Beets, more beets, and vegetable confit

Yes I love beets, and I think they are underappreciated, so I’m always looking for more things to do with beets. From Cook’s Illustrated the article on “Turn the Beet Around” has some suggestions: Charred beet salad among some others. If you search Kitchn for beets you get lots of recipes. Some look good, others, maybe not so good. I have found beet hummus in the grocery store (a reputable brand that does do good humus) and, explorer and beet lover than I am, I did try it. It’s good, and should I find it again (it’s since disappeared) I would buy it again, but make it? I don’t think so. Just as I’m unlikely to make pickled beets. However, chocolate beet bundt cake, might just be a possibility. I mean we do eat carrot cake, so why not?

I do have a beet liqueur that I love, too.

However, cold beet soup is still a summer favorite, and easier now that it is possible to buy already cooked beets or frozen sliced beets. I’ve griddled beet slices and the caramelization that takes is a whole new level of flavor from them

Stahlbush Island Farms

My latest discovery of beets is poached beets. Yes, no kidding. I was reading my email from Mark Bittman’s eponymous website just a day or two ago and found an article titled “Charred Olive-Oil-Poached Beets. I don’t know why that struck me as so startling. I didn’t fire up the grill, but I did pitch some of these on my cast-iron griddle and they were really good!

While it may be controversial, I’m familiar with making vegetable confit and even vegan rillettes. After some thought this really didn’t seems so strange–maybe just that beets are underappreciated vegetables. So, beet confit! The recipes I’ve reviewed on vegetable confit suggest that if covered with oil they can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three–yes, 3 months.

This seems like a great way to handle extra veggies when you’re doing single-serving cooking. So, controversial or not, I’ll likely be trying some more vegetable confit when the summer bounty is in the farmers’ market.

A son gôut!

†

From Mark Bittman, Charred Olive-Oil-Poached Beets

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Autumn delight: quinces

Now I really feel as if fall is here!  I found quinces in the market!  You don’t often see them (they appear in late fall (just before frost), but when you find them, you just have to

quinces on tree

from elderflower orchards

do something with them.  One of the things to do with them is to let them sit around in your fruit bowl and simply perfume the room.

Although they are considered by most to be inedible uncooked, they are wonderful to cook with.  Simply poaching them turns them a lovely rosy shade, and makes them absolutely luscious. Or there is membrillo (quince paste) which is lovely with cheese–particularly manchego

Here is a favorite recipe from David Lebovitz.  I’ve included the recipe below, but you really should read the additional information from his blog.

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Poached Quinces

(From David Lebovitz’s living the sweet life in paris)

Quince are not usually raised commercially so you won’t find many picture-perfect specimens. Expect a few bruises and scrapes, but avoid fruits with soft, dark spots. Like pears, quince ripen from the inside out, so later in the season, you might find fruit that’s past its prime when you cut them open. I look for firm quinces and lift them to my nose; if they have a nice fragrance, there’s a good chance they’re good candidates for poaching.

Some recipes advise soaking the peeled quince slices in lemon-tinged water to avoid browning. I’ve never done that, but instead, I simply slip them into the warm poaching liquid and any trace of discoloration soon disappears. Of course, this recipe can be halved, or increased.

7 cups (1.75l) water
1 cup (200g) sugar
1/2 cup (150g) honey
1 lemon (preferably unsprayed), cut in half
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

6 large, or 8 medium, quince

1. Mix the water, sugar, honey, lemon and vanilla bean in a large non-reactive pot and turn it on to medium-to-high heat. You can add any additional spices or seasonings, as indicated above, if you wish.

2. While the liquid is heating, quarter, peel, and remove the cores of the quince. Make sure to removed anything tough for fibrous, being very careful with the knife. (The intrepid can wear one of these.)

3. As you peel and prepare the quince quarters, slip each one into the simmering liquid. Once they’re all done, cover the pot with a round of parchment paper with a walnut-sized hole cut in the center and place it on top.

4. Simmer the quince (do not boil) for at least an hour, until the quince are cooked through.

Cooking time will vary, depending on the quince. They’re done when they are cooked through, which you can verify by piercing one with the tip of a sharp paring knife. It’s not unusual for them to take up to 2 hours, or more.

Serve warm, or at room temperature. To store, pour the quince and their liquid into a storage container and refrigerate for up to one week.

You can also use these poached quince to make my Quince tarte Tatin.

♦♥♦

Thank you, David Lebovitz!  Wonderful recipes on this website.  It’s a go-to for desserts.

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Bouillabaisse–for one or two.

