25 July 2016

Cooking Wild

John Ash is known as "The Father of Wine Country Cuisine." Since 1980 Ash at his John Ash & Company restaurant was one of the leaders in California cuisine. For over 35 years he has featured local, seasonal ingredients in the dishes he serves. 

He and James Fraioli's new book, Cooking Wild offers up more than 150 recipes "for eating close to nature."  Ash's grandmother taught him to forage as a child. He relished the books of Euell Gibbon's and Billy Joe Tatum. And while the book advocates foraging, Ash points out that in this day and age, many wild foods can be found in local groceries.

While one does not always need to be out in the wild searching for ingredients, it is important to use the same due diligence in the grocery store as one does in the wild.  Buy local and seasonal. Buy sustainable.  Above all else, be simple, let the food speak for itself.

The great thing about this book is the dual nature of the book.  Yes, you can grab your copy of Euell Gibbons and head out into the woods, but the recipes are also written to allow the average couch potato to have his couch and eat his potatoes, too, or maybe asparagus.

Grilled Asparagus with Lemon Olive Oil, Pecorino, and Prosciutto

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons or so Italian or California lemon infused extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, thinly shaved with a vegetable peeler
8 very thin slices prosciutto
2 tablespoons drained capers, patted dry and fried in olive oil until crisp
Lemon wedges, for serving

Prepare a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill for medium high.

Brush the asparagus with the extra-virgin olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper to taste.  Grill the asparagus, turning as needed, until lightly browned on all sides but still green and crisp. Place on a plate and drizzle with lemon olive oil.  Scatter the cheese over the asparagus, arrange the prosciutto attractively on top, and sprinkle with the capers.  Serve with the lemon wedges.
  Go forth and forage.

20 July 2016

A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches

Yes, Virginia, the cover of this cookbook is actually black & white with bits of blue on the cellophane toothpicks. That should be a hint that this not your average cookbook, though far from being an upsetting one. I think A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches should have been titled the The Super Upending Cookbook About Sandwiches. Tyler Kord really does upend the traditional notion of the sandwich. The venerable old Earl must be turning in his grave.

Tyler Kord has a few sandwich shops in NYC or perhaps "restaurants" since Bon Appétit named one of them as a top ten new restaurant in the country. What you need to know about Tyler Kord is that he is unnaturally in love with broccoli and Van's made a shoe for him. (Yes, you can buy your own pair, if you have the dough.)

As someone who has read thousands of cookbooks, I can tell you that many of those that rise from the back rooms of restaurants are pompous. Yes, chefs do "write" them on occasion, but in an attempt to describe that grand world of restaurant cooking, the voice is often pretentious or really just tool-y. Kord is not pretentious.

He understands that he is making sandwiches.  He will not be making you a BLT.  He might make you a sandwich with curry chicken salad and squid.  He might make you a sandwich with black bean hummus and ceviche.  He might make you sandwich named after a battle. As you read through the book, you will think about sandwiches differently. (Really, roasted cauliflower and a raisin scallion sauce?) You will think about food differently. (Do lychees and broccoli really go together?) You will even think about cookbooks differently. (Who chats with their editor in the middle of a cookbook?)  

Now here is where we put a recipe from the cookbook.  There are so many sandwiches, but... one of our favorite things in the world is a jar of pickled blueberries. Every year I get 10 pound boxes of blueberries from a farm in Maryland. After eating a pound right out of the box, there are jams, jellies, catsup, pies, tarts, shrubs, and finally, several jars of pickled blueberries. So herewith, Kord's recipe.

Pickled Blueberries

1 cup white vinegar, plus some more if needed
1/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/4 pounds blueberries
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

Combine everything in a plastic container with a tight fitting lid.  There should be enough vinegar to completely cover the berries and onions, if not, add a little more. Pretend it is those pickled red onions that you hate so much and shale vigorously.  You want to bruise the berries a little and also get out some aggression you feel toward your roommate. Why would you still have a roommate? Why do you hate pickled red  onions so much? Let sit for at least 2 hours, but preferably longer, shaking occasionally.  They will last in the refrigerator for a long time.
Kord suggests they make a fine replacement for tomatoes on your sandwich.  So make yourself a BLB while reading A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches.

18 July 2016

Cowgirl Creamery Cooks

Once upon a time...the short version.

Sue Conley and Peggy Smith were both from the D.C. area, but they met in a dorm room at the University of Tennessee. They became fast friends. After college, they worked in D.C. until they save enough cash for a beat up Chevy van. They packed it up and headed to San Francisco.

San Francisco in the 1970's was a hotbed for food innovation and what would later be called California cuisine. After several years, Peggy Smith wound up at Chez Panisse, spending nearly 17 years working there. Sue Conley worked at her own restaurant finally selling her share and moving to Point Reyes. With all those years in the food business, the duo knew just about everybody.  After becoming involved in an organic dairy, Sue called Peggy and suggested a new business.

