Sunday, July 29, 2012

Swapper Profile: Herb Williams + Quick Salsa Recipe

I am thrilled to have the chance to present another swapper profile so soon, and to introduce Herb Williams. Herb made his first appearance at the December holiday swap, where he wowed everyone with his knockout pulled pork, zesty salsa and savory pasta sauce. Since he was gracious enough to swap one of his few and coveted pulled pork servings for a small jar of my mustard, I can attest to the slow-cooked pork's phenomenal flavor. He also made a splash at the April anniversary swap, reinforcing his moniker as "the Pulled Pork Guy". And I would be remiss without mentioning how Herb once again showed himself to be a true gentleman, presenting cupcakes for myself and Stephanie as thanks for hosting the swap. Now that's sweet! But read on for a little spice too, with Herb's easy recipe for Quick Salsa below.

Herb and his favorite kitchen tool
Name: Herb Williams

Home (+ hometown swap): St. Louis originally, but San Francisco is home.

How did you first get involved in food swapping? How long ago? I've been swapping for a couple of years at various venues in the bay area.

What did you make for the last food swap and what inspired your choice? Pulled pork, it was just something I had a feeling to do. I just think of what I want to make to express a bit about me and my likes.

What’s your favorite thing about swapping? To me swapping can be like an acting class in high school...a way to break the ice and meet people, being a single man you have to take your chances when and where they might appear.

Who or what most influences your cooking? My mom was a great cook in her day, and growing up the oldest I watched her and learned from her, I still call her to ask about things in the kitchen.

The makings of a mean salsa

What’s your favorite kitchen tool? I use my food processor a lot.

Your current flavor or ingredient obsession? Asian! From Thai to Indian, I love coconut, curries and chutneys.

Biggest food surprise? The rise of food trucks on one end and the lack of quick inexpensive breakfast pop-ups is surprising. I have in mind to try my hand at seeing if that would be a viable offering to the current scene.

If the Rapture came tomorrow, what would your last meal on earth be? I love pasta! It's something I enjoy to make myself and not pay for when I eat out, mainly spaghetti with a nice rich and meaty tomato sauce.

When I'm not in the kitchen I'm… watching too much TV, in the gym, visiting friends, grilling and chillin'.

Favorite local food experience: Restaurants that allow b.y.o.b.! Food and wine events that happen in the Bay Area. I've gone to Sunset magazine’s yearly event a few times.

Recipe by Herb:

Grab your chips!
Quick (Chevy's like) Salsa

1 large can of whole tomatoes
2 roasted till blackened jalapenos, remove some seeds to your liking
1 small brown onion, quartered
1 hand full of cilantro
2 cloves of garlic
1 juiced lime
Salt to taste
Ground chipotle (optional)

Pulse in a food processor to your liking, I like it to be semi-chunky.

Serve or store for a week.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Swapper Profile: Lea Rude + Candied Citrus Peel and Citrus and Stone Fruit Jam Recipes

It has been way too long since we've had a swapper profile, so it is with considerable fanfare {cue drums and crowd cheers} that I introduce Lea Rude. When Lea walked into the swap a few months ago, we immediately recognized each other. After some to-and-fro we narrowed it down to UC Santa Cruz days, but not the specifics. We gave up on trying to place our common past, because really it doesn't matter at all, and just feels nice that we've reconnected now through food swapping. I especially appreciated her clever name and packaging play on the famed Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce with her assorted lemon, orange and aromatic bitters at the April swap. And though I missed out on those sadly (consider this my unapologetically overt plea for her to make more), I scored some of her Vin d'Orange that was an especially big hit one late night with a gang of my girlfriends. And, she's included not one, but two recipes for your lip-smacking enjoyment. Bonus!

Lea shows off a watermelon from her CSA
Name: Lea Rude

Home / Hometown Swap: El Cerrito, San Francisco
Profession: Librarian

How did you first get involved in food swapping? How long ago?

I first heard about SF Swappers from my friend, Christina Moretta, and it sounded like it was right up my alley. We had been doing a bit of casual home-made food trading over the past couple of years and the swap sounded like a fun way to take it further. I have been to the last two swaps.

What did you make for the last food swap and what inspired your choice?

I made Candied Citrus Peel and Pickled Red Onions. I had been curious about making candied citrus peel since earlier this year when a friend served some home-made candied Meyer lemon peel at a party (along with home-made limoncello!)  I have a steady supply of Meyer lemons from our backyard tree and I had some ruby red grapefruits and oranges on hand, so it seemed like the time to do it. The red onions came in my CSA. I’m not a big fan of raw onion so I decided to pickle them.

