering their hips (the roses’, not the people’s). Somehow I came to understand—I’m not sure how— that they were gathering the hips to make jam, and spent many years myself wanting to collect rose hips and do the same. When we lived in Leith there was an enormous abundance of them growing along the river path—unfortunately, the largest bunch, with big, inviting bushels of hips like tomatoes asking to be picked—were at a part of the path that we called dog sh*t alley, just far enough in from the road that the lazy (and the lazy are always the ones with the biggest dogs, it seems), would allow their dogs the morning newspaper-read among the roses. Needless to say, I had no desire to make jam out of anything there.

Here, however, we have an enormous abundance of the same sort of roses that the beach people collected in Long Island, called rosa rugosa, known in Britain as the Japanese rose. After they bloom they come out in big, ripe rose hips. Considering our new preserving hobby, I thought I’d try to make something with them.

Ingredients:

  • apples, 2 lbs
  • rose hips, a quart
  • water, enough to cover the fruit in the pan
  • sugar—sorry to do this to you—to taste (at least a few cups worth; common preserves wisdom is a pound of sugar for every pint of pulp/liquid, though you may, like me, prefer less)
  • something for color if you’d like; I used a few blackcurrants.

Equipment:

  • heavy-bottomed pot
  • cookie sheet
  • tongs
  • wooden spoon
  • jelly bag
  • jam jars
  • funnel

This makes about 3 jam jars worth of jelly.

 Olive-inspects-the-harvestI picked some of the hips (here is the inspector inspecting them) and some of the riper-looking apples that we have now hanging on the trees. I cut off the rose hips’ stems and the bit where the hip had been, at one point, connected to a flower, then cut them in half and, since I have a perfect tiny little spoon, scooped out their hairy, seedy insides so that I didn’t have to deal with them at some later point. I warn you; this is not fun— they have a lot of hairy little seeds in them.

rose hipsInto the pan went the rose hips and the apples, which I cut up fairly roughly, including their cores, which hold the magical pectin (which makes these things set). Also into the pot went four solitary blackcurrants to make a pink color. You could experiment a bit with this, or, if you don’t have any other fruit around that you think might make for a nice bit of color, just submit to the pale, but still pretty, color of apples and rose hips on their own.

 

After the fruit in the pan had cooked down, maybe 25 minutes to a half hour, I strained it through a jelly bag (which I had first poured hot water through, to sterlize) suspended above a large bowl, and left it to sit for a few hours until all of the liquid had dripped through. You are warned not to squeeze the jelly bag, much as you might want to, since it will make the resultant jelly cloudy. Just let it drip and go about your business. For a large batch this might take 12 hours. So go get some sleep already.

After you are confident that you’ve gotten all that you could get out of the jelly bag, return the liquid to the pan cook down. This might take a little while. Add sugar to taste.* As the liquid starts to really reduce, you will get something that looks like nascent jelly—really viscous. Keep an eagle eye and keep stirring until it looks pretty thick, and then pour it into sterlized jars*. Screw on the lids and allow to cool. When you return, you will have perfectly jelled pots of jelly.

If you’d like more information on the technical aspects of preserving, there are lots of resources for you—here you’ll find the handy list of resources at Canning Across America, and here you’ll find the USDA’s advice on home preserving. Take heart, it is easier than it seems at first glance. Please email with any questions or suggestions. If the preserving bit seems like too much for you, you can always make jam/jelly and put it straight into the refrigerator for your immediate use, and dispense with all the extra fuss and equipment.

Gazpacho

The newest member of my family is a cherry-red blender. In order to justify its purchase, I’ve been blending things at a monstrous clip.

Last year I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Spain, and while I was there, I bought a liter of store-bought gazpacho nearly every day. Since I’ve bagged Spain for Queens, I knew I had to make provision for my own supply.

I bought some tomatoes the other day to feed my beautiful new little friend. For the second time in a few months, the first being when Chris Engel came to visit with a bakewell tart and the F train nearly turned his cream into butter, the IND (the B train, to be precise) had a hand in our food preparation. Heroically I threw myself onto the train as the doors were closing (I have a long commute). The doors closed on me and my tomatoes. Ha ha, joke’s on you, B train, I thought, I’m making gazpacho. Squish all you want, you’re not as good as my little red blender.

For gazpacho you’ll need (this made about a quart and a half):

  • 6 tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1/4 large red onion
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or to taste
  • A lashing or two of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup or so breadcrumbs
  • Salt to taste

Start by boiling some water and submerging the tomatoes in them for a minute to make them easier to peel. Once they’ve cooled marvel at how their skin bags off like they were molting. Remove the seeds and deposit the tomatoes in the blender. Chop the cucumber and onion roughly and add to the blender with grated garlic, vinegar, oil, breadcrumbs, and some salt. Blend. Adjust seasoning.  Serve in a little bowl or do what I do, drink it out of a glass like you have no time for spoons.  This made enough for a little snack for four.

