Easiest grilled squid, with a nod to Spain

On our Spain tours we've enjoyed some amazing seafood. Spaniards (like Sicilians) cook squid and octopus fearlessly, and most of the time it's tender and delicious, with none of that "rubber-eraser" texture. I've always been a bit afraid to cook them at home due to that risk. However, last weekend we decided to throw caution to the wind and cook a squid appetizer on the grill!

I took the easy way out; I bought fresh squid from the fishmonger that was already cleaned and ready to go. We patted it very dry with paper towels first, both inside and out.

Then we marinated it for about 15 minutes, in a quarter cup each of extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt.

Drying the cleaned squid.

Drying the cleaned squid.

Marinating.

Marinating.

The grill was fairly hot, and we used a grill tray that had had time to heat up over the coals. Then we put the squid on the grill and cooked it for 2 minutes on each side. If your grill was hotter than ours was, you'd be able to cook it for even less time. We knew it was time to flip it or to pull it off when the outside started to bubble and turn lightly golden.

As soon as we pulled it off the grill, we brushed on a little more olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice, and sprinkled with a little fresh parsley.

On the hot grill tray.

On the hot grill tray.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

And then we devoured it. Here's Elph having the kind of late-summer-discussion over great food and wine that helps us make it through the long winter to come.

Good food, wine, and conversation!

Good food, wine, and conversation!

Seville Orange Marmalade

I usually make several kinds of jam each summer, but had never made any winter citrus marmalade. This weekend I decided to do something about that, and went in search of Seville oranges. One local shop had some; February is a good time to find them. So, I bought 7 oranges (which turned out to be a lot, most recipes called for 4 or 5).

Seville oranges are a kind of bitter orange, that are apparently planted all over the city of Seville in Spain - being there when they bloom must be amazing.

I did some reading online and found many variations and opinions on how to do Seville Orange Marmalade, so I ended up combining pieces from several. I knew I wanted to can it in order to extend its shelf life, and so I can give it as gifts.

The first thing is to figure out, how to get all those seeds out - Seville oranges are packed full of seeds. I liked the suggestion from The Wednesday Chef blog to score the orange so that you can peel it in four quarters easily, then juice the orange and collect the seeds. I put the seeds into a small linen spice bag. And then you slice the peel into 1/8" thick slices.

Seville oranges

Seville oranges

Peels removed, juicing the pulp

Peels removed, juicing the pulp

 

You combine juice, sliced rind, chopped pulp, and the bag of seeds in a pot, cover with water, and let sit overnight. (Supposedly this helps with bitterness, I don't know.) The next day, you bring to a boil (still with the bag of seeds in there, to help add natural pectin) and then simmer about 45 minute to an hour, which is supposed to help make the orange rinds more tender - apparently once you add the sugar, the rinds stop getting tender from cooking.

 

Seeds successfully separated!

Seeds successfully separated!

Cooking the oranges before adding sugar

Cooking the oranges before adding sugar

While the oranges are simmering, bring your large canning pot full of water to a boil, and put your canning jars in to sterilize, and the lids in a separate pot to simmer. And, put a small plate in the freezer.

Remove the bag of seeds from the pot of oranges. Add the sugar to the oranges, stir gently until dissolved, and then let cook with the heat on high. A note about the quantity of sugar - the most traditional recipes seem to use twice the weight of sugar to oranges. I couldn't quite bring myself to do that, so used a little less, and mine was plenty sweet.

 

Sugar added.

Sugar added.

Boiling hard until its 222-223 F, skimming off foam

Boiling hard until its 222-223 F, skimming off foam

Some recipes said stir continuously, others said stir occasionally - I opted for occasionally, and I skimmed off foam occasionally too, with a large spoon. I used a digital thermometer to check the temperature, which could get tricky because every once in a while a lava-hot bubble of orange-sugar-water would erupt out of the cooking marmalade so you need to be careful.

Mine took a full hour to go from boiling (212F) to the 222-223F range. I tested a teaspoon of the marmalade on the plate from the freezer and lo it was softly gelled after 30 seconds - it would move slowly and blob-like when I tilted the plate, but did not run quickly down the plate, so it was done.

I turned off the heat, pulled the jars, ladle, and funnel out of the hot water, and then carefully filled the jars leaving 1/4" headspace. I wiped the tops of each jar with a damp cloth, and the put on the lids and bands from the simmering water. (I kept one jar out to eat right away of course!)

Filling the jars

Filling the jars

Jars cooling on the counter

Jars cooling on the counter

I filled up my canning rack with the jars, carefully lowered it in to the boiling water canner, covered, brought back to a boil, and let boil for 10 minutes. Then I pulled the rack out and lifted the jars on to a towel on the counter, there to cool for 12 hours or so.

