Sunday, October 28, 2018

Butternut Squash And Pear Soup.

I have the perfect soup for this weather -
butternut squash and pear.
Both are in season.
For the squash, I go no farther than my backyard.
I have volunteer butternuts from last year's seeds
I tossed out onto my beds.
And volunteers are the best.
Natural selection and all that.
The pears I chose were Bartletts.
Naturally selected from the produce aisle at Food Lion.

Here's how to make it:
Butternut Squash and Pear Soup
1 butternut squash, baked and meat scooped out
2 pears, cored, peeled, and chopped
2-3 TB unsalted butter
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 cups vegetable stock

Optional accoutrements:
toasted walnuts
crystallized ginger
chives and chive flower
chopped pear
crème fraîche

To bake the squash, slice in half, oil both halves,
and bake, cutside down, at 400°, until tender, about one hour.
Let cool.
Remove seeds and stringy stuff.
Scoop out flesh.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter over medium heat until foamy.
Add in onion, carrot, and celery
and sauté 3-4 minutes, until soft.
Add in squash, stirring.
Slowly add in stock.
Heat to simmer.
Cook 10-15 minutes.
Add in chopped pears and heat through.
Purée with immersion blender.
 Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

You could use a regular blender to purée with,
just do it in batches so you won't be wiping off the ceiling.

To serve, ladle into bowls and try some of the optional toppings.
Toasted walnuts would be nice.
If you want a spicy zing, try some minced crystallized ginger.
Chopped scallions or chives add a nice touch also.
And for that extra pizzazz,
go with a crème fraîche design on top.

And what is crème fraîche, you ask?
Crème fraîche is sour cream's uptown cousin.
And you can easily make it.

 Créme Fraîche
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 TB buttermilk
1 tsp lemon juice
Combine all in a small bowl,
cover, and leave at room temperature overnight.
The next day, it will be nice and thick and ready to use.
Cover and refrigerate.

Now, for the step-by-steps:
Let the butter foam over medium heat.
Then add in the carrots and celery and onions.

Poke around for a while.

Add in the cooked butternut squash.

Pour in the vegetable stock and let it merrily simmer.

For a hint of sweetness, add in chopped pears.

Heat through.

Go marvel at a gulf fritillary butterfly on a purple zinnia.

Oh, where was I?
When the pears cook down a bit...

... and everything is nice and tender...

... have a go at it with an immersion blender.

Keep on keepin' on.

Until you have a nice, smooth purée.
Season to taste.

Ladle into bowls
and work your design magic with the crème fraîche.
I put the crème fraîche in a squirt bottle and started squirting.
Then I took a toothpick
and drew it through the soup to make designs.
Circle in the middle,
then concentric circles running outside.
Pull a toothpick through from center to outside at quarters
then from outside to center between the quarters.

 Oh wait!
What's that I hear???
Why it's Starbucks calling.
They want me as their new barista.
Sorry, Starbucks, but Rosie is busy.

Next I added in some toasted chopped walnuts
and chives from the garden.
With pretty chive flowers.

Maybe some chopped pears on top -
to hint at what's below.

Eat your heart out, Starbucks!


Friday, October 26, 2018

Rosie Makes A Four-Bean Salad.

I love multi-bean salads.
Don't you?

They're pretty.
They're colorful.
They're textural.
And they taste real good. 

Today, I'm making a four-bean salad
with green beans, garbanzo beans,
great northern beans, and red kidney beans.

Remember, Rosie doesn't do canned beans.
Only cooked dried beans will do for me and my Hawthornes.

 I started off with dried beans -
a handful each of garbanzo, kidney, and great northern.
Garbanzos take longer than the kidney and great northern,
so I started them first in a pot of water.

Don't worry.
You don't need to soak the beans overnight.
I simply rinse the beans off and
put them in a pot of water.
Bring to a boil and simmer 20-30 minutes.
Add kidney beans and great northern beans,
bring back to a boil, and simmer another 30 minutes.
Rinse beans off and refresh water.
Bring back to a boil, then simmer until beans are al dente,
about 20-30 minutes.
Rinse and drain.

