Strawberries!

I’ve created 5 wonderful recipes using strawberries for my friends over at Foodlander that are perfect for summer parties, simple lunches, and sweet endings.  Head over and check them out!  What is your favorite way to use strawberries?

Strawberry Gallettes with Pistachio and Fennel Pollen

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Strawberry Thyme Margaritas With Black Lava Salt (Smoothie Style)

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Strawberry Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

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Strawberry Ricotta Crostini with Bacon

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Strawberry & Black Quinoa Salad

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Swiss Grief & Rösti Recipe

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I am still grieving Roger Federer’s loss to Novak Djokovic in the men’s Wimbledon final yesterday.  And sore over the fact that my local newspaper NEVER sees fit to put the Wimbledon winners as the lead story on the front page of the Sports section, every year, even in non-World Cup years.  The story is always on the side margin; this year it’s at the very bottom, below a giant shot of the Los Angeles Cuban misfit Dodger Yasiel Puig (apologies, he’s a good player, but it’s true) and a story about the All-Star Game.  If you watched the 5 set match, wherein 2 of the 5 sets were forced to tiebreaker, and the overwhelming percentage of games was won on service (that is, the serving player always won their service game so that the match was even EXCEPT when Roger came back from a 2-5 deficit in the 4th set and broke service 3 times to win that set . . . which is outrageously amazing), you would agree that it was a historic display of elite athletic talent.  What’s more, both players are consummate sportsmen, gracious whether winning or losing.  Why tennis doesn’t get the media love it deserves is beyond me.  Then there’s Roger, who’s classy, stylish, handsome and in my opinion the greatest men’s tennis player of all time.  Not fair not fair!!!

I may be partial due to the fact that I dedicated about half of my waking hours to playing competitive tennis from age 8 through college, but I’ve only been a rabid fan once before this, for Steffi Graf, who, similar to Roger in his dominating years, decimated her opponents with the most athletic and beastly forehand ever.  She was a great, great champion.  It used to be a very solemn time in our household when she was playing in a major final or semifinal . . . I was not keen to talking, listening, or doing anything but rooting for Steffi. And man did I get nervous, just like yesterday.  For a while I noticed that when I stood up and talked really loudly at the TV, Roger won more points, and it alleviated my nerves.  But as you may know, in the end Novak pulled his second Wimbledon title off and Roger went home denied of what would have been a historic 8th Wimbledon title (only Pete Sampras has as many Wimbledon trophies — 7).

The trophy presentation was so moving, with Novak first acknowledging Roger, then dedicating his trophy to his fiancé and their soon to be born baby; his team; his family; and, his recently deceased first coach.  No dry eyes at Centre Court or in our TV room.

I have lots of good memories of tennis, but boy do I not miss the competing, the nerves, the grueling practices and training, the travel (actually, my Mom is the one who ought to be saying this, as she is the one who drove me all over California for tournaments every weekend), and the scarce social life until about age 17.  My mom introduced me to tennis at age 8 and it was a perfect vehicle for a budding OCD perfectionist and bullheaded competitor with a bit of athletic capability.   Maybe more on that, later.

So I dedicate this dish to Roger Federer.  I made a potato Rösti that I served with braised kale, a sausage patty, and a duck egg.  I’m including the recipe for just the Rösti, which you can also make with sweet potatoes if you don’t eat potato.  I hope to see him in the finals at the US Open later this summer, and back at Wimbledon next year.  Go Roger!

Braised Greens, Rosti, Sausage, Duck Egg

Braised Greens, Rosti, Sausage, Duck Egg

Rösti

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main course

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium-sized waxy potatoes
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp goose or duck fat

Preparation:

1. Parboil the potatoes in salted water until just tender, but not soft. Allow to cool, and chill for at least a couple of hours.

2. Coarsely grate the potatoes and season. Heat half the fat in a small, heavy-based frying pan until sizzling, and then add the grated potato, allow to cook for a couple of minutes and then shape it into a flat cake, pressing down as lightly as possible. Allow to cook for a couple of minutes, then gently shake the pan to loosen the potato.