Vegetarian Lasagna – soybeans, tomatoes, cheese and spices

Serving 4 persons

Ingredients:
Lasagna Pasta, lasagna and I used pre-cooked “no boil lasagna” and must not boil, just soak it in warm water

  • 3 plum tomatoes – good and red madurito
  • 2 cups cooked soybeans
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese – ralladito
  • Sprig of fresh cilantro
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • 1 / 4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste (I used sea salt)

Soybeans : Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dried soy beans – from the smallest
  • 2 cups vegetable stock – use two cubes of vegetable concentrates
  • 1 cup tomato puree – or replaced with spicy Italian sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Sofrito – 2 tablespoons
  • bell pepper – diced 1 large
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves
  • Salt to taste or 1 / 2 teaspoon adobo

Procedure:

Soybeans

In a pan fry in olive oil, the sauce, onion and garlic and then add the broth with soy and simmer for 10 minutes to absorb the dried bean soup while you add the tomato sauce, marinade, the cilantro and peppers. Let simmer 15 minutes stirring. Once cooked the stew, turn off heat and add the basil leaves for flavor with the remaining vapor.

Pasta

The paste is used as pre-cooked pasta but you can use a regular lasagna. I put just a little soak in warm salt water and was ready to put in layers. If you use a regular, follow the process of boiling it longer. Use a square pan and wet with a little olive oil on the bottom. Then put a layer of lasagna pasta around the mold first vertically and then horizontally. Now place a flat soy cheese then mozzarella, parmesan, pasta and another up at the top end with lots of cheese, tomatoes, a little olive oil, parsley and pepper. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes covered with foil and then 8 minutes without cover to brown the cheese.

 

Yellow Zucchini Pizza with tomatoes on whole wheat crust

Ingredients: Filling:

• 4 ripe plum tomatoes

• 1 chopped green pepper

• 3 green onions

• 1 / 2 red onion

• 3 yellow squash

• Olive oil – 4 tbsp

• Sprig of fresh basil

• 3 cloves garlic

• 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

• 1 cup mozzarella cheese

• pinch of pepper

• salt to taste

Mass:

Wheat crust pizza “pizza dough”

Ingredients:

• 5 1 / 2 cup whole wheat flour (the more natural it gets)

• 3 teaspoons brown sugar

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 1 package dry yeast in polka “dry yeast”

• 1 / 2 cup milk

• 1 / 4 cup butter

• 1 1 / 2 cup warm water

Procedure:

To mix the dough, I used the bread maker “bread machine” but dough cycle. The mixing machine faster and better. You do not need the machine to make pizza dough. Can join the hand, then knead it, though it requires more time and effort.

Step 1 – In a bowl place the flour with salt, sugar and yeast.

Step 2 – In another bowl place the water, milk and butter and heat just a little. Then pour it with flour.

Step 3 – Mix the dough and make a ball as shown. To knead, you should sprinkle dry flour on the table where it will make the whole process. The dough should be very compact, as it is comprehensive and takes longer than processed white flour.

Step 4 – I used a wooden rolling pin to thin it more. (See illustration). Then flatten with a rolling pin, put it on a large pizza pan with your hands stretched uniformemente.debe I look good thin. So it is dough.

Step 5 – Proceed to first pour the olive oil with crushed garlic in the bottom and then all the other ingredients.

Step 6 – Add the tomatoes, zucchini, red onion, scallions, peppers and the pizza must end with mozzarella and parmesan cheese. The fresh basil leaves and pepper on top is the ultimate.

Step 7 – Place for 25 minutes at 375 º in oven

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Oven baked spanish tortilla

I  am crazy for tapas, and I have purchased many a cookbook filled with tapas recipes.  One of my favorites is Tapas: Traditional and Contemporary Tapas Dishes, published by Parragon Books.  (Available here from amazon.com).

One of my favorite tapa is the Spanish-style tortilla.  For those not familiar with the Spanish tortilla, it has little in common with its Mexican brother.  The Spanish tortilla is more akin to a frittata or an omelet, but also includes thinly sliced potatoes.

The classic Spanish tortilla requires some serious knife skills or a mandolin, but this oven-baked approach below is pretty fast, easy, and absolutely delicious.  I have made this for several parties, and it always disappears in a flash.   The recipe below reflects any modifications I have made and suggestions I’ve picked up after making the dish a couple of times.

Ingredients
Olive oil
1 lg. garlic clove (crushed) [TIP: You can use chopped garlic from jar to save time]
4 scallions, white & green parts (finely chopped)
1 green or yellow bell pepper (seeded & finely diced)
1 red bell pepper (seeded & finely diced)
6 oz. potato (boiled, peeled, and diced) [TIP: You can use 6 oz. of canned potatoes)
5 lg. eggs
½ c. sour cream
6 oz. grated Spanish Roncal, Cheddar, or Parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp. snipped fresh chives
Salt and pepper (to taste)
(TIP: Throw the vegetables to be chopped in a food processor to cut down on prep time).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a 7 x 10 inch baking pan with foil, and brush with olive oil or spray with cooking spray.  Set pan aside.