And then, I cut a thick slice of a good crusty bread, toasted it a bit, slathered with lightly salted organic butter, and spread with marmalade, and made a cup of black tea with milk to accompany it. SO delicious, with great flavors and textures - chewy, bitter and sweet, plus the salty richness from the butter and the nuttiness of the wheat bread.

Worth the wait!

Worth the wait!

 

And, the house did smell wonderful for hours! Recipe follows.

RECIPE

Originally inspired by http://www.thewednesdaychef.com/ and by Alton Brown's recipe on the food network http://www.foodnetwork.com/

Seville Orange Marmalade

Makes 12 half-pints (approximately)

3 pounds 12 ounces Seville oranges (7 large)
12 cups water
5 pounds 12 ounces granulated sugar

Wash the oranges thoroughly, especially if you were not able to find organic fruit. Score the peel of each orange with a sharp knife in quarters and remove, and slice 1/8" thick, and put in a large heavy-bottomed pot. Juice the oranges; I used a hand held juicer, which worked well in that it collected a lot of the seeds too. Then take the pulp and squish it around on a cutting board to remove more seeds, and then chop the pulp up. Add the juice and pulp to the pot. Put the seeds in a spice bag, tied shut, and add to the pot too. Add 12 cups water, cover and let sit overnight.

The next day, bring the pot to a boil, uncovered, still with the seed bag in, and let simmer rapidly for 45 minutes to an hour. The goal is for your peel to soften; apparently once you add sugar the peel will not soften any more.

While the fruit is cooking, fill a large pot (at least 12-quart - I use my lobster pot) 3/4 full with water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Place 10 (8-ounce) jars and rings, canning funnel, ladle, and tongs into the boiling water and make sure the water covers the jars by at least an inch. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the lids and leave everything in the pot until the marmalade is ready.

Also, place a small plate in the freezer.

Remove the bag of seeds from the pot. Increase the heat under the orange mixture to return to full boil. Add the sugar and stil gently to dissolve. Then stir the mixture occasionally, and occasionally skimming off foam with a large spoon, until it reaches 222 to 223 degrees F on a candy thermometer, and darkens in color. For me this took an hour; apparently that was on the long side.

Along with testing the temperature, when its near 222 degrees test the readiness of the marmalade by placing a teaspoon of the mixture onto the chilled plate and allowing it to sit for 30 seconds. Tilt the plate. The mixture should be a soft gel that moves slightly. If mixture is thin and runs easily, it is not ready.

Remove jars from the water and drain on a clean towel. Place a canning funnel onto the top of one of the jars and ladle in the marmalade just to below the bottom of the threads of the jar. Repeat until all of the mixture has been used. The amount of marmalade may vary by 1 to 2 jars. Wipe the rims and threads of the jars with a moist clean cloth and top each with a lid. Place a ring on each jar and tighten and put in your canning rack.

Gently lower the canning rack in to the pot of boiling water. Add additional boiling water if necessary to cover the jars by at least an inch. Bring back to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the canning rack from the water, and then using the jar lifter to place the jars on a cloth on the counter, spaced a few inches apart, and allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours before opening. Once open, store in the refrigerator.

Enjoy on hearty toast with lightly salted butter.

Southern-Italian-inspired baked whole fish, and pasta with garlic and hot pepper

For dinner last night we made two dishes inspired by our travels in southern Italy, both very easy and delicious. One was a whole black sea bass, which we seasoned and baked. The other was spaghetti with a simple and flavorful topping.

We went to our local fishmonger on Saturday morning, and he had a fresh 2-pound back bass, which he gutted for us but otherwise left whole. To cook the fish that evening, I preheated the oven to 425, and lined a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. I arranged a few lemon slices on the parchment paper, rubbed 3 to 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on both sides of the fish, sprinkled salt on both sides too, and then lay the fish down on the lemon slices. I put a half-dozen more lemon slices in to the fish cavity, along with 6 to 8 sprigs of fresh thyme. Last, I rolled some cherry tomatoes around in a bowl with another tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkled with salt, put the tomatoes onto the same baking sheet, and put it all in the oven for 30 minutes.

A fresh black bass

A fresh black bass

The fish stuffed and ready for the oven

The fish stuffed and ready for the oven

Meanwhile, I put a large pot of salted water on to boil for the spaghetti, and set out other ingredients I had around: a dried cayenne pepper from my garden of two years ago, a tablespoon of capers in brine, and about 1/3 cup Calabrian caper shoots in olive oil we had recently been given a jar of. I took a hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano out of the fridge to come to room temp, and finely grated 2 cups worth using a zester.