Pickled Red Onions for the swap

What’s your favorite thing about swapping?

I really like the swap itself. The social aspect is awesome and totally unique. I love talking to new people and getting inspired by what everyone makes. It is a great way to get ideas for new ways to cook. I love the potluck aspect and all of the tasting, too. I go home stuffed and pumped up!

Who or what most influences your cooking?

My mom is definitely the biggest influence and inspiration for me in the kitchen. She is an amazing cook – she can make a tasty and satisfying meal from whatever happens to be in the pantry, but she can also go home after a meal in a great restaurant and recreate her favorite dish. Whenever I make something new or just really good I get on the phone and tell my Mom all about it, and she does the same with me - she is always turning me on to new ingredients and new approaches to cooking.

What’s your favorite kitchen tool?

I am currently working out how I can make space for a permanent spot on the counter-top for my blender. I have been using it a lot more since I started making salsas and it keeps getting pulled out lately to make aguas frescas and smoothies.

Booty from Lea's CSA box

Your current flavor or ingredient obsession?

The ingredients of my CSA box. We started getting a box from Terra Firma Farms in January and it has had a huge influence on my cooking. My approach to cooking in general has always been to use what is on hand but this has taken it to another level. Every week I have to figure out what to do with the bounty of produce that comes in, sometimes including things I have never cooked before. It is so much fun!

Garlic Scapes
Biggest food surprise?

A recent surprise was garlic scapes. I just caught word of them a couple months ago on some canning blogs, but I had never seen them before. I took a trip to Vermont last month and saw them everywhere! Farmers markets, farmers stands, and in my friends’ CSA. At the CSA farm they had giant tubs of extra garlic scapes, so we made grilled scapes and garlic scape pesto. They taste great but I think the most surprising and delightful thing is their looks. They are so silly!

If the Rapture came tomorrow, what would your last meal on earth be?

I am on a mostly gluten-free diet, so if an asteroid were going to collide with the earth tomorrow I would spend the day eating things on bread. Good butter, triple-cream brie, homemade pesto, and all the homemade preserves in the house on sweet baguette. Plus steamed artichokes and Dungeness crab with butter and garlic.

When I'm not in the kitchen… I'm sewing, reading or walking the dog.

Favorite local food experience:

Backyard BBQs with friends year round, fancy dinner at Camino in Oakland, casual lunch at Tacubaya in Berkeley.

Recipes by Lea:

Candied Citrus Peel
Candied Citrus Peel

When I decide to make the candied citrus I trolled around online and read some recipes in cookbooks. I did what worked with my schedule and used the techniques that sounded right.

Remove the peel in large strips from 2 grapefruits, 3 oranges and 6-7 lemons, about 5 lbs. of fruit. Large strips are best. Little pieces fall apart and get lost in the syrup.

Scrape or slice off any pith that is left on the peel, but keep the white part. That gives it heft and the bitterness and toughness is simmered out in the next step.

Cover the peels in cold water and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, and repeat once, then repeat again but simmer for 15-30 minutes, depending on how much time you have. Drain peels.

Combine 5 cups of sugar and 5 cups of water, bring to a boil simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, then add the peel and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to touch.

Remove the peels from the syrup and place on wire racks placed over cookie sheets or platters. Try to keep the strips from touching each other. Let dry for 24 hours (a cold oven is a good place to keep them out-of-the way and dust-free).

Put ½ cup sugar or superfine sugar in a bowl (I actually pulsed regular sugar in a food processor to make it finer). Roll the peels in the sugar to coat, then let dry for another hour. These should keep for a couple of months at room temp in airtight containers.

Candied Citrus Peel packages for the June swap

Citrus and Stone Fruit Jam

I had about 3 cups of syrup left over from making the peels and I figured it would be a good base for a small batch of jam. I had cherries, apricots and a peach from the CSA, so I made this jam. It is my favorite jam ever! You can use any combo of fruit, but definitely include the lemon – it makes a perfect sour, chewy addition to the sweet jam.

