Monday, September 27, 2010

Beef Satay

This summer, even into fall here in Virginia, has been hot and muggy day after day, ending in the kind of evenings meant to be spent in wet bathing suits. I have said too many times that we've had more summer this past two months than the past six seasons combined, but it is true.

And so it is that our tastes have strayed towards Asia, over and over. The kind of meals you can cook in the morning when it is still cool, and eat at room temperature when it suits. The kind of crisp, clean tastes that take well to seasonal produce, and local meats. The New York Times dining section, which we peruse each Wednesday for ideas, is similarly inclined towards Tamari and ginger this summer, giving us credence.

This recipe, though, is one we love from Mr. Steven Raichlen, a man among men, according to my men friends, who has elevated BBQ to an actual art. Combine his marinade with the marinating machine (though, as usual, I assure you that a plastic bag will work just as handily) and you have perfection.

Singapore Beef Satay
adapted from Steven Raichlen

1.5 lbs rib-eye steak, 1/2 inch thick, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, including the fat
3 Tablespoons light brown sugar
2 Tablespoons ground coriander
1 Tablespoon tumeric
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
3 Tablespoons fish sauce or tamari
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Place meat in a mixing bowl and stir in the sugar, coriander, tumeric, cumin, pepper, fish sauce and oil. Marinate the beef for 20 minutes in marinator or 2 to 12 hours in the fridge.

Drain the cubes of beef and discard marinade. Thread the beef onto bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water for 10 minutes. Leave the bottom half of each skewer bare for a handle and 1/4 inch exposed at the pointed end. Alternate between one piece of lean beef and one piece of fatty beef for the best flavor.

Prepare a gas or charcoal grill. Over high heat, brush the grates with oil. Fold aluminum foil by thirds like a letter and place over the grill as a rest for the exposed skewer ends, so they do not burn. Grill the sates until cooked to taste, about 2 minutes a side for medium.

Serve with cucumber relish, and rice dotted with toasted coconut. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Chicken with Fennel

Last spring I planted two rows of fennel, and as usually happens in that circumstance, all of the sudden there is plenty to go around. Fennel is easy to grow, stores well, and is versatile and original, with its soft anise undertones.

This is an easy, fast comfort food fix, that is easily timed to arrive from the oven hot for dinner. The fennel caramelizes under the fennel, which is a soft counterpoint to the moist chicken. When you stab the chicken the clear juice melds the dish.

A crusty baguette, chutney and a salad with green goddess does the trick. Dress it up with a nice bottle of soft Pinot Noir and it can easily carry a weeknight dinner party.

Roast Chicken with Fennel
adapted from the NY Times

1/2 cup olive oil, or as needed
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 lbs chicken thighs, skin on
chopped fresh parsley

Preheat over to 450 degrees. Drizzle bottom of a shallow roasting pan or baking sheet with a tablespoon or so of oil and cover it with a layer of fennel. Drizzle another tablespoon or so over fennel and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Roast about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add to casserole skin side up, covering the fennel. Spoon some juices up from bottom of pan over the chicken. Roast 15 minutes then baste chicken with pan drippings and rotate the pan. If necessary, adjust heat so chicken browns without burning.

The chicken will be done in about 30 minutes. Serve each piece with some fennel and pan juices; garnish with parsley.

Serves 8


Friday, September 10, 2010

Apples everywhere

My apple trees are like those in the Wizard of Oz, fairly throwing fruits at me as I pass ("It was a drive-by fruiting!")

My 5-year-old brings them in by the box and wants to make goods for a bake sale. I am concentrating on getting them put up before the bees get them.

SO here's the easiest recipe ever, except that you do have to invest the time to peel and core them. (And if anyone knows what kind they are, please let me know as we inherited the trees. They are sweet and just a little soft, but perfect to eat and need no sugar in baking. I toss them with butter and cinnamon for breakfast. We dice them with raisins for lunch. And yesterday, I canned applesauce that needed not a single thing but water. It was rosy pink and sweet-tart, a little chunky. Going to the store for more jars.....

Slow cooker applesauce

20 apples, or however many you need to fill the cooker
1 cup water

Peel and core apples, put them in the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours.

To can:  fill clean Mason jars, leaving half-inch of headspace. Put in a large pot and cover with water, making sure to cover by at least an inch. Boil 20 minutes.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

A few years ago, my husband ordered a new grill. He researched the purchase for months before deciding on the B.A.G. (Big Ass Grill, a technical term coined by his buddy Dan). With this huge appliance came another box, decidedly small compared with the BAG, but large none the less.

Now, I am one who likes small appliances, or at least those that multi-task, and machine in the box did only one thing, marinate -- a task for which I had previously used a plastic bag and gravity. And it was a large machine at that. The following weekend was Father's Day, and when my father came to visit he promptly was presented with the large marinator.

