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Bucks County Taste has moved! See this post on our new server. 

By guest blogger Susan Sprague Yeske

As partners in a business that transforms chefs’ cookbook dreams into reality, it’s good to share a common vision. It’s also good to like the same kinds of food.

Shared tastes and a love of the culinary world prompted local food experts Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer to step beyond their role of crafting other people’s books and create one of their own.

Christopher Hirsheimer, left, and Melissa Hamilton in their Lambertville loft studio

Christopher Hirsheimer, left, and Melissa Hamilton in their Lambertville loft studio

Volume one of Canal House Cooking was published this month, the first in a series of softcover cookbooks that focus on seasonal cooking.  In the book the two moms, who live in Hunterdon and Bucks counties, share the summertime recipes they make at home.

The 80 recipes in the book focus on foods in season and feature summertime fare such as tomatoes, plums and zucchini. Every course is covered, from seasonally appropriate mixed drinks to dessert.

The two authors are former magazine food editors with credentials that include years spent at Saveur and Metropolitan Home. Christopher has collaborated on four other cookbooks, including three for Saveur.

Melissa is well known in local culinary circles for co-founding Hamilton’s Grill Room in Lambertville with her father, Jim Hamilton.

Canal House CookingCanal House Cooking costs $19.95, or $49.95 for an annual subscription of three books and can be ordered through the website thecanalhouse.com.

Next will be a book on fall and holiday cooking, then a winter/spring edition. In addition to the website, books are available at amazon.com, Farley’s Bookstore in New Hope, Pa., and the Hamilton’s Grill Room. The books will also be sold at other private bookstores in the U.S. and through Anthropologie stores.

This recipe from the book is a great way to enjoy the fresh local tomatoes just coming into season:

Roasted Tomatoes Studded with Garlic

serves 4

INGREDIENTS

½ cup diced pancetta
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the pasta
2 anchovy fillets
1 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
4 tomatoes, tops sliced off, seeds scooped out
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
small handful fresh thyme, parsley, or basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
½ pound spaghetti

HOW TO

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Fry the pancetta in a skillet over medium heat until browned and crisp around the edges. Use a slotted spatula to lift the pancetta out of the skillet to a plate. Leave the rendered fat in the skillet.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the anchovies to the same skillet. Use a wooden spoon to mash the anchovies until they dissolve. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring often, until they are golden.
  4. Put the tomatoes, cut side up, in a baking dish and slip some garlic into each tomato. Mound some bread crumbs into each tomato and scatter pancetta and herbs on top. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil over all.
  5. Roast the tomatoes in the oven until they have browned a bit and the interior is supple but the tomatoes haven’t collapsed, 1–1½ hours.
  6. Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water. Drain.
  7. Return the pasta to the pot and stir in some olive oil and some of the oily tomato juices from the bottom of the tomato roasting dish.
  8. Serve the spaghetti with the roasted tomatoes and their juices spooned on top.

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By guest blogger Susan Sprague Yeske

Jack Baker was a man with a mission.

PicklesA retiree who likes to cook, he wanted to create the perfect pickle: one that was fresh and flavorful with just the right bite of vinegar and hint of dill. Most importantly, he wanted it to stay crunchy while sitting in its jar in the refrigerator. Soft pickles are unappealing, he said.

Over the course of seven cucumber seasons Baker would begin to work when the Kirby cukes arrived at the Trenton Farmers Market in Lawrence, N.J. He experimented with recipes from cookbook after cookbook, taking ideas from some and discarding others.

His seven-year odyssey ended, he said, when he achieved the perfect pickle, one that draws raves from friends and family. “When I go fishing, my buddies won’t let me get on the boat unless I bring my pickles,” he said.

The truth is in the tasting: they really are the best dill pickles I have ever tasted. And the crunchiness lasts and lasts and lasts.

