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Archive for September, 2007

It was–gulp–a month ago when I brought you a recipe for tomato sauce, at the end of which I mentioned something about a salsa recipe. When Claire, whose garden must be yielding up its last tomatoes, called last night for a recipe of the stuff, I knew it was about time that I got back around to sharing it with you all. Not to mention that my directions to poor Claire — “Go to the recipe page of the Splendid Table website, and look for the salsa recipe that Lynne Rossetto Kasper got from Rick Bayless that tells you to roast everything in the oven ahead of time” — were, shall we say, lacking in specificity.

This salsa — wow. It’s smoky and warm and spicy, and uses really simple ingredients. Roasting the tomatoes and garlic and peppers adds a nice depth and complexity, so that even if you’re just drinking beer and eating chips with this salsa, it seems a little bit special. The flavor develops a good deal after a few hours, so keep that in mind as you’re gearing up to make it.

Lynne/Rick’s recipe can be found here, with some serving suggestions. What follows is the Shana-fied version.

What you need:

  • 2-3 pounds gorgeous tomatoes
  • 2-3 bell peppers (I used red and green)
  • 2 fresh jalapeño chiles
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Salt, about a scant 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1/2 small white onion, finely chopped — or 3-4 scallions
  • A generous 1/3 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 3 or so limes

1) Heat up the broiler. Lay the tomatoes on a baking sheet and roast under the broiler till blistered and blackened, about 5 minutes. Flip them over w/ tongs and do the same to the other side. Let cool, and slip off the skins, but save the juices.

2) When the tomatoes are done, broil the peppers and chiles. The peppers should take about 8-10 minutes on each side. Cool, and pull the stems of the peppers.

3) In a food processor or blender, grind the garlic, salt, and chiles. Add the tomatoes and peppers and pulse several times until you have a thick sauce. I don’t like a thin or smooth salsa myself, but if you do, you might want to process the salsa a bit longer, or add some water.

4) Stir in the lime juice, cilantro, and onion, but if you’re looking to make it a day or two in advance, leave this final step until you’re ready to serve.

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It’s no surprise that fans of the Jefferson Market are trying to keep it from closing. Jean Henry, owner, has written to Arbor Update in order to solicit some feedback about one possibility:

I am writing because several customers and friends have expressed an interest in exploring a community-owned model (though not strictly co-op model) for running Jefferson Market. I’ll be meeting next week with some people in the know to run some numbers on the idea.

I am interested in getting feedback from you, our loyal clientele, about it. Is it something you would support? Would you be willing to buy a stake in a community-run business? The community has always been emotionally invested in the business. This, for many reasons, has not always translated to money in the door—or at least not enough money. Would a financial stake change (and more comprehensive management) change that? Are there enough of you out there? That is really the big question.

I am of mixed feeling about the whole thing; there have been many ninth hour reprieves for the market, and I’m not sure I can steer this ship through yet another. Of course, if it’s a co-op, it wouldn’t be just me steering the ship, would it? And that’s really the point. I can no longer absorb singly the risks, costs and workload required. Would more captains make the ship run more true? Big questions.

Please respond the this query by email at jeanhenry at earthlink dot net.

If the numbers work and the response is good, I’ll hold an exploratory meeting sometime soon.

Yours, Jean Henry

(reprinted with permission)

I wonder if something like this could work for the Jeff?

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Transitions

It’s starting to happen. Despite our best psychic and culinary efforts, fall’s coming on. We turned on the heat the other night. Just for an hour, just to take the chill off. But still. I’m starting to think about braising. But the surest sign? Wednesday night, after the farm share arrived, John asked me what was for dinner and when I said “greens,” he looked distinctly sad. When I demanded, “So, what?” he said “I’m tired of greens.” For the record, the greens were a mix of turnip, beet and kale, boiled quickly, drained and dried, chopped and then saute-ed with garlic and red pepper in olive oil. I folded in about half a can of canellini and topped it with eggs softly fried in olive oil. What did John say at the end? “Is there any more?” That’s besides the point though. It should just be mentioned.

In order to hold winter off a little longer but still let go of summer gracefully (ok, summer, I can take a hint, you don’t want to be hanging around here anymore), I’m looking for transitional foods, foods that come out of the summer but warm you up, that, you know, just take the chill off.

One of these was the eggplant dish from Naples that Mark Bittman featured a couple of weeks ago in the times. It was tasty and certainly simple, but nothing to write home (or for very long on the blog) about. Just some eggplant cooked soft, mixed with a fresh tomato sauce. I might have liked it better if I had the courage of my convictions in cooking the hell out of the eggplant. With the traumatic memories of a childhood rife with overcooking (except for steak; we liked our steak bloody!) still with me, I tend to be a little anxious about getting food off the heat.

A greater success was the pizza that we made as part of the Sunday night ritual with figs, leeks and pancetta. It’s a wonderful blend of tastes that offer up enough hearty earthiness to feel like fall but still has a bright summer freshness.

For three women who cook so much, I notice that the G3 are a little light on sharing recipes, so here’s a semi-formal write-up. Use your favorite pizza dough recipe. John is a master pizza dough experimenter, and I’ll have to get him to chime in some time on the various permutations of flours and liquids and heat that he’s tried out. I used this one from Molly Katzen for years in my previous life and was quite happy with it (it’s easy). Last week we tried Mario Batali’s crust via the Smitten Kitchen and I really liked it, although John muttered about soft dough and cold yeast. And you know what? Trader Joe’s dough balls work just fine too. Once you’ve settled the dough question, prepare the toppings:

Leek, Fig, Pancetta and Fontina Pizza (adapted from James McNair’s The New Pizza)

3 T Olive oil

8 oz thickly sliced pancetta (less, to taste, but it does taste awful good)

3 cups chopped leek, including some of the green part (rinse those suckers several times — leave no grit behind)

2 cups shredded Italian fontina

About 20 fresh figs, halved

In a large saute pan, heat the 3 T olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until the meat is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove the pancetta, leaving the oil behind and set aside.