Syrup left over from making candied citrus peel (above)
3 apricots
1 peach
a handful of cherries, pitted
1 Meyer lemon, quartered, seeds removed, sliced thin (keep the skin on)

Cook all ingredients for about 20 minutes. Put in a jar and refrigerate. Eat! Yum!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cooking The Breakfast Book, Chapter 2: Fruit Syrup French Toast

Since the last Cooking The Breakfast Book installment (which was indeed, the first), a dash of kismet has been added into the mix. Marion Cunningham, author and home cooking advocate, passed away at the age of 90. Reading about her in a great article in the NY Times only made me admire her more, and I particularly loved this bit: "She loved to go to the supermarket and peer into the baskets of startled strangers, whom she would then interview about their cooking skills. Indeed, she made it her life’s work to champion home cooking and preserve the family supper table." This image brings a wide smile to my face and laughter to my heart. Not so different from how I have begun to feel while reading her book and cooking and sharing her food, actually. So onward we go, offering our humble cooking project as an ode to a food enthusiast of the highest order.

Pain perdu, saved!

Chapter 2: Toasts, French Toasts and Breakfast Sandwiches

The introduction for this recipe taught me something new. With a classically French sense of poetry, in France french toast is called pain perdu (lost bread) as it is considered a way to use up day-old or hard bread.

As a measure of my appreciation of the name  and the sentiment of reclaiming food that would otherwise go to waste  I decided to really put the old bread theory to the test by using the remains of a loaf of Hideaway Bakery's seeded wheat sourdough that was a good five or six days past fresh. After sawing through the tough outer crust I was having my doubts, but the inside of the bread was still quite soft, and Ms. Cunningham does recommend using a dense, homemade style bread for french toast, so I stuck to the plan and was very pleasantly surprised.

The moisture from the egg and milk, plus the layer of fruit syrup flavor really makes this french toast recipe a standout. Even with bread that is on its very last legs!

I did wonder if blueberry syrup was a good choice given the color it would impart (see below), but despite the unappetizing hue while dipping, it thankfully did not present itself in the finished dish.

Though not called for in the original recipe, I sprinkled cinnamon and nutmeg on each side as the toast cooked, because that's part and parcel of french toast in my book. Feel free to leave out or substitute with cardamom or other favorite spices.

Fruit Syrup French Toast
Adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
Serves 4

3 eggs
1/2 cup milk, light cream or heavy cream
1/4 cup fruit syrup
Salt to taste
6 slices bread (preferably a dense homemade type; typically white, but try rye or whole wheat, too)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
Cinnamon and nutmeg, for sprinkling

Combine the eggs, milk, syrup and salt in a medium bowl with a fork until well mixed. Strain through a sieve into a shallow bowl large enough to easily dip your slices of bread.

Give each side a minute or more (depending on density of your bread) to soak up the egg mixture completely. When done, place each battered slice on a sheet of wax paper.

Melt half the butter in a pan large enough to cook three slices of bread at the same time, and cook them on medium heat until lightly browned on each side, turning once. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg on each side as you cook.

Keep the cooked slices warm in a 250° oven while preparing the last three slices. Serve warm with your favorite french toast toppings. I suggest a dab of butter, fresh fruit and more fruit or maple syrup.

Recipe for Blueberry-Basil Syrup
Makes approximately 3/4 cup

1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup water
2 pieces of lemon peel
3 tablespoons sugar
The top portion of 2 sprigs of basil (or 4 medium to large leaves)

After washing the blueberries, put them in a small non-reactive pan and add half the water. Use a sharp knife to remove two thin pieces of peel from a lemon, making sure to include as little of the white pith as possible. Smash the berries with a potato masher to release the juice, while bringing to a boil over medium heat. After adding the lemon peel, lower the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Strain through a fine sieve and reserve the berries to mix into plain yogurt or add to a smoothie later. Rinse the pan and add the rest of the water and the sugar, stirring as you bring to a boil. Once sugar is dissolved, add the blueberry syrup and the basil springs and simmer for another 4 to 5 minutes. Cook a little longer if you prefer a thicker syrup, but avoid having it thicken too much or it will set into a jelly.

Remove basil sprigs and let syrup cool to room temperature before using. Store in fridge.

I'll be back with another chapter in two weeks, but in the meantime please don't forget to visit the pages of my five fellow food bloggers to see what they picked and prepared from Chapter 2:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Jam - Cook It! 2012 June Resolution + Summer Peach Jam, Peach Syrup & Bourbon Peach Skin Butter Recipes

When I saw that the June Cook It! challenge was making jam, I thought "this one will be easy!" I already make a lot of jam but wanted to try something new and fancy of my own creation. I was busy concocting summery jam recipes in my head: apricot and rose geranium, nectarine with blueberry and lemon verbena, blackberry and rosemary. Those jam dreams will have to wait though, as I have ended up being away from home for the past few weeks and am unable to spend much time in a kitchen. But luckily, I have my June peach project to turn to.