I’ve decided that one of the things that I should always have in my freezer is some good quality frozen fish.I like it packaged in individual servings so that I’m not trying to figure out what to do with the remains of a meal of fish. True, a bit of “leftover” baked, broiled, or even pan-fried fish can be turned into chowder…or tuna or salmon can be “re-purposed” into a salad. However, as much as I like fish, I’m not really into it as a leftover so it’s either get it from the fishmonger/supermarket, or in individual Cryovac packages. I do like variety in my fish so I usually check out the fish counter at my local Harris Teeter or The Fresh Market anytime I’m there–and if lucky, come home with something special like monkfish,  “manager’s special” tuna steaks, or wild-caught salmon. I do bring home the occasional tilapia (though with some thought to the downside of the farm-raised fish).

I love Chilean sea bass but that’s just not in the budget for everyday fish although my freezer does have some that I found at Costco. My favorite standby fish is cod. Firm, tasty white fish that lends itself to cooking in many different ways. Again, my favorite source is Costco.

I’m also fond of reading recipes–if only for inspiration rather than mindless to-the-letter following. Skulking through my inbox today I found an email from Bon Appétit that provided some interesting reading: recipes for cod–an interesting collection that all looked tasty.

One particularly caught my eye was poached cod with tomatoes and saffron–which brought to mind another cool-weather favorite that I don’t make all that often unless I’m making it for friends: bouillabaisse. Looking at this recipe made me wonder why I hadn’t made an effort to make mini-bouillabaisse for myself. It’s really just poached fish in a yummy tomato soup.

Though bouillabaisse typically has lots of different kinds of fish and seafood in it, I could certainly start with a single-serving size piece of cod and add a couple things. My Harris Teeter fishmonger is used to me ordering strange quantities, so probably wouldn’t bat an eye over two shrimp and a scallop–or maybe even a clam or two.

Taking this basic recipe for poached cod, I’d need to add a couple things to recreate the taste of the traditional bouillabaisse: most notably some fennel and pastis (licorice-flavored aperitif).

Mini-bouillabaisse

Ingredients

SERVINGS: 4
  • one 4-5 ounce skinless cod fillet
  • 2-3 shrimp
  • 1-2 scallops, clams, or muscles.
For the poaching liquid (from the Poached Cod with Saffron)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (with juice instead of adding water)
  • ¼ cup dry white wine (keeping this instead of using  fish stock)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Adding for traditional bouillabaisse flavor:

  • scant 1/4 cup diced fennel
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons pastis/Pernod (season to taste)
  • 1/2 medium onion or 1 small leek

Preparation

  • Sauté leek and/or onion in olive oil until softened.
  • Add garlic and sauté until fragrant but not browned.
  • Add tomatoes, wine water, fennel, bay leaves, pepper, and salt and simmer 10 to 15 minutes to let flavors meld. Reduce to a bare simmer.
  • Add cod filet and about 3 minutes later add the shrimp, scallop, clams, or mussels and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes (until the shrimp begin to curl, the scallop is opaque, and clams or mussels open.

If you want to bulk this up for extra hungry people, add cubed potatoes while the soup base is simmering and cook until almost tender; then add fish and continue as above. There is more soup/sauce here than is needed for one serving. Put it in the freezer for the next time you want bouillabaisse for one–you’ll have a quick meal–even if it is only a fish filet without the extra seafood.

A rather traditional accompaniment to bouillabaisse rouille, a garlicky “mayonnaise” to dollop into your bowl but I don’t always make it. Bouillabaisse can be eaten without it.  My favorite is the version by Anthony Bourdain with the roasted red peppers, egg yolk, and lemon, and lots of garlic. My most often-used version of  rouille uses a mayonnaise base as it’s faster and easier (from Saveur). Traditionally this would be made with soaked breadcrumbs or egg yolk and  other ingredients into which olive oil is emulsified–like mayonnaise. The mayonnaise version is easier for single-serving, solo cooking. (If there’s any left over it’s good on a sandwich or with other meat since I don’t use the fish stock in it.)

Rouille (my version)

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic mashed to paste with pinch salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • a squeeze of lemon juice, to taste

Preparation

  • Blend garlic, paprika, saffron to a paste with a few drops of water if necessary.
  • Add to the mayonnaise
  • Add the squeeze of lemon juice to taste, and salt to taste.
  • Thin with a few drops of water if necessary.

 

 

 

More oysters!

oyster-stew-with-trufflesSince my last oyster fest occurred on the same days as the Women’s March, one of my guests couldn’t be here so, since there was a “leftover” truffle, it’s happened again. Fortunately I was able to get more oysters though they seem to be in very short supply around Durham these days.

It was oysters poached in their liquor and black truffle and black pepper cream poured over them just as the edges curl. Immediately popped into warmed bowls. No waiting around for anything–they need to be eaten right away! Fresh briny bites of ocean with earthy black truffle, and just a hint of black pepper piquancy.

The wines  that we had today–since there were three of us–the 2013 vintage of the one we had last time, with a verdicchio (never had it before, but it was recommended by a good wine shop as likely to be good with this dish).

