31 August 2015

The Good Cook

Mary Norwak published over 100 cookbooks in her lifetime. Her most enduring might be her book of English puddings, recently republished.  Our favorite, however, is The Good Cook. It combines two of our favorite things, a cookbook and an abecedery. 

From allspice to yoghurt and some very British items in between; like brown bread ice cream, eel pie, medlar jelly, and potted partridge. Norwak's idea was a simple one.  Create a cookbook much like a dictionary that was filled with simple recipes that were easily found. Need to make a marmalade?  There is a plain orange marmalade and several ways one could use the marmalade including cake and ice cream. Have a glut of cucumbers? There is a soup, a salad, and a sauce.

Norwak was a home cook who firmly espoused English cooking. She believed it to be more than just a fine treacle pudding. There is probably no better example of a genuine English dish than toad in a hole.

Sausage Toad in the Hole

1 lb/450 g pork sausage
4 oz/100 g/1 cup plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1/2 pint/300 ml/1 1/4 cup milk

Prick the sausages lightly and put in a baking tin. Bake at 400F/200C/Gas mark 6 for 10 minutes. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl and work in the egg and milk. Beat well and pour over the sausage. Bake for 25 minutes and serve at once.

When you are out digging in old book stores, don't pass up one of Mary Norwak's books.

26 August 2015

The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook

Most of our experience with Connecticut is to drive through it.  We know they filmed Mystic Pizza, it's where you live if you go to Yale, and Martha Stewart lived there for many years.  When Tracey Medeiros sent us a copy of The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook we told her we knew nothing about Connecticut but we are fond of tables, so we gave it a look.

We loved her book, The Vermont Farm Table Cookbook. In The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook Medeiros teams up with Christy Colasurdo and they follows a similar format.  They  introduce us to farmers who are providing ingredients to restaurants in the area who use the farm's bounty in their recipes. There is an inherent problem with cookbooks like these. Farmers produce these exquisite fruits, vegetables, animals, herbs, eggs, and other goodies. We see them on the page. The chef takes the ingredients and turns out beautiful restaurant fare.

Here is the problem. You want to pull that tomato off the page, slice it and eat it. You want to poach a single egg right in front of the chicken that laid it. You want eat those berries one at a time. The farmer's fare is so wonderful that the thought of doing much to it seems sad. On the other hand, you have trained chefs who see that produce as one step in an elaborate recipe. At some point you want to scream, "Stop tarting up those carrots and let me eat them!" Medeiros and Colasurdo do a good job at crossing the divide with the stories of both sides.

The most interesting thing about a book like this is the diversity.  Today, it is virtually impossible to stand in any geographic spot in America and not find excellent dinning within a stones throw. Yes, Virginia, there is pizza in Mystic, but there is also soup with pistou, eggplant chutney, onion and kale frittatas, gazpacho, pear smoothies, and more Southern recipes, than in most cookbooks. If one looked only at the table of contents and then asked to name the state these recipes come from, most people would head south of the Mason-Dixon.  Like this offering from Dish Bar & Grill.  The tomatoes are from farmer David Zemelsky, of Starlight Gardens, Durham.
Heirloom Tomato Pie

5 medium-large mixed heirloom tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), tough cores removed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt


1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small cues
4 tablespoons ice water or as needed


1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 cups (about 5 ounces) shredded Fontina cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line one or two large baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. To make the tomatoes: Place the tomatoes on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with oil and salt to taste, and bake for 2 hours. Set aside to cool.

3. Meanwhile, to make the crust: Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. With a pastry blender or fork, cut the butter into the flour until just crumbly. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix until the dough just comes together. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a disk. Wrap the disk in a plastic wrap and refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the disk into a 12-inch round. Transfer to a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate or 9-inch tart pan with 2-inch sides and removable bottom. Using your fingers, press back into the crust any pieces of dough that have fallen off. Trim the excess dough just at the level of the edge of the pie plate. With a fork, pierce the bottom of the crust. Place the crust in the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the piecrust on a baking sheet, line the dough with foil, and fill with dried beans. Bake the crust until the edges are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and beans and continue to bake until the crust is golden brow all over, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

6. To add the fillings: Increase the temperature to 375°F. Gently pat the tomatoes dry with paper towels. Arrange a layer of the tomato slices, overlapping as needed, in the bottom of the pie shell. Spread a think, even layer of the mayonnaise over the top; the sprinkle evenly with about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the basil and about 1/2 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layering with the remaining ingredients, ending with any leftover cheese.