3. Continue to cook for about 10 minutes until golden and crisp, then place a plate on top of the pan and invert it so the cake sits, cooked-side up, on the plate.

4. Add the rest of the butter and goose fat to the pan and, when hot, slide the potato cake back into the pan the other way up. Cook for another 10 minutes, then serve.

 

Not Your Mother’s Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast

Mmmmmm

Mmmmmm

This recipe is dedicated to my Mom, who loves that old and often maligned dish Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast.  I would have made her absolute favorite, which is Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Pot Pie (not the baked kind you’re thinking of with a top crust, but a sort of soup with homemade thick square noodles) but it’s more of a cold weather thing.

Back to Chipped Beef on Toast — you may have also heard it called “Something on a Shingle,” and worse.  And it is often associated with military cuisine, if you can put those two words together in your mind in the same sentence.  I don’t mean to offend, I just don’t often hear “cuisine” or “gourmet” and “military” used together.

My Mom did not grow up in a military family, rather her Dad was a doctor and Mom a nurse, and they lived in small town, semi-rural (at least by my standards!) Eastern Pennsylvania.  They had a summer place where I think they grew a ton of vegetables and other edibles, plus chickens, horses and probably some other animals I don’t remember.  They had access to farm fresh food and that’s primarily what she was raised on.  I don’t know how Creamed Chipped Beef came to the table, but I’ve met lots of ladies and gentlemen her age who say “Oh, I was raised on that stuff.”  It’s basically air dried beef (or could be sausage in some circles) cooked in a white gravy and spooned over toast.  The air dried beef is just not sold out here in California, and so when Mom gets a craving she goes for Stouffers, which even though almost against her religion, she says is a good version.

For this Mother’s Day I’ve created my own take on Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast, using the fine Italian Dried Beef Bresaola, a homemade béchamel, and Artisan, Wild-Yeasted Rye from my favorite bakery.  Make no mistake, it’s not the real thing, but it is truly delicious.  Serve with a little stone fruit or something sweet, as the dish is very salty.

The Art of Supper: Avocado Walnut Tartine

Big Colorful Bowl

Big Colorful Bowl

I like the word “supper.”  It just has a homey, civilized vibe.  Supper was traditionally known as a midday meal, the main meal of the day.  Now that the standard main meal of the day is at nighttime, supper became dinner.  My best childhood grade-school friend, Annette, was German and when I would go to her house after school (almost every day) to watch cartoons and play outside, her mother would be preparing supper, to be eaten at around 3 p.m.  The house always smelled so good!  Usually some type of stew or braised meat or hearty soup, some potatoes, maybe sauerkraut or a hot green vegetable, rye bread and a green salad were served.  Sadly, when I heard the clank of the plates as the supper table was set, that was my cue to journey home.

At my own home, if I came directly from school, my mother always served up a snack, but it was a snack and not a meal . . . usually orange sections with a little sugar on them, a glass of milk with date bread, or some pretzels with lebanon bologna (a tart, salami-type, but not hard, bologna with origins in Lebanon, Pennsylvania) and hard cheese.

My preference has always been to eat my main meal at midday, even though I either feel pressured or have some sort of filing deadline right around lunchtime so that at work half an hour, and a “snack” seems more acceptable.  I like to skip breakfast and be truly hungry when I eat . . . and I prefer a light dinner of some broth and a few noodles, and a vegetable, maybe a roasted beet with salt, or half a sweet potato.  If I eat a proper breakfast, at home or out, I don’t eat lunch and will have my default dinner of burger on top of greens.  I like to give my tummy some long hours to rest and digest between feedings, rather than snacking and eating little meals often throughout the day.

So my habit has become to work through the lunch hour and then around 2:30 or 3 p.m. disappear for an hour and enjoy a real meal, usually a meal I have packed for myself.  My default lunch is a couple of hard boiled eggs or a can of tuna, an avocado, a bag of leafy greens, and a couple tablespoons of fermented vegetable.  I usually mix everything together, throw a dollop of yoghurt and squeeze half a lemon in to moisten, crack some pepper on top, and eat with a spoon.  If I am really hungry and/or have worked out vigorously in the morning, I will lay a base of cooked grain on the bottom.  Often I will have a little thermos of broth too.

