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Archive for the ‘condiments’ Category

I’ve discovered that Thanksgiving cranberry sauce is a deeply personal thing. As a kid, it was the jellied canned type; the ridges and distinctive sound of the jelly releasing from the can were as much a part my Thanksgiving tradition as turkey and stuffing. Around 12 years old, I got snooty and insisted on whole berry cranberry sauce, ironically also from a can. Alas, my true snootiness had yet to be refined. That came in my twenties, as I became a more involved cook and hosted my first Thanksgiving. Because I am an absurd overachiever and apparently hadn’t taken on enough for my first attempt, I made a sauce with whole, fresh berries from the recipe on the back of the bag. While I haven’t hosted many Thanksgivings of my own, I’ve discovered that offering to make the sauce is easy and happily accepted by harried hosts. For years, I used this triple berry sauce and while it remains my ideal of a classic cranberry sauce, I’m always open to new ideas. This is where my friend Maurine stepped in.

I met Maurine through my friend Kate Hill in their beautiful corner of Southwest France. She is a delightful woman, a California transplant full of energy and light and ideas with a big laugh and incredible blue eyes that sparkle. I swear, her eyes truly sparkle. I just adore her. She has a great blog full of stories of her life in Southwest France and has been doing really fun French cooking classes on Facebook throughout the pandemic. Check her out! Several years ago, she posted a picture on Instagram of her cranberry chutney, a tradition in her house. I was intrigued and she generously shared her recipe; a mix of fresh cranberries, whole orange, dried fruits and spices. Let me make this abundantly clear: it is delicious. Incredibly delicious. A wonderful mix of sweet and tangy, a little spicy; full of bright flavors and interesting textures. It is great as a turkey accompaniment but really shines on a leftovers sandwich. Don’t limit yourself to Thanksgiving and Christmas, it works wonders on a cheese plate any time of the year and is wonderful with goat cheese and cheddar in particular. One Christmas I got really crafty and molded a cheeseball around it so there was a cranberry chutney surprise center. Delightful! 

This is one of those dump it all in a pot and let ‘er rip kind of recipes that I really appreciate. It starts with fresh cranberries and is enhanced with a variety of fresh and dried ingredients, spices and just enough vinegar to give it that tangy chutney hit. The orange – I used clementines – is chopped whole, rind and all, and thrown into the pot. As a lover of candied rind, this absolutely delights me. The dried fruit – cranberries, figs, raisins, cherries – can be varied to your tastes. I really like the addition of dried figs but I didn’t have any so I threw in a few prunes, purchased from a village near Maurine so it felt perfectly appropriate. I also switched out the raisins for currants. Hard, dry little unattractive nuggets. (FYI, chutneys are great uses for those dried fruits that maybe don’t look so hot but still have great flavor. The heat/moisture combo revives them quite nicely.)  I would also encourage you to not skip the nuts as they add a nice texture to the finished chutney; the recipe calls for pistachios but any nut will do. Whatever your ingredient mix, bring it all to a boil until the cranberries pop, about 3-4 minutes, and it’s done. It will take you longer to round up the ingredients than it will to cook.

I don’t know what your Thanksgiving plans are under these new covid surges but I urge you to be smart and be careful. As much as we absolutely hate it, in person indoor gatherings are risky so it’s time to think differently. My friends are planning a Friendsgiving potluck where we each claim a dish and portion it out. We’ll meet up somewhere for an exchange, each person going home with a full dinner. A few hours later, we’ll reheat, regroup and dine together via zoom call. It’s not traditional or what any of us would choose given the option but we’re adapting. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate these people. I’m planning on making this chutney and raising a glass in Maurine’s general direction.

STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: EASE INTO IT. Maurine likes to make a double batch and gift it to friends and I think that might be a wonderful thing to do in these weird times. I’ve made smaller ½ batches, often in the offseason with frozen cranberries that work perfectly. It’s a great thing to have on hand as it really elevates deli counter turkey sandwiches. And here’s a hot tip – spread some on the bread before making a grilled cheese. Swoon.