I used the seeds from only one of these peppers.

I used the seeds from only one of these peppers.

Caper shoots in olive oil

Caper shoots in olive oil

I put a large skillet on low heat, and added about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. I sliced six cloves of garlic into thin slices, being careful to pull out and discard the green sprout from each clove - the garlic is a bit old and tired now, almost time for a new season. I added the garlic to the oil, and let it gently cook for 15 minutes, being careful that the heat was low enough that the garlic did not get very brown. Then I removed the garlic with a slotted spoon, and put in the hot pepper flakes from 1 cayenne pepper, the capers and the caper shoots.

The garlic adding flavor to olive oil at a low temperature.

The garlic adding flavor to olive oil at a low temperature.

The red pepper flakes, capers, and caper shoots added after the garlic was removed.

The red pepper flakes, capers, and caper shoots added after the garlic was removed.

Meanwhile, the salted pasta water had boiled, so I put in about 3/4 lb of spaghetti, and cooked until al dente. I drained the pasta well, and then poured it in to the large skillet with the olive oil and other ingredients, and stirred well. I tossed in about 1/2 cup of minced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, and stirred in the cheese. And, the fish was just out of the oven! We gently pulled the fish off the bones on each side, and served with the cherry tomatoes and pasta, with sea salt, olive oil, and fresh lemon wedges on the table for additional seasoning.

The fish just out of the oven.

The fish just out of the oven.

Dinner!

Dinner!

It all paired very well with a chilled Viognier. Yum!

A recipe on the lighter side – Spicy Thai Steamed Mussels

In January I start to crave dishes that are a bit lighter than the holiday fare, aren't too fussy to make, and are warm and satisfying. Seafood usually fits that bill well, and especially mussels. Last weekend I made this dish, it was easy and delicious, and I remembered to get some good bread to dip in the sauce. The full recipe is below the photos.

First, check your mussels to make sure they are all still alive. If they are open, tap them gently on the table, and if they close up they are fine. Discard those that remain open, and those whose shells are broken. Then, put them in a bowl of cool water to soak for 20 to 30 minutes, this helps get rid of any sand the mussels may be holding inside their shells.

Then rinse the mussels, scrub them lightly if it seems like they need it, and remove any "beard" - little threads hanging out of the shells where they join - but most mussels that you buy will already have these removed.

While the mussels are soaking, you can put together the sauce you will cook them in.

Rinsing the mussels

Rinsing the mussels

The cooking sauce

The cooking sauce

When the sauce has boiled for a couple minutes, in go the mussels, covered, for another 5 to 8 minutes - stir them occasionally, to check to see if they are all open. Once they are open, they're done! Put them in a serving dish, sprinkle with fresh cilantro (if desired), and dig in. Serve with good bread.

Mussels in the pot

Mussels in the pot

Dinner!

Dinner!

Spicy Thai Steamed Mussels
To serve 6

INGREDIENTS:

5 pounds mussels
3 limes (enough for 1/3 cup fresh juice)
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (13.5 oz)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1-1/2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (or less, to taste)
1-1/2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cup fresh cilantro
lime wedges to accompany
bread to accompany

METHOD:

Scrub mussels well and remove beards. Squeeze enough juice from limes for 1/3 cup. In an 8-quart kettle boil the lime juice, coconut milk, wine, curry paste, garlic, fish sauce, and sugar over high heat, stirring, 2 minutes. And mussels, tossing to combine. Cook mussles, covered, stirring occasionally, until opened, about 5 to 8 minutes. (Discard any unopened mussels.) Chop cilantro and toss with mussels. Serve mussels with lime wedges and good bread.

Tuscan Ribollita – a hearty traditional vegetable, bean, and bread stew

Yesterday was the perfect day to make a big batch of comfort food - a Tuscan vegetable stew called Ribollita. We make this dish during one of the cooking classes with Chef Piero on the Tuscany food tour, but I had yet to make it at home.

You layer cooked vegetables and beans with toasted bread rubbed with fresh garlic, and then let it all sit for two hours while the ingredients come to know themselves - they come together deliciously, and the dish becomes more than the sum of its parts somehow.

The full recipe is below, following the photos.

The night before, soak your beans, and then the next morning cook them for an hour or so until tender, so they're ready to use when you want to start cooking your stew. [I grew Tuscan zolfini beans in my garden this year, so I was excited to use this classic (and hard to find) Tuscan bean in my soup. Tuscans love zolfini beans because they become soft and creamy when cooked, but retain their shape. Cannelini or another white bean of choice can be used instead of course.]

When you're ready to make your soup, chop up several different kinds of vegetables fairly finely, and sauté them in a large pot in a generous amount of olive oil until soft (reserving some of the raw onions for later).

