Saturday, April 26, 2014

Spring Jive with the Chive!!!!! Or, first foraged dish of the year



Here is another post by
Renee M. Ergazos 


First foraged dish of the year

Although the snow in our woods had been melted for less than a week and more snow was in the forecast, I found the earliest of edible greens: chives.

I'm happy just to find the first curls of skunk cabbage poking through the snow, but chives quickly follow in early spring and are a versatile, fresh ingredient. Chives can be found in woods and lawns throughout spring but will become hot and bitter as the weather warms. 

Once the plant flowers, the chives become too strong to use as anything other than a garnish (potatoes, deviled eggs, soups). 


We were clearing brambles, bonfire roaring, Townes Van Zandt on outside speaker, and English Ale pouring -- all before noon -- on the 77 degree day. I made a snack plate with chive pesto and Mark's homemade bread as the accompaniment.  The pesto was mild and flavorful, not what I expected from eating spoonfuls of finely chopped fresh chives. 

I made a second batch the next day for a party and replaced a few ingredients based on what was available in my friend's kitchen.


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This follows a basic pesto approach:

= process herb (chives), olive oil, and salt in food processor to desired texture. 

= I also add a squeeze of lemon, sundried tomatoes, some crunch (almonds first batch, pistachios second batch and pistachios worked better than the almonds), and some additional fresh herbs/greens (parsley for the first batch, red chard second batch).

=I did not add fresh garlic or parmesan. 

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Sunday morning, I had a handful of clean chives still in a towel on the cutting board, so cheesey, chivey scrambled eggs had to happen.

Easter dinner will have deviled eggs and chilled beet soup, garnished with fresh chives; I might even sneak some in the pirohy (pierogis).

Monday, February 10, 2014

On the Rise: Eating a Banh Mi Sandwich and Other Incredible Breads and Sandwiches in Cleveland


The Banh Mi, a popular Vietnamese sandwich, is a favorite of the Phở Boys!  The trouble is that it is hard to find, especially done well.  As such, we usually head for Superior Pho, hands-down the best Pho in Cleveland!

Seems we may, however, have a new option, found at the Bread, Bakery and Sandwich shop called On the Rise(here, also, is their Facebook page)  And Banh Mi is not all they make; you name it in terms of artisan breads and bakery and they most likely bake it!!!!!! 

Here is what they have to say about themselves at their website:
Here at On the Rise we are a group of highly dedicated professionals here to providing the best bread, pastry, and lunch items around. We wake in the wee hours of the morning to provide the best morning pastry around. From our croissant , to our scones, and sticky buns. If bread is your passion, you have truly found your new home. We are constantly striving to provide the highest quality fresh baked breads, from our traditional french baguette, to our rustic italian bread, and everything in between. Our newer lunches are focused on highlighting the seasonality and locality that you have come to know and love. From the New Creation ham and gruyere to the Miller livestock roast beef. We believe with the upmost importance that you know where your food comes from and how it came to be. We have sought out individuals that care as much about what they do as we do about about bread. It is with this kind of passion that we believe change can be facilitated. Knowing where and how your food came to be is important. Our bakery strives to give you the most honest approach to food that we can. Through this approach we believe that real change can happen. 

Wonderful place, check it out!

(pictures came from On the Rise's Facebook page and Cleveland.com--which wrote a nice article on the place.)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Warm Puff Pastry on a Snowday in the Cold, Cold Chill of the Ohio Countryside


Guest post by Renee Ergazos, 

I am not sure which description fits Renee better: musicologist or foodologist.  Renee and her husband, Mark (an accomplished artist, guitar maker and sculptor), live out in the country with their two girls, both friends with our daughter.  It is commonplace to call their place and get from Renee the latest; which includes an overview of some wild recipe she just tried --- an ancient liqueur made of some herb or fruit that only grows on their property and takes nine days to make --- and the music she and Mark and the kids are jamming to, such as some hard-to-find Melvins bootleg.

Liqueurs aside, Renee also does some great cooking. Here is one for those crazy about pastry!  


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Apricot Pastries
The snow is up to our doorway, the hawks have come out of the woods to boldly perch and hunt directly above our bird feeder, and the state route we live on is deserted except for the plows, snowmobiles, and the occasional ambulance.

I am tolerating this weather by relishing in the freedom of no deadlines, no social obligations, a basement stocked with wine and liqueurs, and enjoying the time to bake.

