Monthly Archives: May 2017

SWEET CHERRY GALETTE

It is just at the end of the season for cherries at our local farmers’ market. My son-in-law and grandson love them – don’t we all – so Carol has been making a lot of things cherry, including a delicious cherry, hazelnut, mâche salad. One of our Sunday dinner conversations focused on all the different things you could do with cherries. Lots of recipes were discussed, but the conversation kept coming back to Cherries Jubilee. The dish has such a romantic name, and it conjures up images of elegance and maybe a little bit of indulgence. Especially for the younger members of the family the thought of leaping flames at table side is the most exciting aspect of the dish. The last Cherries Jubilee that I remember at home was nearly 40 years ago. The most memorable Cherries Jubilee was not even the real thing. Our ski patrol had an annual camping expedition, always held in the dead of winter. On a weekend, after the lifts had closed we gathered at the lift shack on the highest run on the mountain. Then we would ski off to an isolated spot in the woods, pitch our tents before dark, and prepare an evening meal. The first year, everyone brought freeze-dried stew or canned tuna. Everyone except Bob, who was the most experienced mountaineer. We thought he would bring some sort of dehydrated food from one of his expeditions. Instead, he brought an elaborate main dish and then prepared flaming canned cherries that he ladled over a handful of fresh snow in each camper’s dish. That set the mark, and each year thereafter (this being a highly competitive group) the challenge was on for who could make the most elaborate and exotic meal out in the winter wilderness.

With that story in mind, I decided to make Cherries Jubilee for the next Sunday family dinner. I bought a big bag of cherries – and then for various reasons our dinner was postponed. I still needed to do something with those cherries, so I decided to make a cherry pie, actually a cherry galette. I used a commercial pie crust to make it easy, and I added the Kirsch that would have gone into the flambé. It turned out to be simple to make and a good use for cherries before they spoiled. If, when our Sunday dinners resume, there are still cherries available, I’ll go back to my original plan. Otherwise, the family will have to be satisfied with Bananas Foster.

RECIPE

Sweet Cherry Galette

Ingredients

  • 4 cups sweet cherries, pitted
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon mint extract
  • 2 tablespoons Kirsch (optional)
  • 1 prepared pie crust
  • 1 tablespoon chilled unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
  • cream
  • turbinado sugar

Method

  1. Place the pitted cherries in a large bowl. Gently stir in the brown sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, salt, vanilla and mint extracts, and Kirsch. Let stand for 15 minutes.
  2. On a lightly-floured surface, roll the prepared pie crust into a circle about 11 inches across. Transfer the crust to a rimmed baking sheet that has been lined with parchment.
  3. Arrange the cherry mixture in the center of the pie crust, taking care to leave a two-inch space around the edge. Dot the cherry mixture with the butter pieces. Drape the edges of the pie crust over the cherry mixture, pressing the folds to seal the dough.
  4. Paint the turned-up pie crust with cream and sprinkle with turbinado.
  5. Bake in the middle of an oven that has been preheated to 425°F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned and the filling is bubbling.
  6. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. A scoop of vanilla ice cream makes a good addition.

Cook’s Note: Carol has an electric cherry pitter which makes short work of the task. I have a little device that pits cherries one at a time. The job takes longer, but you can turn on the TV or pour a glass of wine or both to make things go faster.

 

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FAVA BEANS

Recently I wrote about a pasta-bean salad that included fava beans. Carol had told me that they had appeared in a local market, so I immediately went there to buy a pound for the salad. Fresh fava beans, along with green peas and asparagus, are among the joys of the spring garden. They also become a labor of love and of diminishing returns. Preparing them requires a couple of labor-intensive steps (at least in the USA and France). As well, a large pile of bean pods wind up as a handful of bright green beans.

Favas, also called broad beans, have been around for thousands of years. They have been an important part of the diets of many civilizations in the Middle East and around the perimeter of the Mediterranean. In Egypt they were considered to be a food of the common people. In other places, they have been elevated to the status of a delicacy, and of course they were included in the menu of Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s request for a final meal in the terrifying movie, “Silence of the Lambs.” The beans are versatile: they can be an alternative to chickpeas in hummus; they can be fried crispy and serve as a snack; they can be sauced with vinaigrette and stand alone; they can be eaten as any other bean. And they are delicious.