Chopping up the savoy cabbage

Chopping up the savoy cabbage

Sauteing the vegetables until soft

Sauteing the vegetables until soft

While the vegetables are cooking, divide your cooked beans in half, and run half of them through the food mill (or push through a fine-mesh sieve).

A food mill is still a handy tool to have!

A food mill is still a handy tool to have!

Beans ready for adding to the stew

Beans ready for adding to the stew

Once the vegetables are soft, stir in both the whole beans and the food-milled beans, as well as some water, or broth if you prefer. (The recipe called for using the bean-soaking water, but I worry a bit about doing that, gas-wise...) Bring it to a boil and let simmer for 1 hour. While it cooks, saute the rest of the raw onion, and some garlic, until soft and just turning golden.

The vegetables and beans cooking for an hour

The vegetables and beans cooking for an hour

Sauteing the rest of the onion, and some garlic

Sauteing the rest of the onion, and some garlic

While the soup is cooking, slice your stale bread, toast it, and rub it with a cut clove of fresh garlic.

Stale sliced farm-bread toasting in the oven

Stale sliced farm-bread toasting in the oven

Rub the toast with fresh garlic

Rub the toast with fresh garlic

After the stew has cooked for an hour, turn off the heat, and stir in the onions and garlic. Then you use another large pot (or in my case, the same pot after you pour the stew out of it into a big bowl), put a layer of the garlic toast in the bottom, spoon over some stew, drizzle some olive oil over and grind some fresh pepper, then another layer of the garlic toast, and repeat until all the toast and stew are in the pot, ending with stew on top.

Layering the toast and the stew

Layering the toast and the stew

All layers in!

All layers in!

Then you put on the lid and let the stew sit for 2 hours, while all the ingredients come together. After 2 hours I went to heat the stew up gently before serving, and found that all the liquid had been absorbed!

The liquid had all been absorbed in my stew! So I added a little boiling water.

The liquid had all been absorbed in my stew! So I added a little boiling water.

So I added in a couple more cups of boiling water, stirred it, heated it gently, and served. I grated fresh parmigiano reggiano over the top of each bowl, and drizzled with a good strong olive oil. It was delicious, the bread perfectly soft, and very rich and hearty tasting, yet starting with very plain ingredients.

Recipe follows, enjoy! -Jillian

Tuscan Bread, Bean and Vegetable Soup
(La Minestra di Pane Ribollita)

Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:

- 1 onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 zucchini, chopped into small pieces
- 2 celery sticks, chopped into small pieces
- 2 carrots, chopped into small pieces
- 1/2 savoy cabbage, chopped into small pieces
- 20 leaves tuscan kale (also called dinosaur kale or lacinato kale) or swiss chard, chopped into small pieces
- 2 peeled tomatoes (I used 1 small can tomatoes and their juice)
- 250 grams boiled white beans (I started with about 8 ounces (by weight) of dry zolfini beans)
- 1 kg stale tuscan-style bread (I used a hearty farm bread)
- 2 cloves garlic, plus more for rubbing on the toast
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, optional
- parmigiano reggiano cheese and olive oil for topping

METHOD:

1. Soak your beans the night before, and cook them until soft, so they're ready for use. Reserve the cooking liquid if you want to add it to the stew later. Chop the onion coarsely. Chop the rest of the vegetables into small pieces, ie, zucchini, celery, carrots, and cabbage. Place half the chopped onion and the rest of the vegetables in a large stockpot, with the dried thyme if using. Add some olive oil and sauté over medium to medium-high heat until soft and well-cooked, stirring often (about 20 minutes). Add half the cooked beans, and puree the rest of the beans by passing them through a food mill, and add to the soup also. Add 8 to 12 cups water (or broth if you prefer, or use the reserved bean cooking liquid). Bring to a boil, then cook for 1 hour on medium heat, partially covered, stirring occasionally. I also added about 2 teaspoons of salt, but the Tuscans use salt quite sparingly so only add salt to your own taste.

2. While the soup is cooking, sauté in a frying pan the rest of the chopped onion and garlic (finely chopped) in olive oil. Also toast the sliced stale bread, and rub a cut clove of fresh garlic over each slice. When the soup has cooked for an hour, stir in the sautéed onions and garlic. Arrange a layer of bread in the bottom of a deep terracotta dish or a large pot with lid. Pour a few generous ladlefuls of the soup over the bread until it is covered, plus a little olive oil and freshly ground pepper.