Jack generously shares his pickle recipe with anyone who wants it, along with other favorite recipes he has acquired through the years. He also shares another hint from a fellow pickle maker: adding a single grape leave to a jar of freshly made pickles will help keep them crisp.

Here is Jack’s recipe:

Jack’s Refrigerator Pickles

INGREDIENTS & EQUIPMENT

8 one-quart canning jars with rings and lids
14 heads of dill, divided, or 1 tablespoon dill seed per quart
16 garlic cloves
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup granulated sugar
2 ¼ cups white vinegar
3 quarts water
Kirby cucumbers 4-5 inches long (approximately 12 to 15 pounds)

HOW TO

  1. Brine: Mix together salt, sugar, vinegar and water and bring to a rolling boil.
  2. While waiting for the brine to boil, sterilize canning jars and rings in boiling water for 12 minutes. Place canning lids in a bowl of warm water and let them sit until ready to use.
  3. Once the jars are sterile, pack with dill, garlic and cucumbers sliced according to size and preferred thickness. Cover with hot brine. Seal jar with lids and rings and wipe edges dry. When jars have cooled, place in the refrigerator.

Yields approximately 8 quarts.
Pickles must be refrigerated and will maintain their freshness for up to 10 weeks or more.

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Farm-fresh cocktailIf all the lovely veggies now showing up at local farmers’ markets don’t do it for you (??), here’s a Philadelphia Daily News article that highlights some delectable drinks you can make with local ingredients. That should motivate you to get out to the farmers’ market.

Here’s a couple of items that caught my eye on how to use the ingredients, particularly herbs. Recipes are included in the article.

Bistro St. Tropez chef/owner Patrice Rames is crazy about peaches right now … After blanching the fruit for two minutes to remove the skin, Rames dips it in ice water to stop the cooking process. Then he roasts the fruit, sprinkled with raw sugar, lemon thyme or mint and a little butter, in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. “I use the peach for a dessert with caramel or vanilla ice cream, but I also puree it for cocktails,” he said.

At Noble, the new restaurant on Sansom Street from Todd Rodgers and Bruno Pouget, the focus is on seasonality … Rodgers … creates a long list of cocktails using fresh ingredients, house-brewed ginger beer and cider and even homemade tonic. His two best sellers are the French 75, a mix of gin, citrus and champagne, and the Ti Jean, made with ginger beer, rye, lemon juice and mint. “The secret to getting added oomph from your mint is to smack it in the palm of your hand before you put it in the drink. That releases its natural oils,” he said.

 Guess we’ve got some research to do this weekend.

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Believe it or not, I really am supposed to surf the web for my job. And I came across two drink recipes that just tickled my fancy, so I thought I’d share them.

Smoked lemons The first is for Smoked Lemonade from Slashfood on AOL Food. Blogger Kat Kinsman gives a recipe for smoking lemons (it’s not what you’re thinking) over a charcoal fire while you’re smoking other food. As she says,

If I’m going to go to all the trouble of stoking a hardwood lump charcoal fire, obsessively monitoring its low-‘n-slow-ness for a goodly chunk of the day, feeding its greedy gut with beer-soaked mesquite and hickory chunks at half-hour intervals all for the sake of an albeit fabulous brisket or pork shoulder, I’m gonna want a bit more return on the investment.

Smoked LemonadeAll that is needed is a foil pan for the fruit, checking it a natural intervals when you would be checking on the meat. Place the lemons in foil pans, some cut-side-up and some down, away from the heat source in your smoker or kettle grill. Kat recommends hickory or mesquite chips. After adding a sugar syrup, and cooling, bourbon or rye makes a nice addition. Here’s the complete recipe.

Lemons, sure. But beets in a cocktail? Since beets are now in season, why not? This interesting drink recipe comes by way of Daniel Meyer writing on Mark Bittman’s NYTimes blog, Bitten. Here’s the simple recipe.