Fava beans also gave rise to the term, favism, a mysterious illness that puzzled medical people for many years. Victims who ate fava beans could develop anemia, jaundice, fever, pain, kidney failure, and even death. Careful research eventually demonstrated that the illness was due to substances, vicine and related compounds,  in fava beans that caused the red blood cells of susceptible individuals to break down, releasing their contents including hemoglobin. This resulted in all of the serious effects. Susceptible individuals were found to have an inherited deficiency of an enzyme, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), that is important in glucose metabolism and produces glutathione, a critical protectant against oxidation within red blood cells.  Vicine is a potent oxidation agent, and similar substances in various foods and medications can cause the same illness. An irony is that the populations most commonly affected by the deficiency are those surrounding the Mediterranean – people who often use fava beans as an important part of their diet. The nature of the genetics is that men are much more likely than women to be affected.

When you prepare fava beans, you need to be ready for a lot of effort. In the USA, there are 3 steps and a pound of raw bean pods will yield only about a half cup of brilliant green, flavorful beans. You need to decide whether or not they are worth the effort. Removing the inner shell is a step that is often skipped, especially if the beans are young and tender. Also, the inner shell adds to the crispiness if you decide to fry the beans for a snack.

Step 1: Shell the beans. This is easy and uses the same method that one employs for shelling green peas or black-eyed peas or Crowder peas. Select pods that are full. The beans in younger pods may be more tender and may obviate the need for Step 2. If you have a lot of beans to prepare, this is a perfect place for the old East Texas approach of several folks sitting on the porch in rocking chairs, gossiping while they pop the beans into bowls in their laps.

Step 2: Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Plunge the shelled beans into the boiling water, working in batches if necessary. Return to the boil for 1 minute. Then transfer the beans rapidly to a generously sized and well-iced bowl of ice water. When the beans have cooled, transfer them to a bowl.

Step 3: Using your fingers or the sharp tip of a paring knife, open the thick shell of the bean and pop out the bright green inner bean. Repeat the process until all of the beans have been harvested. Use the beans in whatever recipe appeals to you. In general, the simpler the preparation the better the result because the flavor of the bean stands out.

 

 

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PASTA-BEAN SALAD PRIMAVERA

Spring is well along, and the local farmers’ market is in full swing with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables available. Everyone in our local family is on one or another diet, not to mention their variety of food proscriptions: no onions, no mayonnaise, nothing spicy. So when it became my turn to cook our weekly family dinner, I decided it was a good time for salads. Let everyone push to the side whatever ingredient they wouldn’t or couldn’t eat. The main dish was a cross between a pasta and bean salad with the addition of vegetables and eggs from the farmers’ market as well as some canned items from the grocery store. There was a lot of prep time. I shelled fresh fava beans. I roasted corn. There were eggs to hard boil, chicken to cook and dice, and cans to open. But once that was all done, assembly was quick and easy so that I could sit in the family circle and participate in the discussion. The beauty of pasta and bean salads is that there really is no recipe, and you can add or subtract whatever you want. This version came so loaded that finicky eaters could have a field day picking out ingredients. Since I didn’t include onion or chiles and dressed the salad with vinaigrette, I addressed those objections at the outset. I didn’t see anyone picking at his or her plate,

RECIPE

Pasta-Bean Salad Primavera 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh fava beans, shelled, blanched, husked. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
  • 2 ears fresh corn, dry roasted and kernels removed. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
  • 4 jumbo eggs, boiled and peeled. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble
  • 1 large chicken breast, poached, cooled, and cut into ½ inch cubes. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
  • 2 bell peppers, seeds removed, diced. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
  • 2 ribs celery, diced. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
  • large cucumber, seeds removed and diced. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
  • ½ pound mushrooms, boiled for 15 minutes, cooled and halved. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
  • 4 ounces pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet. Set aside until ready to assemble
  • 1 cup each of pasta shapes, cooked and drained.  (I used orecchiette, penne and farfalle, but you can use your favorites)
  • 1 cup olive oil vinaigrette, home-made or bottled
  • 14 ounce can, cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14 ounce  can, black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14 ounce can, black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 14 ounce can, large, pitted black olives, drained and rinsed
  • 14 ounce can, quartered artichoke hearts, drained
  • 5 ounce can, sliced water chestnuts, drained
  • 5 ounce can, sliced bamboo shoots, drained
  • 8 ounces feta, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • ½ cup snow peas, ends removed and cut into ¾ inch slices
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Boil the pasta according to directions. If cooking times for the various pastas are greatly different, add the individual varieties at the appropriate time. Drain the cooked pasta and combine with half of the vinaigrette.
  2. In a very large bowl, and reserving the hard-boiled eggs, add all of the remaining ingredients to the pasta: fava beans, corn, chicken, peppers, celery, cucumber, mushrooms, pine nuts, cannellini beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, olives, artichoke hearts, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, grape tomatoes, snow peas, and feta.
  3. Stir in the remaining vinaigrette and sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl and arrange sliced hard-boiled eggs on top.