3. Continue to layer the bread and soup in this way until the dish is full. Cover and leave to rest for approximately 2 hours. Before serving, heat the bread soup mixture gently until hot, stirring well. (My soup had absorbed all the liquid, so before heating I stirred in a couple cups of boiling water.) Serve with extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top, as well as freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, and put out the salt cellar so guests can add salt to their taste.

Spanish Membrillo – a quince paste your Manchego cheese is begging for

While visiting Spain earlier this year (working on creating two new Zingerman's Food Tours), I got to taste a wonderful fruit-paste-and-manchego-cheese appetizer. I learned that the fruit paste was called Membrillo, and is made from fresh quince.

The taste stayed with me, and when I got back to Michigan after leading the fall Tuscany tour I decided to try making Membrillo myself. (The full recipe is at the bottom of the post, following the photos.)

First, you need to get ahold of some ripe quince. Your neighbors may have a quince tree or bush, or speciality produce stores should carry them in the fall. Make sure to get quince that are ripe - they are yellow and smell good - kind of like a ripe apple-pear aroma with a bit of pineapple thrown in. They are very hard even when ripe. I washed them and peeled them. (The recipe I used called for peeling them; I also made quince jelly, a different recipe, and for that one I did not need to peel the fruit.)

Ripe quince

Ripe quince

Peeled - they look and feel like peeled apples

Peeled - they look and feel like very firm peeled apples

Then, you cut the fruit off the core (or use a corer if you have one), and chop it roughly. Put it in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add several strips of carefully-cut lemon zest (you don't want the white pith), and a vanilla bean pod that has been slit lengthwise, and water to cover. Bring to a boil, and simmer until the quince is soft, about 30-40 minutes.

Chopped quince

Chopped quince

Add water, a vanilla bean, and strips of lemon zest

Add water, a vanilla bean pod, and strips of lemon zest

I really enjoy the aroma of quince - while cooking it made the whole house smell fruity. Once soft, you drain the quince, discard the vanilla bean but keep the zest in with the quince. Then puree it (I used a blender), and measure how much puree you end up with so you know how much sugar to add.

Blending the quince

Blending the quince

Quince puree

Quince puree

Return the quince puree to the heavy-bottomed pot, with the heat on medium-low. Measure out the same amount of sugar as quince puree, and stir it in. When the sugar has completely dissolved, stir in the lemon juice. Continue to cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour to an hour and a half. (This reminded me of cooking really good grits - I needed to find tasks to do near the kitchen where I could just pop up and stir the pot every few minutes and then go back to what I was doing.) The color will change from yellow to a deep orange, and it will get quite thick.

Quince puree with the sugar just added

Quince puree with the sugar just added

Quince puree after 1.5 hours

Quince puree after 1.5 hours

While the puree cooks, preheat the oven to 125. Butter some parchment paper well, and line a small baking pan with it. (I used a torte pan but a small square or round baking pan would be fine, 8 x 8 or 9 x 9.) Pour the quince paste in to the parchment-paper-lined pan. I used a spatula to smooth out the paste, so it was even.

Buttered parchment paper in a torte pan

Buttered parchment paper in a torte pan

The quince paste after being poured in to the baking pan

The quince paste after being poured in to the baking pan

Then I put the quince in the oven to dry for about 1.5 hours. I took it out and let it cool, before wrapping it in plastic wrap and keeping it in the fridge. The sugar in it meant that it lasted several weeks, and it was a great excuse to buy several kinds of aged cheeses to eat slices of the membrillo with. We ate the membrillo with an aged Spanish Manchego (which is sheep's milk cheese), a cheese called Calcagno, which is another aged raw sheep's milk cheese from Sardinia, and it was also really good with Challer-Hocker - a cow's milk cheese that is softer than those other two - a mountain-style cheese from Switzerland. Yum. Recipe follows, enjoy!

The cooled membrillo, ready to wrap up and put in the fridge.

The cooled membrillo, ready to wrap up and put in the fridge.

The membrillo on a cheese platter - it was definitely a hit.

A wedge of the membrillo on a cheese platter - it was definitely a hit.

Spanish Membrillo
(with thanks to SimplyRecipes dot com for the recipe that I started with!)

INGREDIENTS
approx 4 pounds quince, washed, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
1 vanilla pod, split
4 strips of lemon peel - only the yellow, no pith - about 1/2 inch by 1 inch each.
3 Tbsp lemon juice
About 4 cups of granulated sugar, exact amount depends on how much quince puree you end up with

DIRECTIONS

Place quince pieces in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add the vanilla pod and lemon peel and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook until the quince pieces are soft (30-40 minutes).

Strain out the water, discard the vanilla pod, but keep the lemon peel with the quince. Purée the quince pieces in a food processor, blender, or using a food mill. Measure the quince purée. Whatever amount of quince purée you have, that's how much sugar you will need. So if you have 4 cups of purée, you'll need 4 cups of sugar. Return the quince purée to the large pan. Heat to medium-low. Add the sugar and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the lemon juice.