7. Bake until the tomatoes, cheese, and the crust are golden brown, about 1 hour. Let rest for 1 hour. Garnish with basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cut into slices and serve warm.

Note: This pie can also be made using a double crust.

As you can see, this, like many of the recipes are a bit "chefy" but then the recipes come from restaurant chefs, so how else would they be? What is truly wonderful about this cookbook is seeing the quality of cooking that takes place in towns big and small across Connecticut, like much of America.  Too often the media would lead us to believe that truly great chefs and restaurants are located in New York or California and yet there are amazing restaurants and produce providers tucked into little hamlets everywhere.  That bodes well for our culinary appetite.

Don't let "Connecticut" in the title discourage you from buying this book if you are living in California, or Kentucky, or anyplace else. Oliver Parini's photographs are stunning, the stories are universal, and the food is great!

20 August 2015

Infuse: Oil Spirit Water

Eric Prum and Josh Williams, the team that brought us Shake have added a new book (and product) to their growing line. Infuse starts with that ubiquitous Mason jar and tops it with their new product, the infuser cap.

Infusing stuff is not this revolutionary idea. It is as old as the hills. What is new is the design for the infusion top. Williams and Prum who are W & P Design found that they had loads of infusions sitting around in Mason jars. When they tried to add them to drinks or whatever...they ended up with infusing the table and floor more than the drink. Since they are designers, they set out solve the problem.

If you are one of those people, like myself, who has jars and crocks, and bottles of concoctions sitting around infusing and steeping, you will understand this problem.  My beautiful, oak vinaigrier is full of red wine vinegar, but the oak spout is often clogged making it hard to get to the vinegar. The tall Italian infusing bottle is equipped with a small spigot at the bottom to release the infusion, but the peels and spices are the first things sucked into the spigot, which immediately clogs. A bag of glass marbles aids in keeping the ingredients at bay, but doesn't allow for easy agitation of the infusion. And those Mason jars...well the current cherry bounce has more than once bounced onto my shirt!

W & P Design not only came up with a great design, but they came up with a book to show us how to use the design and become master infusers. Infuse, like Shake before it features photos of the mise en place for the recipes. For instance, the Olio Santo is a Calabrian chili oil.  On the table are the infuser, the oil and the peppers.

You, too, can master this recipe!

Olio Santo

1/2 oz of dried Calabrian chilies
8 oz of extra virgin olive oil

i         Grind the chilies in a spice grinder of food processor
          until coarsely ground. (Use gloves or wash your hands
          after handling!)

ii        Combine with the olive oil in an 8 oz Mason jar. Seal
           and shake briefly until the ground chilies are evenly
           mixed in the oil.

iii        Let sit in a cool dark place for two weeks to allow the
            oil to infuse and the chilies to settle.

iiii        Use sparingly as you wold use hot sauce. the infusion
             will keep u to two months if kept in a cool, dark place. 

As the title implies, there are many mediums to infuse, oil, spirits, and water for instance. Just when you think you have thought of EVERYTHING to infuse in every way...Infuse comes up with new ideas.

My biggest problem with the whole Infuse thing is that, after reading the book, I want at least a dozen stainless spouts to infuse away and the spouts are a tad pricey.  I will wait for the next iteration...the large mouth spout!

Now get out there and infuse something!

17 August 2015

What Katie Ate on the Weekend

 Katie Quinn Davies of the blog, What Katie Ate, produces a beautiful blog.  In fact, it is an award winning blog. After a stint in graphic design, Katie turned toward photography and was soon shooting for everything from Kitchen Aid to Martha Stewart Living.  And let's just say, she was good at it!

In 2010 she did her own little Christmas magazine downloadable to her readers that clocked in at an impressive 495 pages.  Her first cookbook, appropriately titled, What Katie Ate was a huge success.  She came back with What Katie Ate on the Weekend.  Frankly, I think Katie is having better weekends that we are...

As you might have guessed by now, her photos are beautiful, her friends are having a glorious time, the food looks magical, and one feels like a bit of a dullard when flipping through the book.  But then, that is what some cookbooks are for...to lift us out our complacency and to strive for really beautiful weekends.

We are starting out with a smoothie.  Seriously, the girl can make a glass of green sludge look like something you crave!

Super Smoothie

2 kiwi, peeled
1 green apple, cored
3/4 oz. kale or baby spinach leaves
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 small handful of mint
1 large handful of ice, plus extra to serve

Put all the ingredients and 1 cup cold water into a blender and whiz until smooth.

Pour into chilled glasses, add extra ice and serve.

Now drink that down.  You have the entire week to plan and execute a glorious weekend.  Don't dawdle!
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