Cook’s Notes

  • This recipe makes LOTS of pasta salad. It is easily enough to serve at least 12 people generously. It also makes great leftovers for the next day’s lunch
  • Roasting corn in a dry skillet over high heat gets a nice char, but you can also achieve the same thing in the oven or over an open flame.
  • I used four different colors of bell pepper for contrast and used only half of the diced peppers for this recipe, reserving the other half for another recipe.
  • Boiling the mushrooms causes them to compact and absorb the vinaigrette better. If you like, you can boil them in water with a little vinegar and pickling spices to make them a little tastier.
  • Dry roasting of pine nuts brings out their distinctive flavor. Just be careful not to scorch them.
  • You can use whatever shape pasta you like, but ones with ridges or indentations – like macaroni, penne, or orecchiette – will soak up the dressing and the melded flavors. Just be sure to check on cooking times because if they are too different you could wind up with a mixture of firm and mushy pasta.
  • You can substitute crumbled feta or any other cheese you favor. I like cubes of feta because they hold their shape and have a distinctive tart flavor.

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RT ROTISSERIE NEARLY THERE

A couple of weeks ago we went to the Bay Area for a few days to celebrate some family events and to give a hand where we could. Peter and René planned to celebrate their wedding anniversary with a stay by themselves in a nice San Francisco hotel. Ukulele lessons, soccer games, and practice for a science fair got in the way, so the whole family came to the city for a brief overnight and a visit with Sarah and her family in their new house.

Sarah and Evan decided that the stress of opening a new business was not enough, and so they also chose to buy a new house.  It is a remodeled century-old house near Ocean Beach with more room for their two boys than their small and seemingly shrinking apartment in the Presidio. Now they face the joys and travails of homeownership.

While we were there, Sarah worked on cannoli for  a special Italian wine dinner at Rich Table. Evan also worked on the Italian dinner menu along with supervising the painters and carpenters putting the finishing touches on RT Rotisserie. The original  goal was to have the restaurant inspected and opened within the week. Stress! That hasn’t worked out. City permits and inspections always take longer than one expects, and construction always gets slowed down by an unanticipated problem with plumbing, or a brick wall, or some such thing. Now the opening date seems established as Memorial Day weekend. We plan to return to San Francisco to give a hand with the boys so that Sarah and Evan can give full attention to the opening.

Rich Table had incorporated many of Sarah and Evan’s ideas about what a restaurant should be. They wanted the food to be sophisticated, the menu to change constantly, and the atmosphere to be casual enough that the diner can relax and just enjoy the food. They have certainly realized their goals.

RT Rotisserie has a different origin and a different vision. Sarah and Evan found a space just a block from Rich Table. It was in an old building in the style of the neighborhood and had been vacant for a couple of years. In its most recent iteration it had been a Chinese takeout, and the space needed a lot of renovations to make it workable. Rich Table had been opened on a shoestring; RT Rotisserie would require substantially more investment. Earthquake mitigation retrofitting was required. The basement floor had to be dug out with a new, lower floor. Walls were moved, and the insides were completely torn out.  The outside wasrefinished, but in keeping with codes about historical preservation. After six plus months of renovations, the space is beautiful and inviting. Planters with live plants adorn the walls. Shiny new chairs and tables are lined up. Brand-new walk-in cold room and freezer are in the basement. But the stars of the new equipment are a soft-serve ice cream machine and a beautiful red and polished brass rotisserie oven from France that could be a decorative piece instead of being the workhorse of the operation.

That says a little about the vision and the menu. The restaurant will welcome sit-down customers, but it will also encourage walk-ins and take-outs. The menu will be simple, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have the flavor and presentation that Rich Table has become noted for. The rotisserie will be used to roast porchetta, chicken and – for vegetarians or those who just like the taste – cauliflower. Sally Hurricane’s famous fried chicken will be available, and there will be a good choice of Rich Table-style sides. Who knows what they plan to do with the soft-serve, but I am sure it will be delicious. Good choices of beer and wine will also be available.

They’ve asked me to provide some of my images for wall decoration. I am deeply honored.

I can hardly wait to see the grand opening. I hope that it will be a big success.

 

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