Continue to cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the quince paste is very thick and has a deep orange color.

While the puree cooks, reheat oven to low (125°F, or 52°C). Line a 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper with a thin coating of butter. Pour the cooked quince paste into the parchment paper-lined baking pan. Smooth out the top of the paste so it is even. Place in the oven for about 1 to 1.5 hours to help it dry. Remove from oven and let cool.

To serve, cut into squares, slices, or wedges and present with Manchego (or other flavorful) cheese. To eat, take a small slice of the membrillo and spread it on top of a slice of the cheese. Store by wrapping in plastic wrap and keeping in the refrigerator.

Chewy Ginger Cookies

I love ginger in almost any form. A few years ago a friend gave me this recipe for chewy ginger-molasses cookies with chunks of candied ginger in them, and they've become one of my all-time favorite cookies. And, they're easy to make with either regular flour, or, gluten-free flour.

I've posted the regular recipe below, and a note at the bottom with what flours I used when I made a gluten-free version. Enjoy!

After you make the dough, you roll small balls of it in sugar.

After you make the dough, you roll small balls of it in sugar.

You need to take them off the cookie sheets right away when they're done, so they don't keep cooking.

You need to take them off the cookie sheets right away when they're done, so they don't keep cooking.

RECIPE: Chewy Ginger Cookies

INGREDIENTS:

- 2 cup all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 stick melted butter
- 1/4 cup dark molasses (I used sorghum since my friend makes it on his farm, very good stuff)
- 1/2 cup white sugar, plus more for rolling the balls of dough in
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped very small

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the first 6 ingredients (the dry ones) together and set aside. Then put the rest of the ingredients in a mixer bowl, except the crystallized ginger. Mix on medium-low speed, and gradually add the dry mixture. At the last minute add the crystallized ginger. Scoop out by scant tablespoons, roll into a ball, roll lightly in regular white sugar (not powdered sugar), and put on parchment paper (optional) on a cookie sheet. Bake for exactly 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

GLUTEN-FREE VERSION

Instead of the 2 cups of regular flour, I used 1 cup white rice flour, 1/2 cup sorghum flour, and 1/2 cup tapioca flour, and I added 1 teaspoon of Xanthan gum.

Grilled Whole Lake Trout with Garlic and Thyme

If you're looking for a main dish that's quick and easy to make, delicious, and makes for a dramatic presentation, whole grilled fish is a great way to go.

I was talking with the fishmonger at my local market last Saturday, and asked him what would be best to grill that night. He steered me to these beautiful lake trout, caught the day before. (When I say "whole" I just mean, heads and tails still on - the fishmonger had already cleaned/gutted them.)

Opening up and admiring the fish at home

Fish that's very fresh has good color, shiny eyes, and firm flesh.

Stuffing the cavity with fresh thyme, crushed garlic cloves, and some sea salt

Stuffing the cavity with fresh thyme, crushed garlic cloves, and some sea salt

After admiring the fish, I stuffed each one with a few springs of fresh thyme, 2 crushed garlic cloves, and about 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt, and then rubbed a little olive oil on the outsides, just a tablespoon or so. Meanwhile I was heating the grill, and had scraped the grill grate clean with a wire brush and wiped a little oil on the grate too.

Prepped ingredients for our side dish, which was pasta with fresh pesto, cherry tomatoes, and parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Prepped ingredients for our side dish, which was pasta with fresh pesto, cherry tomatoes, and parmigiano reggiano cheese.

The trout on the grill, only about 7 minutes per side on medium to medium-high

The trout on the grill, only about 7 minutes per side on medium to medium-high

Before grilling the fish, I prepped the ingredients for our side dish, since I knew the fish cooking time would be short. Given this month's garden bounty, fresh pesto and cherry tomatoes over pasta was the clear way to go. Years ago Elph gave me a beautiful Italian marble mortar and pestle that is fun to use, so that's a bonus, and an encouragement to make pesto by hand rather than using a cuisinart. (When I'm making large quantities of pesto, I definitely do use a cuisinart...)

Some swear that basil tastes better and stays fresher when torn rather than cut with a knife; I have not tested that for myself, but I did enjoy using the mortar and pestle for this small dinner. I first crushed a clove of garlic in 1 teaspoon of sea salt, and then added basil and a good olive oil a bit at a time until I'd added about a packed cup's worth of basil and a couple tablespoons of olive oil, and last added in some toasted walnuts, 1/3 cup or so. I sliced the cherry tomatoes (these are like candy right now so I used a lot, maybe 2 cups worth), and grated a cup of parmigiano reggiano.