It started with my buying 5 lbs of peaches in order to make some Pickled Ginger Peaches for the June swap. By the time I needed them though, they weren't quite ripe enough and I ended up mutating them a fair bit while blanching and struggling to remove the clinging skins. Off I went for a fresh and riper 5 lbs to work with so they'd look pretty in their jars, and then post-swap turned my attention to the less pretty fruit I'd stowed in the fridge.

Jam was the obvious choice, but looking at all the peels made me think I should do something more with them too. As usual, Punk Domestics led me somewhere I wanted to be. I found a post about Peach Peel Butter that I could easily adapt. Half way through that process I almost gave up and just went with Peach Syrup, but the feeling I could get some more out of those peach skins was persistent, so I went for a variation of the butter too. In the end those 5 lbs of peaches gave me jam, syrup and butter - the most satisfying kind of economy ever.

Recipe for Summer Peach Jam
Makes 6 half pints

6.5 cups peaches, washed, blanched, skinned, pitted and chopped
4.5 cups sugar
¼ cup lemon juice (juice from 1½ lemons)
3 pieces star anise
½ cup water
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces of homemade apple pectin

Add sugar to chopped fruit and leave to macerate for a couple hours in a non-reactive pan. This step is optional, but it releases the juices from the fruit which helps it break down more while cooking. Since my fruit wasn't the ripest I left it macerating for about four hours.

Prepare your water bath canner and jars before or just after you begin cooking your jam, so that you can work seamlessly once it is ready. {If you're new to home canning, Local Kitchen's how-to post is great! I also recommend spending some time with the USDA's Complete Guide to Home Canning}

Bring the peaches, sugar and lemon juice to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and use a potato masher to break the fruit up. Add water and 3 pieces of star anise and continue cooking and stirring regularly to prevent scorching. Even though homemade apple pectin is different from commercial pectin in that it can cook for longer, I added mine after about an hour on the stovetop and only needed an additional 10-15 minutes before it began to thicken up nicely. Add the salt just before removing from the burner.

Fill hot jars, leaving a ¼-inch headspace. Use a chopstick to remove any air bubbles, and wipe rims with a clean, damp cotton dish towel. Add lids and screw rings to fingertip tightness only. Process in water-bath for 10 minutes and then remove from canner. Let rest on a wire cooling rack for 24 hours. 

Recipe for Peach Syrup and Bourbon Peach Skin Butter
Technique for Peach Skin Butter adapted from this recipe

Peach skins
Maker's Mark (or similar quality) bourbon

Weigh the peach skins leftover from your jam-making, and add the same weight of sugar to a non-reactive pan or glass bowl. Stir and leave to macerate, covered, for 24 hours. You can leave this for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

When ready, place macerated skins and sugar on the stovetop over low heat, adding the juice from ½ lemon plus 2 cups of water to start. Leave to cook, stirring occasionally and adding water as it thickens to keep it from burning.

Turn the heat off and cover overnight.

If you want syrup as well as butter, on the second day, add a few cups of water and cook until it has incorporated to become syrup, which should be a gorgeous color and very fragrant. Pour through a strainer into bottles, reserving 4 oz of the syrup if you're going to make the butter. Add the reserved syrup back into the skins, and keep cooking it down and adding water for another day. 

If there are still some stubborn chunks of skin as it approaches the consistency of fruit butter you like, use an immersion stick blender for a couple minutes to smooth it out and make it more uniform. 

When done, turn off the heat and stir in a capful of Maker’s Mark bourbon.

Since I was leaving town, I decided to process the one half pint jar in my handy 4th burner pot. If that's your chosen rout too, process for 10 minutes in the water bath, then turn off the heat and leave it in the hot water for another 5 minutes with the top off.

The beauty of making the syrup and butter is you don't really need a recipe, just match the weight of your peach skins and your sugar, and keep adding water. For me, 1 lb 14 oz of skin produced 12 ounces of finished syrup and 1 half pint of butter!

This was an extra enjoyable project since I got to use up every last scrap of fruit, plus try out some new techniques. And that's what this Cook It! year of challenges is all about right?

Peach Jam + Bourbon Peach Skin Butter + Syrup on Punk Domestics

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cooking The Breakfast Book, Chapter 1: Oatmeal Orange Bread

When I walked solo into the Herbivoracious event at the stunning Cookhouse space a few months ago, I had no idea I would leave so inspired by Michael Natkin's cooking and his luscious cookbook, or that I would eat and laugh and walk out the door with a gang of interesting and accomplished women. As we parted, we talked of getting together soon, and our plan somehow became meeting for "Sausage Tuesday" at my neighborhood German joint, Schmidt's. As we later ran through the calendar attempting to find a mutually-agreeable date for everyone via email, Rachel of Ode to Goodness suggested we do a Cook the Book project together, and recommended a favorite, The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham.