I split a couple of beets, threw them in a saucepan with half a cup of water, a quarter cup of sugar and some mint, brought it to a boil, strained it and cooled it (I froze the beet stems and used them as swizzle sticks). Beets cocktail

Then I finely grated another beet and stirred it into some salt, my kitchen turning pinker by the second. I wet the rims of the glasses, dipped them in the beet salt, dropped in some ice, some gin, a few spoonfuls of the beet syrup, a splash of tonic (seltzer would have been much better), and a few tarragon leaves. The thing was very nice to look at, refreshing, and pretty tasty, too (most especially if you’re obsessed with beets).

We’re due to get beets at our CSA farm pick-up this week. I’ll let you know how it goes with vodka.

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BlueberriesAlas, the strawberry season is coming to a close but that can only mean one thing…blueberries are coming! And while the rain certainly made a mess of the strawberry harvest this year, apparently it’s done the blueberry crop good, according to an article in the Pressof AtlanticCity.com. Blueberries are much larger and plumper this year.

Last year, there were four really hot days in the beginning of June that stunted the growth of the crop – they went from green berries straight to blueberries without any growth,” said Bill Mortellite, of Hammonton, whose family has owned Blueberry Bill Farms on 11th Street for more than 50 years. “This year, the cool, wet weather has enabled the berries to gradually go from green to white to red to blue, which allows them to grow bigger and become easier to pick.”

But New Jersey blueberry farmers are worried about making ends meet as well this year. With competition from both within the U.S. and abroad, it has decreased the demand for local blueberries.

We’re just starting our harvest, but if you go to the supermarket, they already have blueberries on the shelves from Georgia,” said Mortellite, who will allow adults to pick their own blueberries at his farm for the first time this year in an attempt to offset the impact of the recession.

“Blueberries grown locally are the freshest and, in my opinion, the best tasting,” he said. “People just have to know that the season is here. Because it is so short, they could miss it.”

Although the article talks about the big blueberry farms in New Jersey, we’ve got some here in Bucks as well, as I was just reminded by an astute reader. Be sure to check out Solebury Orchards  and The Wildemore Farm in Chalfont for the start of their blueberry seasons. The Wildemores come to the Doylestown Farmers’ Market and also, like Solebury Orchards, offer pick-your-own.

Because Mark and I are doing low-carb, and I can’t eat one of my favorite blueberry cake recipes, I’m sharing it all with you. So go out and get some local blueberries and make some cake!

 

Blueberry Buckle
[Thanks, Mom]

INGREDIENTS for the CAKE

2 cups blueberries
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
grated lemon rind
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

INGREDIENTS for the GLAZE

2 tbsp. soft butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice

HOW TO for the CAKE

  1. Wash and drain blueberries. Set aside on paper towels to dry.
  2. Stir lemon juice into milk and set aside.
  3. Set oven for 350 degrees F.
  4. Cream butter, sugar and egg; grate lemon rind in.
  5. Add milk and lemon mixture, flour, baking powder and salt. Do not overmix / beat.
  6. Add blueberries and gently stir in.
  7. Pour into a greased 8 inch square pan.
  8. Bake for 40 -45 minutes until a thin knife comes out clean.

HOW TO for the GLAZE

  1. Prepare just before cake is done baking.
  2. Cook all ingredients over low heat until smooth and then remove from stove.
  3. When cake is done, spread glaze over top. Return cake to oven and broil until glaze bubbles, but avoid overbrowning.

Note: You can use the same recipe to make muffins. Just brush the glaze on instead of pouring.

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Early summer has presented us with many bounties. Greens, certainly, and now, for the first time this season, squash flowers appeared at the farmers’ market. So here’s a couple of recipes to get you cooking.

The first is one I’ve been dying to try out. Sharon Schwartz recommended it from the cookbook Adventures of an Italian Food Lover by Faith Heller Willinger, but I didn’t want to publish it until the flowers were available. If you’ve been wandering the farmers’ markets the last few weeks you’ve also seen lots of spring greens, including some you’ve probably never heard of. Here’s a simple recipe that I’ve been using that works for all of them. It’s fast, and even Mark – who is not known for his love of vegetables – loves it.

