Posts tagged snack
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

apple peel twigs

DSC_4384

I’ve reached that portion of the book recipe testing that requires long braises and slow roasting. There are a few desserts in the mix which means that our oven is on pretty much non-stop. And yet it’s a balmy 70 degrees outside making me want to eat a stew about as much as I want to eat sorbet in the dead of winter. There’s a time and place for everything, but when it comes to writing books and testing recipes, you’re at the mercy of your schedule which doesn’t say much.

Peek into my fridge these days and you’ll find a lot of pickled and preserved things in various size glass jars: lemons, garlic, onions, homemade sauces of all kinds. Dinner prep revolves around what I’m testing and god forbid it’s not something we’re in the mood to eat (see above re: temperature) or one of us is sick, we dial for take-out. The irony of writing about food is

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

applesauce

my mother's kitchen light

And so we’ve officially ushered autumn in. Everywhere I turn – apples, apples, apples. Everyone keeps telling me about apple picking, my farmers market has more apple stands than I know what to do with, and I’m coming into a small apple fortune come Monday night when a friend plans to bicycle over a portion of her forty pound bounty, and I’m hoping to get busy with some apple butter, which reminds me I should get a food mill and some Bell jars stet.* But that’s a story for another day. Today is all about apple sauce that I made while at my parents’ house a few weekends ago.

quartered

You see, my mother, like me, gets overly excited about fall produce and before she knows it, her house is drowning in apples as if she’s about to start her own apple stand. But you and I both know that a human being can only eat so many apples a day and before you know it, they start to get all mushy and mealy. And then you throw them out, and that’s just tragic. Tragic, I say.

cored

So I found myself staring at piles of apples that I knew, (just knew!) were going to go to waste and that my mother would kick herself for allowing that to happen. I figured apple sauce might be a fun way to use them, and since I’ve never actually tried my hand at it, I decided to trust Elise’s recipe (since hers never fail me) and attempt one of my childhood favorite treats. So while my mother was napping, or running errands (I can’t recall which), I grabbed some apples and got to work. And by work I mean I cut and cored the apples, threw them in the pot with the remaining ingredients, brought everything to a boil, reduced heat, and let everything simmer for half an hour. In fact, while the apples were cooking, I got started on dinner and didn’t even tend to the pot once. Not a single time.

ready

If I’d known apple sauce was so easy to make, I would have never bought it in the first place. And the taste, the flavor, the apple-y intensity that a pre-made version can’t even approximately deliver – are well worth the minimal effort apple sauce requires. Besides, no scented-candle can make your house smell as cozy and welcoming as that cinnamon-apple smell that will envelop your house. If anyone finds a way to bottle it, let me know – I’ll be your first customer!

apple sauce
apple sauce

*Whoa, that was a long sentence!

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

eggplant caviar

eggplant caviar

A few things first. One, my friend Tina thinks the name “eggplant caviar” is an abomination and is misleading, but that’s about the only name I know for it. Blasphemy, she said to me, do you see any caviar here? Alas, I do not. She’s, technically, in the right. So this is partially an apology to her – I don’t mean to mislead. Two, there are two schools of eggplant caviar making that I’m aware of insofar as Russian eggplant caviar making goes. Both parties cling to their version as the version, but the weirdo that is me, likes them both equally – they are quite different from one another. And like a mother to two very different children of the same origin, I cannot pick a favorite.

like little hats!

The first is the method my friends from the Ukraine have taught me – which involves baking an eggplant, removing its skin and combining it with a seductive and potent blend of pureed tomato, onion, garlic, vinegar, salt and pepper, and stirring a bit of finely minced cilantro. It is simple and addictive, and if you’re a fan of garlic, you can’t go wrong here.

halved!

The second is a bit more labor intensive, and hails, at least according to my Uzbekistan-born grandmother, from Central Asia (think former Soviet republics that end in “stan”). It involves slow cooking the eggplant with tomatoes, onion, garlic and red peppers for many hours, until the vegetables combine, disintegrate, fall apart, and grow brown. Their transformation is magical, as things go from acidic, to sweeter, more caramelized, more seductive. While it’s uncommon for brown food to be considered sexy, this dish smolders. If you think you don’t like eggplant, try this and talk to me after. I would be surprised if you didn’t reverse your stance on eggplant.

pretty from the top
looking sadder

Normally eggplant caviar is served during the “zakuski” portion of the meal. For those of you who are not Russian speakers, “zakuski” describes a spread of snacks served at Russian banquets or parties, or in my mother’s case, whenever anyone shows up at the house. Originally, the word stems from the Russian word “kusok” or “kusochik” which means, piece, or little piece. The prefix “za” denotes that you are using these little pieces, or snacks, as a follow up to a drink, a chaser, so to speak. When Russians drink vodka (which they do at most celebratory gatherings), they invariably do it in shots and follow up shots with either a pickle, slice of salami, Russian sauerkraut, a pickled mushroom or a piece of dark, rye bread with something tasty spread over it. Like this eggplant caviar. Zakuski are intense, powerful bursts of flavor designed to quell the burning of alcohol in your mouth.

sad :(
onions tomatoes
cubed peppers

But sometimes you’re not in the mood for a drink (watch the entire Russian clan disown me after this sentence), but what you want is a taste of home, because you miss the food you grew up with. And after you spy eggplant piled high at your favorite farm-stand, you greedily load your bags with the necessary ingredients and then cook the brown mess for hours while you translate your mother’s recipe from Russian, filling in instructions she takes for granted as “given”. And laughing at her description of cooked eggplant as “sad”. If you’ve ever seen a wilted, browned eggplant, you know what she means by that. But invariably, reading that makes me smile.

eggplant caviar eggplant caviar

Looks, my dears, caviar it is not. But were I to really choose between actual caviar and this, I would go for this, hands down. Especially if my mother is making it.

eggplant caviar eggplant caviar
eggplant caviar

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

picked garlicky red peppers

Picked Garlicky Peppers

Among foods I can eat in near unlimited quantities, pickled things are at the top of the list. Perhaps because when I get hungry I don’t crave anything sweet (though worry not, I have quite the sweet tooth as evidenced by the cavity-forming December), but savory and salty. And there’s vinegar present – all the better.