 

 

Prep all items to be chopped or seeded (using a food processor or other tips above to cut down on prep time).

Place approximately 1 Tbsp. olive oil, garlic, scallions, and bell peppers in a skillet, and cook over medium heat, stirring, for approximately 10 minutes, or until the scallions are softened but not browned.  Let this mixture cool, and then stir in the potatoes.  Set aside.

 

In a separate large bowl, beat the eggs, sour cream, cheese, and chives together.  Stir in the cooled vegetable mixture into the bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper.  (Warning: If you use Parmesan cheese, the mixture tends to be saltier than with the other cheeses, so use salt sparingly).
Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish, and smooth around until even.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown, puffed, and set in the center. (TIP: You can test by sticking a toothpick in the center of the tortilla.  If it the mixture is golden brown and the toothpick comes out clean, the tortilla is done).
Remove dish from the oven and let tortilla cool and set.  Once cool, run a spatula around the edge of the dish, then invert onto a cutting board with the browned side up and peel off the foil.  If the surface looks a little runny, place it under a medium broiler to dry out.

Let the tortilla cool completely.  Trim the edges, if necessary, and then cut into 48 squares.  Serve on a platter with wooden toothpicks.

 

Sauteed chicken breasts with fennel

We get biweekly vegetable delivery from Farmhouse Delivery.  In a recent delivery, we received fresh fennel, so I tracked down a recipe I had previously tried.  The recipe I used was from Food & Wine via Cooking.com .  The description below is the recipe with the modifications I used:

Ingredients
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lg. fennel bulb (chopped into ½ inch slices)
2 tsp. dried thyme (Note: recipe calls for rosemary, but I used thyme.  Either is delicious).
½ tsp. salt
½ c. chicken broth
1 1/3 lg. chicken breasts (approx. 4-5 breasts)
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 cloves garlic (approx. 1 tsp.)

Heat 1 Tbsp. of  olive oil over medium heat.  Add chopped fennel and 1 tsp. of thyme and ¼ tsp. of salt.  Cook the fennel, stirring frequently until the fennel is golden brown (approx. 12 minutes).

Add chicken broth and bring to boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the fennel is tender (approx. 3 minutes).  Remove the fennel and cooking liquid from the pan.

Wipe out the pan and heat  remaining 1 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat.  Season chicken with the remaining ¼ tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper. (I used a bit of extra black pepper here, but it’s completely a personal preference).  Add chicken and 1 tsp. of thyme to pan.

Cook chicken until brown.
(I’ve made this recipe twice now, and this is the point where I find the recipe a bit off.  The recipe says browning the chicken will take about 5 minutes, but both times I’ve tried this recipe, I’ve found this step to take 10-12 minutes).

Turn the chicken, and cook until almost done.  (Again, the recipe says this step will take about 3 minutes, but it has taken 7-9 minutes both times I’ve made it).  Add garlic and cook, stirring for approximately 30 seconds.

Add the fennel and liquid, along with 1/8 tsp. pepper.

Bring to a simmer.  Cover pan and remove from heat.  Let steam for 5 minutes.  (I omitted the parsley).

This is what the final result looks like.

I served it with risotto, but it’s also great with mashed potatoes.

Easy tortilla soup

When the weather starts getting even remotely chilly in Austin, I get the urge to put together a cozy pot of soup.  Tortilla soup is one of my favorite Tex-Mex options when the summer starts to give way to lower temperatures.  Although I have some great recipes for totally from-scratch tortilla soup (involving boiling the chicken, making your own broth, and the like), sometimes, work, school, or life in general calls for a quicker option for the evening meal.  After some tweaking and experimenting, I have come up with the following recipe for quick, tasty, after-work tortilla soup that will fool everyone into thinking you have been slaving for hours.

Ingredients
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped (optional–omit if you prefer less spicy)
1.25 lbs. of chicken breast, cubed
1 10 oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
10 oz. of your favorite salsa
1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained
1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 cups water
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
Grated cheese (as desired)
1 avocado
Crushed tortilla chips (as desired)

Method
Warm olive oil over medium heat in large soup pot or dutch oven. Add garlic and onions. Cook until onions are tender and translucent. Add peppers. Cook 1-2 more minutes.

 

Add cubed chicken breast.

 

Cook until just done on exterior (no pink still visible), or approximately 5 minutes.

Add beans and tomatoes. Add salsa. (TIP: Use the can that held the diced tomatoes for an easy 10 oz. reference). Add broth, water, and all dry seasonings.

 

Add lime juice and 1/4 bunch of cilantro.  Cook over medium heat for approximately 45 minutes. Chicken should easily shred when the soup is ready.

For garnish, sprinkle grated cheese, crushed tortilla chips, remaining fresh cilantro, or chunks of avocado on top of individual bowls.

 

For even less after-work time: Throw all of the above ingredients, other than the garnishes into a Crock Pot or slow cooker on low, and let the soup simmer all day.

To cut a few calories: Use not only reduced-sodium broth, but also reduced-sodium beans, reduced-fat cheese, and baked tortilla chips.