 For the green beans,
drop in salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes for al dente.
Drain in a colander then plunge beans 
into an ice water bath to stop the cooking and set the color.

If you happen to have some multi-colored sweet bell peppers,
dice and add to the salad.

I never ate green beans growing up.
The beans Mama Hawthorne cooked
did not resemble green beans when she was done with them.
Like many southern cooks of her generation,
she cooked the crap out of her beans.
And these were beans just picked from the garden!
Please don't do that.
Remember - bright green and al dente.
Not olive-drab and limp.
 Next I added in crumbled feta cheese and toasted almond slices.

 Finally, toss with dressing to coat.

In a small sauce pan, 
combine 1 cup cider vinegar,
2TB balsamic vinegar
1 TB Lea & Perrins worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup sugar,
1 garlic clove, minced,
1/2 tsp kosher salt,
and 1 tsp freshly ground pepper.

Bring to a boil, stirring, to dissolve sugar.
Let cool a bit,
then whisk in 3/4 cup canola oil at a slow drizzle.

Pour over bean mixture, cover, 
and refrigerate for a couple hours.

Monday, October 22, 2018

You Don't Know What To Do With Those Dried Chiles, Do You?

I'm making a chili today.  Using dried chile peppers.
Chili with an "i" is the spicy dish; chile with an "e" is the capsicum pepper, in case you were wondering.
 Chile is the country, which has no relationship with the pepper.
Chilly means it's cold.
  And then you have chili powder and chile powder.  From what I can tell, chili-with-an-i powder is a blend of ground chile peppers along with other spices like cumin, peppercorns, and salt, and it would be used to season a chili, which is the stew dish.  Chile-with-an-e powder generally refers to pure ground chile pods with no additives.

And now you know.

 Back to my chili with chile peppers.
You've seen all those dried peppers in the Hispanic section at the grocery story.
Now go buy some.  They will add a little extra oomph to your chile.
Here's what you do.
 I started out with a selection of dried chiles - California, Guajilla, Morita, and Pasilla. Because I had all four types.  If you only have one type, that's fine.  If you have a combination, that's fine too.

Now, what to do?

First, clean the chilies.  Cut off the stems and scrape out seeds and ribs.

For maximum flavor, I toasted the chiles in a dry skillet, medium low heat, for about 5 minutes, pressing with a spatula.  Don't let them smoke. (You might want to turn on the exhaust fan and open windows.  I had complaints.  Hrmmmmph!)  This brings out the richness of the chiles and adds a slight hint of smoke and complexity.

Put chiles in a bowl, pour boiling water over to cover, then cover and let it sit for about 30 minutes.
Purée the water and chiles.  I ended up with about 1 cup of purée.

It's not very often that I have red meat, but every now and then, my body calls out for it. 
I found a piece of Denver steak in the freezer, sliced it thinly while it was still semi-frozen, then marinated it in a little soy sauce, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, and a sprinkling of baking soda. 

 Yes, I said baking soda.  This is a little tip I learned from America's Test Kitchen, which is the only cooking show worth watching. You'll actually learn stuff when watching ATK.  Food Network is not about cooking and it basically sucks eggs.  Anyhoos, the baking soda raises the pH of the liquid which inhibits the bonding of proteins in the meat, thus making it more tender and moist when cooked.  A twenty-minute soak is sufficient.  If you do any stir-frying with beef, try this little trick.  You'll be surprised.

Rosie's Chile With Dried Chilies
4 large dried chilies, prepared as above, to make a 1-cup chili purée
1 Denver steak, sliced and marinated in 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1 onion, chopped
1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 13.7-oz. carton beef broth
And ...  because I had it lying around:
leftover bacon from breakfast, crumbled up
kernels off 1 ear of corn

Pour a little oil (just to film the bottom) into your stock pot and add a tablespoon of butter.  Melt butter over medium-high heat.  When butter starts foaming, add in marinated steak pieces, stirring.  Cook about 2 minutes, then add in chopped onion, scraping up the meaty bits from the bottom.  Pour in the dried chile purée, the diced tomatoes, and the tomato paste (washing out can with water to get all the paste out).  Turn heat to low and barely simmer for about 2 hours, letting the flavors develop. Pour in the beef broth and add the bacon and corn.  You could use a can of corn if you don't have an ear languishing in your vegetable bin.  And use the corn liquid too.  Just more flavor.  Heat through and it's ready when you are.