Domaine des Gandines, Macon-Peronne Blanc, Burgundy, 2009 vintage with the last batch of oysters just a couple weeks ago was excellent. Today it was the 2013 vintage was “fresh” and not nearly so complex as the 2009–it certainly wasn’t bad (is it possible to have a “bad” white burgundy?) but I’ll look for an older one to go with the next batch of oyster stew (if it has truffles in it).

385762The Tenuta del Cavaliere, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Marchetti, 2013  was very slightly fizzy and excellent with the oyster stew. It was the unanimous favorite of all of us of the two this evening; however, I think that my favorite so far is an older burgundy that is more complex.

We ended with a sampling of liqueurs from Brothers Vilgalys  and a tiny taste of blueberry/lavender chocolate from Chuao Chocolates. Definitely satisfied and replete!

It seems that I’m lucky enough to have found two oyster eaters who also enjoy conversing about food and wine! The makings of a perfect meal though the search for the perfect wine goes on, and oysters offer so many possibilities. There will be oysters next winter, but who knows how they will be fixed. That’s part of the pleasure–planning and then eating!

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The oysters that I had today put out much more liquid than the last batch, so I have a “leftover” to deal with: cream infused with black truffle and black pepper. I’m thinking potato soup, perhaps? Or…we’ll just see what evolves. It will be good whatever happens. And now the planning starts for next year’s oyster tradition.

 A son gôut!

..

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Winter oyster tradition continues

As I’ve posted before, oysters with special wine are a Christmas and New Year’s tradition in my home. When I finally got it back together from the C. difficile, it was way past prime oyster season. But it is again prime oyster season so my thoughts are turning to oysters and wine. Eating oysters on the half-shell recently at Burger Bach (yes, they “do” excellent burgers, and oysters) really got me thinking about oysters in a very serious way. Even though I’ve not made it for either Christmas eve or New Year’s eve, I still intend to have my winter oysters. I’d arranged to share with two good friends who are also oyster lovers–but we had to reschedule first because of snow and horrendous cold, and then, again, because all the snow and cold left Durham essentially without oysters!

I’ve done some fun things with oysters: oyster and corn chowder, and a in 2013-2014, with black truffle (good friend gave me truffles) and experimented with some wines.  I liked the “surf & turf” combination so well that I’m continuing it this year as well.

I’ve started the hunt for wine for this winter’s oyster feast. So far the wines recommended are:

2011 Pouilly-Fuisse (Gilles Noblet, France)

“Gilles Noblet, Pouilly-Fuisse, Burgundy, France, 2011{sustainable} 100% Chardonnay EXOTIC FRUITS, DRIED CITRUS & WHISP OF VANILLA Thirty year old Chardonnay vines provide the heart and soul of Noblet’s Pouilly Fuissé, right from the village of Fuissé. This area was originally comprised of negociant producers and Gilles Noblet was the first in his region to independently bottle his wine under his own name. This style is racy, rich and elegant with hints of kiwi and pineapple fruits. The finish goes on and on and on… Serving Suggestion: White Burgundy is the home of Chardonnay and this one is extremely versatile. A perfect match for dishes with heavy cream sauces.”  From Wine Authorities.

2013 Macon-Peronne (Gandines, Domaine des, France)

domaine-des-gandines-macon-peronne-burgundy-france-10338034“100% Chardonnay FULL & FLAVORFUL, LEMON, HAZELNUT, CARAMEL. SERIOUS! Gandines really surprised us with this compelling, and serious White Burgundy. Fully ripe and lush, but with juicy acidity and complex minerality. This kind of power usually comes from the big boys north of the Macon in the Cotes de Beaune. Aged in enormous 3000 liter old oak barrels that soften the wine without giving it any oak flavor, it is possibly the most impressive Chardonnay available at this price! Serving Suggestion: Steamed or raw oysters. Black sea bass poached in olive oil with fresh thyme. Roast turkey with truffles or chanterelles.”  From Wine Authorities.

Tenuta del Cavaliere, Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Marchetti, 2013 

385762“Verdicchio is central Italy’s most distinctive white varietal. The mineral-rich soils of the Classico Superiore sector of the Marches’ Castelli di Jesi zone – just a few miles from the Adriatic Sea – imbues the finest Verdicchios with extra complexity and a deeply etched soil signature. A radiant green-gold in the bowl, Marchetti’s Verdicchio shows all the minerally snap pea and smoky white pepper notes that we so love in the very finest Verdicchios. The wine’s smoky mineral expression yields to a fleshy core of pear and melon fruit backed by riveting acidity, a tactile mineral expression, and suggestions of green tea, grapefruit zest and sappy dried herbs. Full bodied yet balanced and elegant, Marchetti’s Verdicchio begs for rich vegetarian recipes and fish steaks. Pair it now and over the coming five years with hearty fare that calls for a bold white wine, like swordfish, fresh albacore tuna, rabbit, zucchini casseroles, white pizzas, and pastas dressed with olive oil, garlic and seasonal vegetables. Impressive Verdicchio! ” Found this one at Hope Valley Bottle Shop.