I'd brought salted water to boil in a large pot, and when it was time to put the fish on the grill, I also put the pasta in the cooking water. This is easier to do simultaneously when you have 2 people cooking! If you're solo you'll probably want to stagger the cooking to prevent overcooking either the pasta or the fish.

We used a timer for 7 minutes a side for the fish, which is what the fishmonger recommended, but he also said just to test it by making a small incision in the flesh and seeing if it was flaky and no longer translucent.

It's hard to see the pasta and pesto under there, I put so many tomatoes on, but it was delicious!

It's hard to see the pasta and pesto under there, I put so many tomatoes on, but it was delicious!

The fish were done in 14 minutes flat. Yum.

The fish were done in 14 minutes flat. Yum.

We enjoyed plating the fish whole and eating them that way. We poured a little olive oil over each fish and squeezed fresh lemon juice over too, and gave each another sprinkle of salt and pepper. You eat one side by lifting the skin up off the meat, with the backbone facing away from you on the plate, and then sliding the meat gently down toward the plate with a fork. It slides cleanly off the bone, but you just pay attention to make sure you don't get the occasional stray bone. And then turn it over and eat the other side. And don't forget the cheeks! Tiny and fun to eat, just down from and a little behind the eyes. We could taste the thyme and garlic in the fish.

A wonderful summer meal; it made me feel like our back deck was perched up in Tuscany or Sicily. Enjoy!

Pork Tenderloin with Plum Chutney

The plums have just stared coming in to the markets, and I was in the mood to make a dish that reminded me of Tuscany, so this pork tenderloin recipe using fresh herbs, pancetta, and plums was just the thing. It was slightly fussy to make in that you tie it up with string, but that only took a few minutes, and the results were so worth it! Full recipe follows at the bottom of my description.

First, the herb rub for the tenderloin. I did not have herbes de Provence, so I improvised, using some fantastic herbs from Tuscany, as well as from my garden.

My herbs-de-provence substitite - fennel and thyme flowers from Tuscany, plus fresh basil and savory from my garden.

My herbs-de-provence substitite - fennel and thyme flowers from Tuscany, plus fresh basil and savory from my garden.

Minced rosemary added in too, and then mixed with a good olive oil

Minced rosemary added in too, and then mixed with a good olive oil

After rubbing the tenderloins with the olive oil and herb mixture, I draped them with the pancetta, and tied them with cotton string as best I could. It didn't take that long.

Laying the pancetta onto (and under) the herb-rubbed tenderloins.

Laying the pancetta onto (and under) the herb-rubbed tenderloins.

Tenderloins and pancetta tied up with string!

Tenderloins and pancetta tied up with string!

I covered the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight. And then I made the plum chutney. I had four very ripe black plums, which peeled easily without having the blanch them.

First you cook the shallot with the brown sugar and spices.

First you cook the shallot with the brown sugar and spices.

Then you add the plums and simmer for a few minutes.

Then you add the plums and simmer for a few minutes.

It was surprisingly easy to make a really tasty chutney. I put it in the fridge over night too. Pulled it out the next day and rewarmed it a little bit while I grilled the tenderloins.

The chutney, ready to eat

The chutney, ready to eat

The tenderloins on the grill, you brown them first and then cook over lower heat.

The tenderloins on the grill, you brown them first and then cook over lower heat.

The cooking time on the tenderloins was pretty short; definitely use a meat thermometer.

The cooked tenderloins, resting for a few minutes before slicing.

The cooked tenderloins, resting for a few minutes before slicing.

Dinner - with some beet greens and chard, and a wild rice and brown rice mix. Delicious!

Dinner - with some beet greens and chard, and a wild rice and brown rice mix. Delicious!

It was a fantastic meal, and a festive-looking one so great to make for a dinner party. And even more so because the things that take the most time can be done the day before. Recipe follows, enjoy! -Jillian

RECIPE

Pork Tenderloin with Plum Chutney
(original source: Bon Appetit, slightly modified)

INGREDIENTS:

Plum Chutney
- 4 ripe red or black plums (I used black plums)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large shallot, sliced lengthwise
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1/4 cup sherry vinegar or apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated peeled
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- kosher salt

Pork
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
- 4 teaspoons herbes de provence OR some other combination (such as fennel flowers, thyme, savory, basil)
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 pork tenderloins (about 2 lbs)
- kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 16 thin slices pancetta, about 8 oz, or prosciutto

METHOD:

1. PLUM CHUTNEY
Peel plums, if desired. (Mine peeled easily but you could try dropping them in boiling water for a minute if yours don't.) Halve and pit. Cut into 1/2" wedges.Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallot begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add brown sugar, next 6 ingredients, and 1/4 cup water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in plums. Cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until fruit is soft and juices have thickened, 20–25 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Let cool slightly. DO AHEAD: Chutney can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm slightly before serving.