This week I wanted to make a salad based on the wonderful creation from Farmshop with arugula, big fat fresh walnuts, walnut oil, sherry vinegar, poached beets, avocado, shaved fennel and quinoa that I’ve eaten many times.  In place of quinoa I used wheat berries; in place of arugula I used purple mizuna; I added purple asparagus and asparagus “coins” (they remind me of lentils) I found at this week’s Farmer’s Market; and, I added yoghurt so the salad would “stick together” and I could place it on toast.  It. Was. Delicious.

Here’s a very rough narrative recipe:

First slice off 2″ of the tops of the asparagus, and then slice thinly about 2″ of the remaining (non-woody part) of the stalks.

Asparagus "Coins"

Asparagus “Coins”

Then roast your asparagus heads for about 5 minutes with olive oil and salt, poach a large beet and cut into sections, and assemble the rest of your ingredients: the asparagus “coins,” some leafy greens, an avocado, walnuts, wheat berries or another chewy grain, shaved fennel and some torn fennel fronds.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Place in a bowl with salt and pepper, toss with walnut oil and some sherry or other delicious vinegar.  The walnut oil is very important and I encourage you to find a good quality one and use it.  It adds such a wonderful flavor to the salad. Add a dollup of yoghurt (greek).

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Toss well.  I had to transfer to a bigger bowl so as to not spill all over my living room (photo studio) floor.

half salad

What I like to do next is mound the mixture onto a piece of toast.

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In Tartine Form — I like to spoon up my salad with torn pieces of bread, but tartines look better!

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It’s a little wooley beast of a tartine!

 

The “Fig Sue” Historical Posset; and things your history book didn’t teach you

Do you remember your grade school history?

George Washington and his cherry tree, the Mayflower, making construction paper hats, that kind of thing . . . but did anybody tell you that John Adams began each day with a tankard of hard cider, that the Mayflower was loaded with barrels of beer, or that after the war, Washington traded his sword for a whiskey still?

That’s because traditional histories don’t usually mention that our colonial forefathers (and mothers) swam in a sea of booze from breakfast till bedtime. Whether they were working, fighting, traveling, writing . . early Americans were often tipsy—perhaps rationalized by the belief that fermented drinks were safer than water. Back in the day, the day didn’t begin until after a “dram” of bitters or “stiffener” of beer.

Due to this boozelust, early Americans came up with an amusing variety of pseudo-cocktails from their pantry of ale, cider, rum, milk, cream, sugar, molasses, eggs, spices and citrus. You may have noticed that some of these drinks —such a “shrubs” and meads are making a comeback in bars and restaurants.

Let’s talk about the posset, because I recently bought one at one of my favorite neighborhood eateries.

Citrus Posset from Huckleberry Cafe

Citrus Posset from Huckleberry Cafe

You may know it as a custard or pudding type dessert as pictured above   but . . . .

A posset was originally a British hot drink of milk curdled with wine or ale, often spiced, which was popular from medieval times to the 19th century. In the Middle Ages, it was used as a cold and flu remedy and was more of a drink than a mousse. Lady Macbeth used a poisoned posset to knock out the guards outside Duncan’s quarters. These days a posset is a cold set dessert loosely based on the drink, containing cream and lemon.

As I was researching the posset I came upon a version called a “Fig Sue” which, given that it is Good Friday, and given the other facts/terms/wordplay as described below, is the indisputable choice for birgerbird’s Fiesta Friday #12 dish.

Fig Sue was a bread posset once served on Good Friday in some parts of the English Lake District. It was made with ale, bread, figs, treacle and nutmeg. I love bread, love figs, love treacle (molasses); used to but don’t anymore love ale. The figs were meant to represent the Crucifix, which was traditionally thought to have been made with the wood of a fig tree. Fig Sue was traditionally served from a ‘piggin’ or ‘bicker.’ I love that word ‘piggin’ and Lord knows I can love to ‘bicker.’