I like to serve this with wedges of cornbread so you can sop up all the goodness.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

You Should Know How To Make A Proper Caesar Salad.

One of life's greatest pleasures is a proper Caesar Salad.
And Rosie's here to show you how to make one.
Step by step.
Inch by inch...

A proper Caesar salad starts with proper croutons.
Which start with a proper loaf of homemade bread.
Here's my basic bread recipe:  sandwich loaf.
I made this recipe for the dough and used three foil 4 x 8-inch loaf pans in which to bake the bread.
If you want to cheat, get a baguette from the grocery store.  Something from the deli.  Just don't use a white loaf of Wonder bread.  That is of the Devil.

Cut the bread into cubes.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt about 3/4 stick of unsalted butter and a tablespoon of oil and drop in the bread cubes, tossing to coat evenly.

Add in 3-4 tablespoons of oregano, shaking the pan.
You could also add in a bit of thyme, sage, rosemary, Italian seasoning.  It's all good.
Keep shaking that pan and tossing the cubes for about 5 minutes.

After sautéeing the cubes for a bit, squeeze in 3-4 cloves of garlic.
You don't want to add the garlic at the beginning - you don't want to burn it.  Gets yukky bitter.

Toss, shake, stir.  Keep those cubes moving.

Turn cubes into a baking pan and place in a slow and low oven (300°) for about 30 minutes.
Or until they get nice and toasty and golden.

These will be the best croutons you've ever eaten.
Try not to snack on all of them before you make the salad.

Now for the dressing...
This dressing is a starting point for you.  Once you get the hang of it, you might want to adjust for your own tastes, for example, more garlic, or more lemon, or more whatever.

There are two caveats:
1)  Taste test your Parmesan cheese first.  Get a good quality Parm.  I like Il Villagio.  I do not like Stella.  Your mileage may vary.  If you can, taste test the cheese before you buy.  (Go to Trio Wine Beer and Cheese.)
2)  I prefer a neutral olive oil for my Caesar dressing, so I use Bertolli Extra Light Olive Oil.  You don't want the olive oil to overpower the dressing and, let's face it, some olive oils taste like turpentine.  Try the Bertolli first and if you want to be adventurous afterwards, again taste test before you buy.  (Go to Outer Banks Olive Oil Co.)

Caesar Salad Dressing
4 anchovies
4 garlic cloves
juice of one lemon
2 TB gray poupon Dijon mustard
1 TB Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
1 coddled egg
3/4 cup Bertolli Extra Light Olive Oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Rinse off the anchovies in cold water.
Finely mince and mash the anchovies.  You could use a mortar and pestle here.
Mince and mash the garlic along with the anchovies.
Stir in the lemon juice, the mustard, and the Lea & Perrins.
To coddle an egg, bring a small container of water to a boil.  Drop the whole egg in and let it sit in the water for 1 minute.  Take the egg out and crack it into the mixture.  Whisk well.
Slowly, a tablespoon at a time, whisk in the olive oil, to make an emulsion.
Your mixture should be a nice buckskin color. 
Taste test.
Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

Mash up the anchovies.

After mashing the anchovies, add in the minced or pressed garlic.
I use a mini-processor or just a bowl and a whisk.
Mr. H. prefers an immersion blender.

Lemon juice in.

And process.

Dijon and Lea & Perrins in.

And process.

Finely grate the Parmesan.

Drop an egg into boiling water to coddle it.
One minute is enough for coddling.

Add the coddled egg to the mix.

And process.

Now start processing the olive oil.  One tablespoon at a time.  You want to emulsify the mixture.

Till it looks like this.

Stir in the grated cheese.
And you have Caesar Dressing!

Toss with torn Romaine lettuce and homemade croutons.
If desired, grate more Parmesan cheese over top.

And admit that this is the BEST Caesar Salad you've had.