2. PORK
Stir rosemary, herbes de Provence, and oil in a small bowl. Rub all over pork; season with salt and pepper. Wrap pancetta slices around pork and tie at 2" intervals with kitchen twine to hold together. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. (NOTE: I did this a day ahead and I think it improves the flavor to sit overnight with the herb rub on it.)
If using a charcoal grill, build a medium-hot fire; push coals over to 1 side of grill. If using a gas grill, heat all but 1 burner to high. Grill tenderloins over hot part of grill, turning frequently, until a crisp brown crust forms on all sides, 8—10 minutes. Move tenderloins to cooler part of grill to gently cook through; cover and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of each loin registers 145°, 15—20 minutes longer. (NOTE: we only needed to cook it 10 minutes, check after 10.) Transfer tenderloins to a cutting board. Let rest for 10 minutes. Slice thinly and serve with plum chutney alongside. (We served this with a brown-and-wild-rice mix, and some steamed chard/beet greens. Delicious!)

French Sorrel Soup, with a nod to Julia Child

Sorrel is one of the very first plants to come up in the spring in my front yard, and after only a few weeks it's so prolific I have plenty to make soup with, as well as to enjoy in salads. So, last weekend I made my first batch of sorrel soup, based on Julia Child's recipe.

First, you pick the leaves (or buy them from the farmer's market), and chop them fairly small. Admire the lively green color of the fresh leaves - as soon as you start to cook them they turn a very drab green (but don't worry, they still retain their intense lemon taste!).

01 whole-sorrel-leaves

Whole sorrel leaves

02 chopped-sorrel

The sorrel rinsed, dried, and chopped.

Then you chop up your scallions or ramps or other mild onion, and cook gently for 10 minutes in a covered pot.

03 chopped-scallions

Chopped scallions

04 cooking-scallions

Cooking the scallions slowly

Add the chopped sorrel to the pot, and cook gently for another 10 minutes or so. Then stir in a bit of flour (I used a gluten-free rice flour.)

06 added-sorrel-leaves

Sorrel added to the scallions

07 added-the-flou

Adding the flour and stirring

While the sorrel leaves are cooking, bring broth to a simmer in another small pot. And, whisk together the egg yolks and cream in a small bowl.

05 heating-the-broth

Bringing the homemade chicken broth to a simmer

08 eggs

Egg yolks and cream whisked together

Whisk the hot broth in to the soup, stirring constantly. When this has come to a simmer, ladle a little soup into the bowl of egg yolk and cream, whisking constantly so it does not curdle, and repeat this two more times.

09 soup-ready-for-the-eggs

The broth added in to the soup and brought to a simmer

10 tempering-eggs

Whisking a little of the hot broth into the egg-cream mixture

Then you can slowly add the egg-cream mixture in to the soup, whisking the whole time. Let it cook at the lowest heat for a few minutes; don't let it come up to a simmer or boil. Serve at once; I like to sprinkle it with a little bit of fresh chopped sorrel. And I enjoyed it with a dry rosé, preferably dining al fresco! Ah, spring. Recipe follows.

11 adding-eggs-to-soup

Slowly adding the tempered cream and egg yolks to the soup

12 finished-soup

Time to eat!

INGREDIENTS
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup green onions, ramps, or other mild onion, chopped
4-6 packed cups green sorrel, chopped, and keep a couple tablespoons to the side for serving
salt
3 tablespoons flour
1 quart chicken stock
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup cream

DIRECTIONS

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the green onions or ramps and turn the heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and cook gently for 10 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, pour the stock into another pot and bring to a simmer.

Turn the heat up in the pot with the green onions, add the sorrel leaves and a healthy pinch of salt to the green onions and stir well. When the sorrel is mostly wilted, turn the heat back to medium-low, cover and cook 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Mix in the flour and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.

Whisk in the hot stock, stirring constantly. Bring this to a simmer.

To finish the soup, whisk together the egg yolks and cream. Temper the mixture by ladling a little soup into it with one hand, while you whisk the egg-cream mix with the other. Repeat this three times. (You are doing this to prevent the eggs from scrambling) Now start whisking the soup. Pour the hot egg-cream-soup mixture into the pot with the soup, whisking all the way. Let this cook — below a simmer — for 5 minutes. Do not let it boil or the soup will break. Serve at once. I like to garnish with a little shredded sorrel, and ideally a little drizzle of a fantastic olive oil on top.