The Reveo Marivac Food Tumbler, as it is called, is rather like a vacuum-sealed rock polisher. Meat and marinade are placed in a large plastic cylinder, and a reverse vacuum sucks out the air. It is then  placed on a rolling carriage and tumbled until the marinade becomes one with the meat.

The good people at Reveo obviously subscribe to the theory: If you only do one thing, do it well.

With the gift of the Reveo, my mother has become the queen of marinating. If there's a last minute supper, for maybe 10, she pulls out the marinator and heads out to the herb garden. On this day, a pork tenderloin; the Amish farmers also had a fresh picked romaine, and Wegman's a tub of new figs. And she, obviously, had been listening to Simon and Garfunkel.

The pork, grilled on a hot BAG, becomes juicy on the inside, and crispy out. The marinate, not confined to the outside of the meat, subtly infiltrates the entirety, making it fresh and rich and buttery soft from the soft pummeling of the machine.

Herbed Pork Tenderloin

2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped sage
1/4 cup chopped rosemary
1/4 cup chopped thyme

2 pork tenderloins

Chop herbs and garlic in food process, add oil and wine. Pour marinade into marinator (or use a plastic bag!) and marinate for 20 minutes if using machine. If using a bag, massage marinade into meat through the bag and put in fridge as long as you like, from overnight to 2 hours. Bring meat to room temperature and grill on a hot grill, to 160 degrees.

Fig Salad

Shaved parmesean
Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Half the figs and place on a cookie sheet. Place under a heated broiler and roast until soft, about 5 - 7 minutes.

Using your hands, tear lettuce into small (2") bits and place on separate plates. Top with shaved parmesean and drizzle with balsamic and olive oil. Put the figs on each salad.

Needless to say, I am now wanting my own marinator. As large as it is, when you do one thing as well as this does, you earn your place in the kitchen.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tomato Wars

Every July my uncle John comes to visit. He brings coolers of produce: beets, peppers and beans in abundance. And, if we are lucky, one tomato. This tomato is to represent all the tomatoes grown in Indiana that my father (who grew up in Indiana) will not be eating come August. This tomato is not yet as red as poppies, nor as sweet as summer rain, but it signals potential.

We wait for the lunch that we will slice up the tomato and taste it, (my father generally does this without announcement, and later adds that we should try a slice when just the end is left).

But these past two years this has not had to be our only chance -- my uncle wraps the tomatoes, nearly ripe, up in tissue and careful cardboard packaging and sends them via FedEx. This year he marked them with numbers and sent along a small menu with the varieties: 1. Keepsake, 2. Goliath, 3. Sun King, 4. German Pink, 5. Raad Red. And they are very good.

Of course, the tomatoes here aren't bad either. Fresh from the farm stand they are a sweet and yielding fruit, juicy and yearning for sea salt. Good with just a hint of fresh basil.

The point is, this is a family that cares deeply about tomatoes. I am not going to say that Indiana tomatoes are better, or New York State tomatoes. In fact, I am pretty sure that when I finally return to my garden, there will be some lovely Virginia tomatoes that have ripened in my absence. I am not that discerning -- though I guess I am picky enough, because when tomatoes are not in season, I will not eat them at all. (Though I do cook with them out of a can, I am very picky about that also.)

At the top of the season, I just cut a tomato and salt it. I do this every night and sometimes for lunch. My mother does things with them: delicious things that make us smack our lips when we are walking through the kitchen. Things that make my stepdaughter jump up and down when she finds they are for dinner.  This for instance, from the cookbook Lost Recipes, by Marion Cunningham, who revised the Fannie Farmer cookbook and works with James Beard. Lost Recipes is an ode to cooking, a lament to a generation of cooks lost because they have not the time or the inclination to cook. Lost because immigrants wanted to blend in, to taste the commercial foods of their new land, to buy foods at the market that said they were part of this society.

I think my generation does a little of both, making the food we eat uniquely ours. We've hopped over boundaries and embraced many technologies and products which allow us to stick to our food philosophies without spending so much time in the kitchen.

That said, this is an easy recipe you will never get anywhere but in the kitchen. Even if you had a market that would make this, it is the just out of the oven melding of the tomatoes, butter and breadcrumbs that is irresistible. It is very forgiving and no time will be the same -- depending on the tomatoes -- it may be soupy or thick.

Just like real life. You'll find it all good.

Tomato Gratin
adapted from Lost Recipes

3-4 lbs. tomatoes, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Coarse sea salt
Black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups gluten-free breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Layer the tomatoes in a 11" casserole or oval baking dish. Salt and pepper after each layer.
Melt butter in a skillet and mix in breadcrumbs. (Ms, Cunningham recommends adding 2 t of chopped thyme at this stage. I am sure this would be fabulous; we like the simple flavor of the tomatoes. Your choice.) Spread evenly over tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for an hour, or until nicely browned.