Add the leek to the pan and cook until tender and lightly colored (not too brown), about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and add to the pancetta. Set aside to cool.

When topping time comes, you’ll need to decide whether to use a stone or a sheet pan, whether to precook the crust a bit, even fire up the grill and all those other important questions that we need to take up at some point. But the important point is to get the toppings on the pizza.

Brush the crust with olive oil and then cover it with the cheese. Follow up by spreading the leek and pancetta mixture evenly and then laying out the figs, cut side up. This is really quite a pretty pizza in the end, so you may want to fuss a little with how the figs look. Drizzle some more olive oil over the figs and perhaps spread some fresh grated Parmesan cheese on top of that. Cook 10-15 minutes at a high heat until everything looks sort of golden. McNair recommends 500 degrees. I used to cook pizza at 475 but we’ve been going up tp 575 with excellent results. It’s just a little frightening to push the oven dial up that high.

Slice it up, pour a nice glass of red wine, and feel elegant and sophisticated and not at all chilly, while eating this, looking at the soft evening light.

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This is more of a photo essay than a post, I suppose. I’ve been so absolutely smitten by the abundance at the market the past couple of weeks that I’ve overbought and am having a hard time keeping up with cooking and eating all this vegetable treasure, let alone reporting on it.

There’s been an awful lot of tomato activity around here lately. Following Shana’s lead, I made up two huge vats of sauce, one rustic and chunky and sweetened with carrots, one smooth and silky with just a touch of garlic, basil and onion, and both destined for the freezer. The past three days I’ve been doing pan after pan of slow-roasted (very slow; twelve hours at 200 degrees slow) tomatoes and slipping those into quart freezer bags and thinking about how good they’ll taste in February. Oh, they taste good now too. It’s important to sample one from each batch to make sure nothing went wrong. And then a second one to confirm.

And then, because plum madness seems to have struck the internet and everywhere I turn I run into plum recipes, there was a rocking plum crumble and a very nice plum cake. I actually made the plum cake with love and good intentions for the wonderful people who work for me when they came to my house for our annual retreat this week. But then I entirely forgot about it, perhaps because we gorged ourselves on the famous frites from the much lamented Jefferson Market. At first, I thought this was a pretty happy accident as it meant all the more plum cake for the locals, but sadly, a moist plum cake and humid weather don’t mix, and when I lifted the foil on Sunday morning, looking forward to cake and coffee, there was an alarming amount of fuzz on the surface of the plums. Sigh.

There’s still much to be done. There’s a few pounds of skinny little eggplants and a pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes waiting to be turned into Neapolitan eggplant. There are large, sweet, wonderfully red bell peppers destined to be roasted and marinated in lime juice, olive oil and garlic. It’s nonstop cooking around here right now, I tell you.

Meanwhile, here’s the way we make potatoes four out of five times in this house. It’s one of those recipes that seems to me so obvious that I don’t think to post it. But the potatoes are great right now and this may not be in your repertoire yet. Give it a try. Bone simple and delicious.

Brain Dead Roast Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees or so. A little higher if you like a bit more crisp on the outside of the potatoes.

Dice the potatoes up (I always leave skins on) into manageable cubes. The size should depend on the aesthetics of dinner, but I try for one to one and a half inch cubes mostly. Parboil the potatoes. I usually aim for five minutes of parboiling unless I’m really trying to hurry things along. Sometimes, though, I get distracted, and I think up to fifteen minutes works okay. If you parboil that long, you may need to cut down roasting time.

Drain the potatoes and toss them, while warm, with a generous amount of olive oil. I do this right in an oven proof casserole. Throw a child size handful of kosher salt on top and slosh the pan back and forth a few times to get a good even coating of the salt on the potatoes. You may want to toss in some rosemary as well.

Pop the pan in the oven for 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes and your personal taste in potato resistance to the bite. Make sure they get at least golden brown. They taste best, I think, very hot, but really aren’t bad at room temperature either.

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I’m sad to deliver this news, but the beloved Jefferson Market will be closing October 1. If you’re new to town, try to stop by before then and check it out. It was the kind of place that really made the neighborhood: the Bach kids would rush across the street to buy candy after school; you brought out of town visitors there for coffee and pastries and the newspaper; if you ran out of eggs or milk, you could stop by after work to pick some up. Takeout items like Moroccan tagine and pot roast with horseradish mashed potatoes made a satisfying, if a little bit fancy, dinner.

You can read a letter from the owner, Jean Henry, over at Arbor Update. The specific reason for the closing remains a bit opaque, but I suppose it’s not a huge surprise that, after 7 years and inklings here and there that the business wasn’t doing well, Jean found that it was time to call it quits.

I will miss, in no particular order:

  • french fries with aioli
  • the great music on the stereo — a good mix of hiphop, motown, indie rock, and country
  • homemade pop-tarts
  • sitting in the back garden with friends, swapping stories and dreaming up themes for parties and drinking strong iced coffee
  • not being able to order their Valentine’s Day dinner for two/takeout ever again, which Michael and I enjoyed this year — I fondly remember three kinds of crostini, a gorgeous + fresh green salad, an Indonesian seafood stew, beef tenderloin expertly prepared, and some flourless chocolate cake and raspberries.

What will you miss?

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