Some other great Thanksgiving recipes

appetizers – Bacon Cheddar GougeresSouthern Cheese StrawsBaked Brie with Savory Fig JamPort Wine Cheese LogSpicy Seeded Parmesan StrawsSausage Stuffed MushroomsAntipasto SquaresFrench Onion Stuffed MushroomsBacon Wrapped DatesSpiced PecansParmesan Black Pepper Crackers Mustard Puff Pastry Bâtons

starters & side dishes – Maple Bourbon CarrotsRoasted Delicata Squash – 4 WaysMaple Mustard Glazed Delicata, Brussels Sprouts & ShallotsBaked Corn PuddingThanksgiving Stuffing Stuffed SquashRoasted Stuffed SquashEasy Squash Carrot SoupSherry Candied Walnut SaladThe Original Kale SaladKale Salad with Crispy Salami & Chickpeas

dessertsFrench Apple TartFrench Apple Tart for a CrowdFrench Apple PieSalted Caramel Apple PieCider Apple PieClassic Apple PieSimple Apple TartsGingerbread with Bourbon SauceClassic Pumpkin PiePumpkin RouladeSweet Pumpkin EmpanadasPumpkin Bundt CakeCranberry Crumble Tart

eleven years agoCider Donuts

ten years agoClassic Wedge Salad with Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing

nine years agoMaple Buttermilk Spoonbread with Glazed Pears

eight years agoKale & Squash SaladLemon Slice Cookies

seven years agoSunday Lunch RamenApple Cider RollsPumpkin Spice Granola

six years agoFrom Scratch Rum Cake

five years ago: Caldo Verde (Portugese Kale Soup)

four years agoCreamy Steel Cut Oats with Roasted Pumpkin and Pumpkinseed CrumbleTurkey Egg Drop Soup,  

three years agoChunky Applesauce CakeCrispy Squash SandwichDairyland Sour Cream Apple Bars

two years agoCreamy Spinach Artichoke Dip

last yearDate Bundt Cake with Brown Sugar Caramel Glaze

MAURINE’S CRANBERRY CHUTNEY – from Maurine’s recipe

Makes about 2 cups

12 ounces fresh cranberries (1 bag)

1 ½ cups sugar

1 medium orange or 2 clementines, chopped 

½ onion, finely chopped

½ cup raisins (I used currants)

¼ cup pistachio nuts, chopped

6 dried figs, chopped (I used prunes)

½ cup dried cherries

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup white vinegar (I used cider vinegar)

1 Tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 ½ teaspoons mustard seed

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy, nonreactive saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. 
  2. Increase the heat and let the mixture boil until the fresh cranberries pop, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Let sit, covered, off the heat for 30-60 minutes to allow the dried fruit to fully plump.
  4. Transfer to a clean jar and refrigerate. I like to let it sit for a few days before using to let the flavors fully meld but have been known to make a sandwich and spoon some right out of the pot too. Will keep refrigerated for months.

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Every couple of years, usually when I find myself with an abundance of meyer lemons, I decide to make preserved lemons, a staple in Moroccan cooking and other Middle Eastern cuisines. I cut my lemons in half, carefully removing as many seeds as I can find, pack them in a clean jar with a lot of sea salt, topping off with fresh lemon juice if needed. Every few months, when I remember (i.e. rarely), I’ll give the jar a shake or a turn. The salt slowly dissolves, softens the rind and preserves the lemons. True words here: once cured, I never know what to do with them. Once I made a delicious lamb tagine, happily adding a few diced lemons and was quite pleased with myself. That was the one time I actually used them properly, partly because I’m never really sure exactly what to do with them but mostly because I forget I have them. They sit on a shelf where I promptly forget about them as they slowly turn from bright yellow to unattractive brown. Forgotten preserved lemons are not particularly attractive.

A few months ago, my lovely friend Jenn gave me a jar and to be honest, hers looked a helluva lot better than mine. Bright yellow with whole cloves and allspice berries throughout, she stores hers in the fridge. Maybe that’s the secret to keeping them a pretty yellow, the refrigeration helps hold the color? (I mean, look at the two jars below in the photo. Guess which one is mine?) Regardless I now had two jars I didn’t know what to do with. Time to change that. I was spurred into action. Well, spurred into googling what the hell to do with these things beyond throwing a few bits into a salad dressing or making a tagine every five years. 

In researching uses for preserved lemons, I came across a really great idea – turn it into a paste. This was an extremely appealing to me – much easier to use and I was less likely to loose track of it in the fridge versus on a storage shelf. I liked this idea. I liked it a lot. I had seen a jar of a similar paste in a spice shop a while ago, got distracted and forgot to buy it. (Maybe that’s a good thing because then I’d have 3 jars of preserved lemon things I didn’t use.) A little research showed that brand contained just lemons, lemon juice, salt. Well, hell. I had two jars of THAT. More research unearthed a method – basically throw it all in a high powered blender and whirl it together with the addition of olive oil and a bit of paprika to brighten the color. I liked these additions – the olive oil made it nice and creamy and the paprika brightened the color. So that’s what I did. I had a vivid yellow, salty acidic lemon paste in no time in a form that would be much easier to use. 

The recipe I used as a guide recommend a nifty little trick I use with the last dregs of a mustard jar – add a few simple ingredients and turn those bits left in the blender into a delicious and ridiculously easy vinaigrette. Brilliant! By the way, make this paste and you’re 1000% going to do this. Just so you know.