 

Zucchini FlowersRicotta-Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Serves 4 to 6

INGREDIENTS

1 cup ricotta, fresh if possible, or sheep’s milk ricotta
12 – 16 fresh zucchini flowers
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Fine sea salt
1 tbsp. minced fresh basiL

HOW TO

  1. If your ricotta is watery, drain it in a sieve to remove excess whey. Soak the zucchini flowers in cool water, then spin-dry in a salad spinner. Removing the stamens is unnecessary.
  2. Pack the ricotta into a pastry bag (you can also use a disposable sturdy plastic bag and simply cut the tip off the end). Insert the end of the pastry bag into the zucchini flowers and pipe one or two spoonfuls of ricotta into each.
  3. Drizzle 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. Placed the stuffed flowers in the skillet in a single layer and place the pan over the highest heat. When the pan heats and the oil begins to sizzle, cover and cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until the flowers are hot, stemed by the moisture of the ricotta. Transfer to a serving dish and top with pepper, sea salt, minced basil, and the remaining oil.

GreensSpring Greens & Garlic

The amounts are approximate, depending on how many you are feeding and how much garlic you like. The general rule with greens is make lots, and then double it. When they steam and cook, they shrink tremendously.

INGREDIENTS

Greens – chard, collard, spinach, kale, bok choy, beet greens, dandelion greens, broccoli rabe, etc.
Garlic, smashed and minced
Onions, or shallots, or, if you’re lucky enough to find them, garlic scapes, sliced thin
Olive oil
Kosher salt or sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
Hot pepper flakes (optional)

HOW TO

  1. Clean and wash the greens but you don’t completely dry.
  2. With flat-leafed greens (like collards), lay several leaves on top of each other, then roll them together, kind of like a cigar. Then cut the greens at an angle, at 1 inch intervals. For spinach and smaller greens, just tear into bite-size pieces.
  3. Now here’s where opinions differ. Some people like to steam the greens in a skillet, gradually adding water and/or stock. That’s fine. But I’m a little lazy. So I steam them, putting the tougher greens or stalks towards the bottom, and the more tender ones at the top (won’t need as much steaming). Just for a few minutes, to soften them, then remove the lid and let them breath.
  4. While the greens are steaming, start warming a skillet. Add olive oil. When the oil is hot, add garlic and onions, but being careful not to burn. Turn the heat down and let the garlic/onion mixture gently cook.
  5. Add a bit more olive oil and let it warm up. Then add in the greens, gently tossing. Season with salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes, if you like, and then serve.

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I first met Karen McGinn over a bowl of soup. Well, several bowls of soup, to be precise. IChef Karen McGinn attended a cooking demonstration last March hosted by Network Now. You could say that Karen was the main act. She cooked, we watched, we ate and we drank. It worked on so many levels, as the saying goes.

Karen is the chef and proprietor of Heaven on a Plate, a personal chef service, which means she plans menus with her clients, does the menu-related grocery shopping, prepares the meals in your home, packages and labels the meals, and cleans up your kitchen afterwards. With today’s busy families, it’s a service many appreciate because it gives them more time with family and friends.

That cold and dreary Sunday in late March was warmed considerably by Karen, who entertained and educated us about food, nutrition and cooking techniques. Over the course of two hours, she made four soups which we all got to eat along with an appropriately paired wine.

What impressed me most about Karen at the time was how she easily juggled cooking, teaching and serving, never flummoxed, and enjoying every moment. I knew I wanted to interview her for Bucks County Taste.

After playing phone and email tag for a couple of months, we finally settled in on some rocking chairs at my house, and I admitted to Karen that I was using the interview as an excuse to get to know her better. I had a feeling we had a lot in common, and I was exploiting my “press pass” to become friends.

(more…)

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