In Russia, when I was growing up, fresh fruit and vegetables were not available in the winter (other than things like potatoes and carrots) and so we did a lot of our own canning at home. My mother would boil the jars and put place tomatoes, cucumbers, cornichons, or mushrooms in them and pour warm vinegary pickling marinade over, then sealing the jars. How she did this, I haven’t a clue – her canning skills were impeccable, and everyone knew her pickled tomatoes as the best around. To this day, even the best of Brighton’s tomatoes don’t hold a candle. Yes, I had a marvelous, gastronomic childhood.

Picked Garlicky Peppers

We didn’t pickle anything ourselves after coming to America and it’s something I kind of miss. In Russia, pickling was a ritual that got everyone involved in the kitchen, even my father. It was something we did each fall with during the harvest season, to enjoy eating in the cold winter months. Cold winter months in Russia commanded bold, intense flavors and salted or pickled foods went perfectly with a staple like potatoes. Just try putting some marinated mushrooms on top of freshly boiled potatoes, sprinkle some dill and sliced onion and see what happens. For me – it was nothing short of heaven.

Picked Garlicky Peppers

But I digress. I could wax poetic about such simple meals for pages and pages and will only find the deafening snores of everyone around. I’ll quit while I’m ahead and instead tell you that I’ve sort of started to pickle at home. All thanks to Deb and her husband who let me sample some of their pickled garlicky peppers, suspecting, though not knowing fully, the monster they would then create.
The very next day after sampling these amazing things, I marched to my produce place – that manages to sell peppers at reasonable prices this time of year, and picked up ten peppers and a head of garlic. While I always have garlic at home, I see no reason NOT to pick up more of it when there’s an opportunity to do so.

Picked Garlicky Peppers

I’m telling you – waiting twenty-four hours for the peppers to be ready was twenty-four hours too long, and the first moment I could, I piled a generous helping into a bowl, sat on my couch, and devoured these peppers in one instant. Undoubtedly, these will become a regular staple in my kitchen now, because they are delicious, easy to make and go with virtually everything. Or at least I think they do. And while it’s not the traditional type of pickling, it’s close enough for me and serves as a lovely and comforting reminder of a childhood memory.

Picked Garlicky Peppers

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

honey barbecue chicken wings

ah, the wings of glory

I feel like I’ve fallen so behind in blogging about items cooked, that I’m a bit at a loss where to start. Do I go back to the last picture NOT blogged about and start in chronological order or do I reverse the order and go back in time? I certainly spend a lot of time thinking about cooking and looking up and concocting recipes, but when it comes to photo editing, discarding, uploading, tagging, naming, describing, and last, but certainly not least, trying to write up a vignette interesting enough for you to read through and not fast forward to the pictures and the recipe – I feel that I fall so far behind, it all takes up so much time, that I’m just barely getting to it all between the cooking and the cleaning and the job. And sometimes food related incidents occur when there’s NO cooking involved whatsoever. Or rather, cooking happens as an afterthought, a side note.

Take, for example, our most recent acquisition of the FoodSaver. We (meaning KS) first got wind of it while in Salem, Massachusetts while visiting friends and my parents. We ogled the shrink-wrapped buffalo wings as if it were the world’s 8th wonder before we devoured them in silence. And when KS claimed he would buy it, I mused and dismissed it as a conversation starter. It wasn’t until we were putting the item into our cart at the ever-so-claustrophobic BedBath&Beyond, that I realized we don’t just talk about buying kitchen appliances together – we actually do buy them. And you know it’s serious when a couple purchases communal kitchen appliances. KitchenAid hand mixer. FoodSaver. Wutshof knives.

So back at home, KS was off last week. And periodically, I’d ring him from work and say hello. And he’d tell me things like “Honey, I shrink wrapped the butter.”

“But wasn’t it already in a card board box?”
“Yeah, but I needed to practice on something.”
”So you picked butter?”
”Uh-huh, and it’s awesome! I’m looking for something else to practice on.”

It was nice to see him put his vacation time to such good use. And now, you should just look at him, he’s a FoodSaver pro!

So when we were thinking about other items to seal, we thought of making spicy baked buffalo wings, and marinade them overnight. This would be a prime opportunity to vacuum seal our wings for 24 hours and let them hang out in a spicy sauce sans oxygen. I’m not sure, if this is actually more effective than letting things sit in a plain Ziploc bag, but after we took the wings out and roasted them, the results was undeniably finger-licking good. We ate our wings in silence, and chased them with an English ale. It was perfection beyond words and we had an electrical contraption to thank for it. So you see, cooking this time came as a peripheral, as an afterthought. But in the end, it all worked out, so perhaps it’s for the best that way, sometimes.

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