Now then, just because I now had my preserved lemons in an easier form I wasn’t instantly bequeathed the knowledge on how to use it. So far I had a whole two ideas in my arsenal: a vinaigrette and a lamb tagine and I don’t really make that many tagines. Luckily the New York Shuk website had 34 incredible ideas (see here for the full list). Here are my favorites, several of which I’ve used my very own paste for, with excellent results:

  • My favorite use? A simple vinaigrette. Add a spoonful instead of, or in additional to, the mustard in your basic vinaigrette recipe.
  • Delicious tuna salad – mix up your tuna fish with harissa, lemon paste and a bit of mayo for a new take. 
  • Think ceviche – add lemon paste to your impeccably fresh fish for a really lovely ceviche.
  • Add a spoonful to your Bloody Mary or other cocktail that leans a bit savory.
  • Add lemon paste to your favorite chicken or beef marinade in place of lemon or lime juice.
  • Smear the paste on your roasted salmon before cooking or brush on fish and seafood before grilling.
  • Make a compound butter for fish or steaks – cream together a stick of room temperature butter with a spoonful of lemon paste, use parchment paper to roll into a log and chill.
  • Add a zesty note to your chicken soup by adding a touch of lemon paste when serving.  
  • Instead of adding lemon juice to your hummus, add lemon paste.
  • Mix it into yogurt for a bright and flavorful dip for vegetables; top with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of za’atar or dukkah
  • Zip up a potato salad with a generous spoonful of lemon paste and maybe a bit of harissa for a Moroccan flair
  • Make a preserved lemon aioli by stirring a spoonful into mayonnaise to taste
  • Make Greek lemon potatoes by replacing the lemon and salt in the recipe with the preserved lemon paste.
  • Season cooked vegetables with a mixture of olive oil, lemon paste, and minced garlic. This is particularly nice with green beans and fantastic with roasted fennel.
  • Eating a lot of beans in quarantine? I am! Warm some minced garlic, harissa, olive oil, and lemon paste in a pan and toss with the beans. Garnish with chopped herbs and grated parmesan.

STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: OH SUNSHINE DAY! Numerous jars of preserved lemons have been lost within my pantry shelves over the years, only to end up in the trash. I’m thinking that a paste, all ready to go, in my fridge will get far more use and far more notice. I’m still not 1000% convinced I like the flavor of preserved lemons but everything I’ve used this paste in the last two weeks, I’ve been pretty happy with and have really enjoyed the brightness it’s brought to each recipe. I was surprised at how much I liked it in my bowl of chicken noodle soup so I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt and will continue to try different things. You should too – but keep in mind that it’s salty so plan accordingly.

How to make preserved lemons if you are interested

eleven years agoCucumber Kimchi

ten years agoSautéed Beet GreensChicken Pot Pie

nine years agoSimple Apple Cake

eight years agoKale & Squash Salad

seven years agoPickled Green Cherry Tomatoes

six years agoSherry Candied Walnut Salad

five years agoThai Peanut Butter

four years agoRicotta Gnudi with Cherry Tomato Pesto Sauce

three years agoPickle Brined Spicy Chicken SandwichesCherry Coke Sorbet

two years agoFrench Apple Tart for a Crowd

last yearClassic Minestrone

PRESERVED LEMON PASTE – roughly based on this recipe

Makes about 1 ¼ cups

1 cup chopped preserved lemons, seeds removed

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 Tablespoon preserved lemon brine

½ cup olive oil

¼ teaspoon sweet paprika

For the preserved lemon vinaigrette:

Fresh lemon juice

Honey

ground black pepper

Olive oil

  1. Roughly chopped the lemons, pulp and peel. Make sure the seeds are removed as they can add bitterness.
  2. Place the chopped lemons into a high speed blender or food processor and add the water, brine and paprika.
  3. Process for a minute or two until fairly smooth, stopping and stirring as needed to get everything going.
  4. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil
  5. Transfer to a clean jar, top with a thin layer of olive oil to cover and refrigerate.
  6. Now here’s what you need to do immediately: make a dressing with the leftover paste in the blender jar. Use this is kind of a loose guide as the amount left in your blender jar will vary widely so adjust as needed.
  7. Add some fresh lemon juice, maybe 1-2 Tablespoons, enough to get everything moving.
  8. Add a squirt of honey, 1-2 teaspoons if I had to guess, and a few grinds of pepper.
  9. Turn the blender motor on, for a minute of so to combine then scrape down the blender jar, getting as much of the lemon paste bits as possible down toward the bottom.
  10. With the motor running on low, drizzle in olive oil and process until emulsified, smooth and creamy, start with ¼ cup and see how it goes as you made need more. Taste and adjust if needed.
  11. Transfer the vinaigrette to a clean jar and store in the fridge until needed. It will keep for about 4-5 days. Maybe more. If you like a creamy dressing, add a bit of plain yogurt or sour cream to the blender. Maybe stir in some poppyseeds. Or a finely diced shallot or a clove of garlic. Maybe some fresh herbs would be nice. 