Mark and the girls have been holding a Kings-in-the-Corner tournament and we have been trying to share the iPod nicely as a family. My baking soundtrack usually includes Zappa's "Muffin Man" and some early Bowie.

I had a few fresh apricots on hand and I always keep puff pastry sheets (Pepperidge Farm) in the freezer.  Puff pastry is so versatile, convenient, available everywhere. 

HERE IS MY RECIPE:

1. Thaw the puff pastry sheet for about an hour on the counter, draped in a clean cloth.
2. Quarter apricots and lightly saute over medium heat in approx a teaspoon of butter and a tablespoon of brown sugar for a few minutes.
3. Place pastry sheet on lightly floured surface, lightly give a few rolls with a rolling pin, cut into 6-8 squares, or a use a biscuit cutter.
4. Brush pastry with beaten egg, place approx a teaspoon of the apricot jelly and then an apricot slice or two on the jelly. I used Trader Joes low sugar apricot jelly for these pastries.
5. Fold in any shape you wish. Brush all folded over areas with egg also.
6. Bake on parchment or a Silpad on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven, middle rack, for approx 20 minutes, til top of pastries are golden brown. Some jelly will flow out during cooking, you can crack the burnt sugars off the pastry or eat them like delicious bitter caramel (I stir it into coffee).

7. This recipe should be considered more of a guideline or inspiration as it can adapted to almost any berry or stone fruit used with many types of jelly (raspberry jelly with apple slices is a great pairing).




Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Twelve Days of Fruitcake


Hello everyone!

Here is another post by Chris Edmonson.

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Poor fruitcake.  America has wrecked its reputation.  Once the original wedding cake recipe and still very popular in Europe, it became a joke in 20th century culture.  Not that it doesn’t deserve it, because in fact I’ve had some terrible ones.  

But, my friends, once you’ve had English fruitcake, you will see the light.  And it was with this revelation that I knew it wasn’t the fruitcake’s fault, it was the substandard ingredients and America’s infatuation with sugar that made it so awful.  It is my quest to make one that my family looks forward to eating at Christmas.

My friend Marsha lived in Britain some years ago, and it was with her recipe from a British friend that we began our FP (fruitcake project) about seven years ago.

To begin, we double the recipe to produce two cakes, varying the type of fruit and nuts over the years, changing the booze for a better flavor booster, and generally muck about with whatever ingredients the season makes available in our supermarkets.  Our 5.5 pounds of dried/glacee fruits and nuts include raisins, currants, cherries, lemon and orange rind, walnuts, almonds, pecans, and ginger.  Some years we add mango or apricots.  

The first years we experimented with light and dark rums, switching the brands and decided that we liked scotch whiskey better than rum.  Brought up on cheap scotch, it was a new world for me to find a decent bottle under $20.00 that we could split to bathe our cakes from early November to Christmas Eve. 

Each year we have a different result -- each seem a marked improvement.  At least people tell me that they like it, but they could  be lying for all I know.

But there is one big problem for me – I HATE the red and green cherries, the tasteless, gooey  fruit that scream corn syrup.  One year we left them out --  alas, it didn’t help.  I missed the cherries, but I still HATED them. “This doesn’t make any sense” said my husband, shaking his head.  

November 2013 arrives and I shake out the batter-splattered recipe, determined to find a better way.  It is, I realize now, the poor offerings in our stores.  You may recall the tin of Lyle’s black treacle I lugged home from Shropshire --  I set it on the table and stare at the beautiful red tin.  

My eureka moment arrives: there must be real, “home glazed” fruit out there on the intertubes. And there is! Nuts.com website is the ticket.  Colorful, fun, amazing reviews of the huge array of nuts and fruits of all kinds from a family company in Newark, NJ.  In three generations, Grandpa’s shop is today’s Food Channel success! 


 I am convinced that Nuts.com, along with magic of black treacle, will bring honest-to-goodness happiness. I order eight pounds of fruit, including glazed red cherries “so good one can eat them out of the bag.”

The fruit arrives in two days, in a box so hilarious that I laugh out loud.  Inside is fruity goodness in amazing packaging.  
So follow the photos to see our happy baking day.  

Our nuts this year are toasted hazelnuts and pecans;  the fruit includes currants, glazed cherries, candied citron, orange peel, and ginger.  The black treacle made all the difference in the world. 