As their barn was being renovated, they saw a guy ride up on horseback, tie his horse up, and stroll into the bank. When someone said it was the wild, wild, West, Sue laughed and said, "I guess that makes us cowgirls, and this is the Cowgirl Creamery." 

And the rest is...history.

With years of making award winning cheeses, the duo decided it was time to gather their favorite recipes into a cookbook, Cowgirl Creamery Cooks.  In addition to tasty cheese recipes, the book serves as a primer for eating, making, and putting together a fine and dandy cheese plate.

Now what would be the ultimate cheese dish? That would be mac and cheese. The most amazing thing about mac and cheese is that is, well, macaroni and cheese. Add those two ingredients and the possibilities are quite literally, endless.

 The Cowgirl Creamery's version features there own Wagon Wheel cheese along with a wagon wheel pasta, rotell.

Cowgirl’s Version of the Classic 

1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 pound large rotelle pasta
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, at room temperature
1½ pounds coarsely shredded Wagon Wheel cheese
8 ounces coarsely shredded sharp white cheddar
5 slices bacon, diced, fried crisp and drained
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder (such as Coleman’s)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
4 medium red heirloom tomatoes, cored and sliced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 3-quart baking dish.

Bring an extra-large pot of water to boiling. Stir in the salt and rotelle. Cook the pasta until it’s just shy of being tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Drain well.

In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt 6 tablespoons of the butter. When the butter is bubbly and fragrant, whisk in the flour to form a smooth paste. Cook, whisking, until the mixture turns golden, 2 to 3 minutes. While still whisking, slowly pour in the milk. Whisk over the heat until the mixture thickens and bubbles, an additional  3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

With a wooden spoon, stir in both cheeses, the bacon, pepper, nutmeg and mustard powder. Add the cooked pasta; mix well but gently.

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small pan, remove from the heat, and combine with the bread crumbs. Set aside.

Transfer the cheese mixture to the prepared baking dish. Arrange the sliced tomatoes in wagon-wheel fashion over the top of the pasta mixture. Sprinkle with the buttered bread crumbs.

Bake, uncovered, until the top is a nice golden brown and bubbling on the edges, 30 to 35 minutes. Let the dish cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Check out the Cowgirl Creamery web site for info in where you can buy their wonderful cheeses or you can sign up for a monthly cheese collection.

15 July 2016

The Photographer's Cookbook

Today's Famous Food Friday over at Lucindaville, is the old, but new The Photographer's Cookbook.  Old because the book's inception took place in 1977 when a bored worker at the George Eastman Museum, Deborah Barsel, decided to ask photographers to contribute recipes.

Before completing the book, Barsel left and over thirty-five years later, Lisa Hostetler pulled a box labeled "Photo Cookbook" off a shelf and found a treasure trove.  After some judicious editing, The Photographer's Cookbook is now in the world.

We love "artist" cookbooks and they are one of the reasons Famous Food Fridays came about. Now photographer's have their own cookbook.  As with many a "famous" cookbook, the range of recipes can be daunting.

John Gossage sent a postcard from Conrad's Colonial Steak House & Cocktail Lounge stating, "I eat out."
 Ansel Adams, Still Life, San Francisco, 1932
Contrast that sentiment to Beaumont Newhall.  Newhall was not only the first director of the Eastman Museum, he also  wrote a cooking column for a newspaper in the Rochester suburbs.  The "Epicure Corner" ran for nearly 15 years in the 1950's and 60's.  His choucroute  garnie was featured at a luncheon for James Beard and is featured in the cookbook.
Beaumont Newhall, Edward Weston's Kitchen, 1940
Imogen Cunningham offers up an unusual recipe for borscht.  We would love to see an entire cookbook where all the recipes were "storyfied" like this one.

Imogen Cunningham, My Kitchen Sink, 1947

Imogen Cunningham's Borscht

For one thing I do not consider Alice B. Toklas a GREAT cook.  Very likely her cooking contributed to the death of Gertrude and herself. Besides her beef stew cooked in burgundy, I can think only of her beautiful soups beginning with gazpacho from everywhere. I do not know how to put it, but exotic eatery is very interesting to me. I think we are all TOO addicted to salt and that we can get enough in vegetables that offer it.  We do not know the flavor of anything because we doctor it too much.  While I am on soups, I should tell you what I do for borscht.  I make a good soup of beef and meat and bones; put some fresh beets in, and when I am ready to serve it, I make it half mine and half Manischewitz (commercial bottle of borscht). I prefer it cold with sour cream.

Filled with funky recipes and great photography, we are so glad that this box of recipes got pulled off the shelf.

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