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I came home from the Labor Day weekend with a big bag full of peppers, a gift from a friend with a large and productive garden. I was thrilled – homegrown produce is always welcome – but I wasn’t sure what to do with them. Her husband suggested salsa but I’d just come off a similar project and wasn’t all that interested in making more. I’d already made a delightfully cheesy hatch chile queso dip, but that only used five of the hatch chiles. There we so many more in the bag. So I did what I always do when I’m not sure how to proceed: I googled. “What to make with a lot of peppers” yielded the expected results with recipes for peperonata dominating. No surprise as it is essentially a pepper dish but I was surprised at the lack of variety in the recipes. Italian in origin, peperonata contains slowly stewed sweet peppers, onions, garlic and sometimes tomato, and it is absolutely delicious. But my peppers were mainly Mexican/Southwest in origin – anaheim, poblano, hatch, jalapeno as well as a mess of hungarian yellow. An idea formed. Would a spicy version work? I wasn’t sure but a southwest style peperonata was now in the works.

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I’ve been reading up on “official food holidays”, days dedicated to a particular foodstuff put together by an interested trade organization or a public relations firm. For some reason, January is particularly heavy with these made up “holidays”, which is likely why I turn to them this month. They’ll full of kooky ideas. Last week I made tempura shrimp for “National Tempura Day”, because that’s a thing. Today is “Hot & Spicy Food Day”, because apparently that is also a thing. It also plays quite nicely into a new obsession of mine: Chili Crisp.

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I’ve been eating a lot of watermelon and sweet corn of late. A lot. It’s what we do in the Midwest when the corn is unbelievably good and the watermelons are huge and juicy and we need to eat as much as we can before they’re gone. While cutting up the latest watermelon to make yet another delicious Vietnamese inspired salad (have you tried it yet?), I looked guiltly at the growing pile of rind destined for the garbage can. Damn, watermelons have a lot of waste. This has always bothered me so I decided to try something. I’ve long been curious about Pickled Watermelon Rind. It is the product of thrifty genius, turning waste into something delicious. Why not give it a try? I probably had the ingredients on hand and I was definitely looking for a distraction to avoid work for another hour. What was there to lose? A pile of produce scraps that was going in the garbage anyway, some vinegar and spices and an hour of my time? Ever hear of procrasti-baking? This was procrasti-pickling. The conditions were ideal.

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This recipe has been stalking me. True story. It first appeared in The New York Times in October of 2017 and has shown up in my social media feeds regularly ever since. Last summer it showed up in my feeds every single week for two months. Maybe it’s stalked you too. Every single time that bright green sauce caught my eye I thought, I’m going to make that one day. Well, that day is here. I needed something to bring to a holiday BBQ and thought, well here we go.

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In my teens, I had a deep love for a particular type of pickled cauliflower. It was bright yellow, briny, a little spicy and I would eat it by the jarful. Sometimes it had carrots, sometimes it was just the cauliflower. Sometimes my mom would buy a jar of what was more like a chunky giardinara that contained the cauliflower and carrots but also pearl onions, celery and cherry peppers. I didn’t like that as much and would pick out and eat only the cauliflower and carrots, leaving the less desirable bits behind. This would really piss off my family. Oh well.

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Not long ago, I was flipping through Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, Michael Solomonov’s excellent cookbook based on recipes from his Philadelphia restaurant of the same name. His hummus is legendary, rightly so, and the twice cooked eggplant is something to behold. I was fascinated with a recipe for a Yemenite condiment called schug. I have zero knowledge of Yemenite cuisine and the recipe sounded fantastic – green chilies and lots of fresh parsley and cilantro. Given that I had a lot of the ingredients on hand from my garden plot that needed a purpose, I decided to give it a shot.

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Everybody I know seems to be dealing with zucchini right now. ‘Tis the season when random surprise gifts show up on your doorstep and where you find yourself googling “what to do with giant zucchini”. It happens like clockwork. You can sauté it, grill it or stuff it. Or you can pickle it.

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I left work not long ago to these fatal words: “Can you do something with this? Take it.” This is exactly how I end up with so much stuff. Both my freezers are packed with things obtained in this manner, not to mention my cupboards and three large plastic totes in my dining room. Oh boy, here we go again. I can never turn down ingredients. It is a blessing and a curse and how I found myself with with two containers of crème frâiche and no plan.

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