Some of our Cook the Book gang after our first meeting

We all heartily agreed, and although I am a big fan of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Cunningham — and an even bigger fan of breakfast — I was not familiar with the The Breakfast Book. If you aren't either, read the Gourmet magazine review here or David Lebovitz's musings on the author here, and hopefully you will follow along as we cook our way through it and will come to appreciate the warmth and character of this delightful classic.

The book is filled with illustrations and charming asides that are a wonderful expression of Ms. Cunningham's personality and old-fashioned style. For example, she provides 14 rules for 'Breakfast Table Civility and Deportment'. I was relieved to see that according to her guidelines you don't have to get dressed and can read the newspaper at the table...

Now that the rules of the game are set, let's get to cooking!

Chapter 1: Yeast Breads

Out of a chapter of full of tempting recipes, I chose the Oatmeal Orange Bread and had no regrets. Like most yeast breads it does take a good amount of time, but the end result is a moist, flavorful bread that stayed fresh for a number of days.

This is a toothsome and versatile bread. It's not too sweet, with zesty flavor and the oatmeal gives it great texture. Both versions of this bread made incredible toast and sandwiches. This is a go-to for PBJs and the non-glazed version is also great with more savory toppings.

I opted for the Orange Marmalade glaze variation on one of the two loaves in order to compare. While it did supply a nice second layer of citrus, make sure to process the orange so it's finely chopped and less chunky. Cunningham's recipe specified coarsely chopped for a marmalade-like result, where I think something closer to a true glaze with tiny chunks would be nicer.

Oatmeal Orange Bread

Adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
Makes 2 loaves


For the bread:

1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups milk, warmed
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups cooked oatmeal (made from rolled oats)
6 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
1 orange, quartered, seeded and ground in a food processor (or coarsely chopped to make 1 cup)

For the Orange Marmalade glaze (optional):

1 orange, quartered, seeded and ground in a food processor (or finely chopped to make 1 cup)
1 cup of sugar

As you prepare your ingredients, cook enough rolled oats for 2 cups of cooked oatmeal.

When the oatmeal is close to done, mix 1 teaspoon of sugar into 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl. Add the contents of 2 packages of dry active yeast and let for 5-10 minutes, until frothy.

Warm the milk, and add it to the yeast mixture along with the butter, salt, remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, cooked oatmeal and 3 cups of flour. Stir vigorously until well mixed and add only enough flour by half cup until it forms a workable dough.

{Note: I ultimately needed upwards of 7 1/2 cups of flour, due in part to the fact I didn't let the oatmeal cook long enough because of bad recipe reading/timing. Cunningham's recipe called for only 5 cups of flour which I found to be fairly inaccurate. Next time I make this bread I will definitely weigh my flour to ensure proper flour measurements and adjust the amount accordingly.}

Add the chopped orange and knead with your hands for 1 minute, or for 15 seconds with a dough hook attachment in a food processor. After letting the dough rest for 10 minutes, begin kneading again and continue until it is elastic and smooth.

Grease a large bowl and place the dough inside covered by plastic wrap, until it has doubled in size. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and punch the dough down and divide it into equal halves. Place each half in a greased medium-sized loaf pan and allow to rise to the top of the pan.

Preheat oven to 375° and place pans on middle rack. Bake for 45 minutes or until beginning to brown on top. Place on racks to cool.

For the glazed Orange Marmalade version:
Quarter, seed and finely grind an orange in a food processor to make 1 cup. Mix with 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all the sugar is dissolved and the glaze becomes shiny. Let it cool and then brush onto the top of the loaves 10 minutes before they are done cooking. If you are only glazing one loaf, reduce ingredients by half.

Oatmeal Orange Bread, both ways

Don't miss out on a still-warm buttered bite!

My fellow Cook the Book cohorts are five excellent food bloggers who I feel lucky to be in the company of: Rachel of Ode to Goodness, Natasha of Non-Reactive Pan, Emily of The Bon Appetit Diaries, Claudie of The Bohemian Kitchen and Sammy of Rêve du Jour. Click through to check out each of their Chapter 1 choices, and be ready for our next Breakfast Book foray in 2 weeks.