To make the drink, milk was heated to a boil, then mixed with wine or ale which curdled it, and the mixture was usually spiced.

A well made posset was said to have three different layers. The uppermost, known as ‘the grace’ was a snowy foam or aereated crust. In the middle was a smooth spicy custard and at the bottom a pungent alcoholic liquid. The grace and the custard were enthusiastically consumed as ‘spoonmeat’ and the sack-rich liquid below drunk through the ‘pipe’ or spout of the posset pot.

Foaming Posset

Foaming Posset; Photo by Ivan Day

I decided to make a traditional Fig Sue recipe that I found on the internet on some godforsaken ancient parish township newsletter column, which included a library of recipes.  It tastes like . . . Christmas pudding smoothie?  Yes, Christmas pudding smoothie.

This mixture of sourdough bread, ale (I used a belgian “sour ale”), sweet cream, figs, molasses, rum and nutmeg  . . . served hot . . . truly surprised me with its deliciousness.  It’s a tummy full, but if you’ve fasted for Good Friday, you can drink it as your dinner and it will satisfy . . . and probably transition you to dreamland.

Sourdough Bread Cooking Gently in Ale

Sourdough Bread Cooking Gently in Ale

Blended

Blended

Tall and Small

Tall and Small

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Here’s the Recipe:

Ingredients:

1/2 pint strong ale

1/2 cup cream

2 Tbps butter

3 slices bread

6 dried figs

1 Tbsp molasses

1 Tbsp brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 Tbsp rum

Instructions:

Cook bread gently in ale with figs, molasses, brown sugar, nutmeg and rum for about 10 minutes.  Transfer to blender with butter and blend until smooth, thinning out with water if necessary.

Drink Up!

 

Sweet Avocado

In college I had a good tennis team friend, Harriet, who used to eat mashed up avocado with banana, sugar and milk.  She was half Filipino and grew up in Kuwait.  She did not know the savory application of the Avocado, only the sweet.  I had never known any sweet recipes for Avocado, only savory.  But I tasted her bowl one day after a long hot tennis and track session, and boy was it good!

The Avocado fruit is commonly used in Asia to make sweet shakes or “smoothies.”  In Indonesia, it is called “Jus Alkapat” and involves avocado, condensed milk, ice cubes and . . . . . chocolate syrup or . . . coffee!!!!!; in the Phillipenes the drink is made with avocado, ice, milk and sugar; the Vietnamese version, Sinh to Bo (Butter Fruit Shake), is made with avocado, milk, sugar, ice and condensed sweetened milk; in Brazil I actually had such a shake made with avocado, milk, sugar and ice.

Since I am still on soft and liquid foods due to my recent tooth extraction, I am on the search for different ways to be in post-operative compliance.  I got tired of ice cream and yogurt after a few days.  Well, not really.  But I needed more variety.  And as you all know, one of the wonderful features of the internet is that it has a vast sub-universe of food information and recipes.  I first made a standard Vietnamese version, and I could not believe how incredibly delicious it was.  Wow. But I thought it wouldn’t lack anything if I didn’t add all of the sugar, so I opted for a sweet tomato and date relish.

Here is my own version of a sweet avocado drink:

Ingredients:

1 large ripe avocado

Ripe Avocado

Ripe Avocado

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (if you don’t do dairy, simply use coconut milk or coconut cream thinned out with a bit of water)

1 cup ice

1 date, chopped

2 cherry tomatoes, quartered

Quartered Sun Golds & Medjool Date

Quartered Sun Golds & Medjool Date

A handful of nasturtiums or other edible flowers

1/4 tsp grey salt

Instructions:

Place the avocado, milk, salt and ice in a blender and blend for 30 seconds on medium speed.  Pour into a glass and top with date and tomato.  Rim glass with flowers.  Drink up!

Ready to Drink

Ready to Drink

In a Mason Jar, Ready to Go to Work

In a Mason Jar, Ready to Go to Work