Finally, the weather is cooperating, and I’ll be eating oysters on Saturday evening. I haven’t yet decided which wine will accompany this round of oyster stew with black truffles!  I keep reading the descriptions of each and just can’t decide, but I do know that three is too many–I have to make a decision.

 

Fig season

ripening fig

Excitement. . . .

Anticipation is one of the good things about seasonal foods. I know some have already had fresh figs this season, but not here yet. I’m anticipating that day when I see that luscious, brownish-reddish fruit, the little drop of nectar at the bottom telling me its ready to eat. It’s like the anticipation of the first asparagus in the spring, or the first home-grown tomato in the heat of the summer. The very first of a seasonal food–even if it’s only a single fig found ready to eat, need to be appreciated without adornment so that the appreciate the season, not the sauce or other accompaniments. Those come later when the figs, asparagus, or tomatoes are more abundant–maybe even a little overwhelming.

The first of the brown turkey figs are starting to ripen now–they are straggling in–the figs are ranging from very tiny to several that have been mostly devoured by birds, to one that was ready for me to eat–but lots of tiny ones that I can look forward to.

Mornings may find me with my latte visiting the fig tree in hopes of a fresh-off-the-tree, warm from the sunshine, figs for breakfast.

There are so many easy things to do with figs:

The anticipation of watching them ripen, hoping that you’ll get them before the birds. . .so many easy and delightful ways to enjoy this luscious fruit during its season.

 

Christmas eve–oysters!

Christmas eve tableI think my Christmas spirit has finally arrived!

I have the Messiah playing on WCPE, the oyster liquor is working its way through the coffee filter.  The sliced black truffles have steeped in warmed heavy cream  for several hours.  The half-and-half is warming. The cava (recommended by Randy at the Wine Authorities for this particular dish) is chilled and waiting to have the cork popped. There is a nice ripe sedge of Chaumes coming to room temperature.  A neighbor is coming to share the meal with me. The serving bowls are in a very low oven so that they will be warm for serving.

Note that this is intended to be a serious meal of oysters–not appetizer, or a light bowl of soup.

Poached Oysters with Black Truffle Cream

Ingredients

For the black truffle cream:

  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 0.7 ounce jar of sliced black truffles, drained and oil reserved
  • grey sea salt, a pinch

For the poached oysters

  • 1-1/2 or 2  pints of select oysters with liquor (strained)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • grey sea salt to taste

AssemblyOysters

  1. A couple of hours before you want to serve this, warm the heavy cream (to about body temperature or just a hair above that). Drain the truffles, add to the warm cream and let stand and steep until ready to poach the oysters–or make the oyster stew if you prefer. (Reserve the oil for another use
  2. After the cava is open, and you’re nibbling on the cheese, warm the half-and-half to a brisk simmer or a very gentle boil, add the oysters and the liquor, remove from the heat and stir very gently. (People must wait on the oysters, not the other way about, so you can really be the center of attention with this one.)
  3. Watch the oysters carefully and as soon as the edges begin to curl very slightly add the reheated truffle cream and stir gently.
  4. Serve immediately with more bubbly, and lots of good bread. (Be sure that your serving bowl are warm when you serve the oysters.

Sorry–no pictures–this dish needs to be eaten immediately!

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I love oysters, and truffles.  The inspiration to combine them for my Christmas Eve tradition came from Le Chef’s Kitchen. I wanted  the flavors to contrast: the earthiness of the truffles and the briny flavor of the oysters so I didn’t think that poaching the oysters in the truffle cream would give me that. As it turned out, adding the truffle cream just as we were ready to eat worked perfectly.  Plump tender briny oysters and the contrast of the truffle cream was fantastic–kind of a “surf and turf” effect.

We had   	Cava, Brut Nature Gran Reserva Cava, Brut Nature Gran Reserva “Coquet” (Mestres, Heretat, Spain) with this.  The cava was excellent–bold enough to stand up to the oysters and truffle flavors, but not quite the perfect combination that I’d hoped for. Both of us though the wine needed–well, we’re not sure just how to say it–I though maybe something a little “darker”, not quite so sharp and “bright”. Maybe I need a still wine with this rather than bubbly, though it’s a classic with oysters.

(We liked the cava;  I’ll certainly buy it again to drink with something else–but obviously I have to continue the search for the perfect wine to accompany this dish. (You do realize that I was very pleased with this combination–and it will definitely be repeated as it’s now on my list of favorites.)

A son goût!