We are willing to share the recipe with anyone brave enough to bake it for 2014.

The photo I don’t have is one of slices of cake, showing the beautiful interior, served with a cup of tea or eggnog, which is how it MUST be consumed.


Happy New Year, 2014!  Eat well, and love one another.



























Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shopping in Jolly Olde England!


Another Guest post by Chris Edmonson,

As I stated at the beginning of her previous post, Chris is an incredible chef, food enthusiast, globe traveler and (along with her husband Jim) a huge fan of all things British and French!  In this post, Chris gives a 'shout out' to local Ohio farmers who are striving for excellence and making top quality product!  Buy local, folks, and you buy right!

Her last post was the mostly widely read and commented on by readers!  So, without further adieu, here is another post by Chris: 

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The Shops

Grocer (Oxford English Dictionary): 1. One who buys and sells in the gross, i.e. in large quantities.  The Company of Grocers, said to have been incorporated in 1344, consisted of wholesale dealers in spices and foreign produce.


Lovely London, so vibrant and exciting, so architecturally splendid  – a thrill to visit every time.  But this trip provided a giant dose of in-your-face reality: London is for rich people. There are food kitchens in the streets of Lincoln's Inn Fields after dark.  And it smells of exhaust.  




 So after a week of art and culture, we haul our tired feet onto the train to Shropshire, guided by our host from Tenbury Wells for a weekend in the country.  Excited to be there at harvest, we breathe deeply as farm country wraps its night arms around us.  Apples, hops, fields, and fires; one can smell it all from the open kitchen door.



Breakfast delayed by necessary errands in the town, we motor into Tenbury Wells past the Pump Rooms.  Right!  First stop, the butcher.  Decked out in his striped apron, the butcher greets our host Mark, with a beaming face.  Mark is married to Stella, a vegetarian, so when he sees him head for the big roasts, the butcher recognizes a man on a mission.  What I find so interesting is the discussion between these two men about buying local beef: not just what do you want, but why, and how might you be planning to cook your beef? How much per person?  Well, two bones are better than one for roasting, anyone knows that!   The joint is examined by both men, the marbling is pointed out, mouth sounds are exchanged, and we watch him carve off a portion for three. There is no plastic involved here.  Wrapped in brown paper and string, the beef is handed over and popped into our burlap shopping bag. Also, sausages! Mark pays the butcher -- in cash! “Cheers! Ta!”

Next, the grocer nearby in modern guise.  Seeking traditional British products, I disappear into the condiment aisle. Salt. Maldon salt in particular, with its soft pyramid crystals, hand-drawn harvested in Essex.  Now, I know that I can mail order this at home for twice the price, but I want to buy it off the shelf. It's my souvenir.  And near it, Lyles Black Treacle, an old product made from cane molasses by Abram Lyle & Sons, purveyors to the Queen. It's for my annual Christmas cake (more on that next time, with photos) to replace Grandma's Molasses in my kitchen, and though heavy enough to break a toe, in my basket it goes. The cashier looks at me with amusement, but I don't care -- these babies are going into my spice cabinet along with my bottle of Fortnum & Mason ground ginger. I'll line them up to face me when I open the cupboard door -- "Hello! (like the magazine) Britain, let's bake.”

We make a few more stops --  the baker for artisanal loaves and a quick gossip about the nearly empty shelves, and the ancient center market for a quick look at garden tools and baskets, bulbs and pots.  And then home for breakfast with Stella manning the giant toaster, stuffing toast racks full of thick golden slices.


 We laugh about the toast racks, and how foreign they are to Americans.  She opens her plum jam, made just this week, and we dive into platters of cold meats and cheeses, pate, too.  Coffee and tea, of course.  We are ready for the cider mill.




Finally, just today, while searching the Times Literary Supplement for art history titles we might add to our library collection, I find a review of a new book that gives me the idea for this post: Sugar and spice: grocers and groceries in provincial England, 1650-1830 by Jon Stobart.  Stobart is concerned with the historical process by which exotic provisions that began as luxuries, as a result of trade, became staples. This history of grocers, and so much of what we take for granted about consumer culture and our own stocked larders, stem from the history of England's colonial empire, for better and unfortunately, like our own history of slavery, for worse. 

And don't get me started about curry -- just don't go there.

(to be continued....)