THE TOMATOES FROM MY garden slowly begin to trickle into my kitchen. Just a few barely ripe ones at first, the kind that are still a little green at the stem end. I pick them out of excitement, now they need to sit on the counter for a day or two to fully ripen. Soon they are followed by deep red fully ripe tomatoes, enough to slow roast a tray of San Marzanos until they shrink and shrivel and get the tell tale taste of raisin and intense tomato. Continue reading →
It’s not for a lack of eggs. I raise chickens, I have more eggs then I can use most days.
So what drives me to this dish. I especially like sprouted tofu, a lot. It’s not just tofu though. I like the process, the feel of the tofu as I crumble it between my fingers onto a plate, the precision of cutting the potatoes into tiny squares so they cook faster but stay crispy on the outside while remaining creamy in the interior, the smell of the curry powder when I sprinkle it into the hot pan, or the sizzle of the tomato sauce.
I like this dish because it requires a few minutes to make but isn’t complicated to get to the table.
I like it because it is doable on a weekday morning.
I like it because it feels nutritious to eat, as if it is resetting something in my body.
I like it because after eating I am still hungry for the day.
Curried Tofu Scramble (2 servings)
10 ounces sprouted firm tofu, crumbled
1 russet potato, scrubbed and diced into 1/4 inch squares
peanut or grape seed oil
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/4 cup tomato sauce
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper cilantro, optional
1. Place a 12 inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add enough oil to the pan to generously coat the bottom of the pan. Add the potatoes. Season them with salt and pepper. Gently toss the potatoes in the pan until they are brown on all sides, crispy but still creamy in the center.
2. Add the tofu, jalapeno, and green onion to the pan. Season again with salt and black pepper. Stir to combine the sprinkle the curry powder over the tofu. Stir again being sure to evenly stain all the pieces of tofu with the nice yellow color of the curry. Add the tomato sauce and stir. If need be add a tablespoon or more of water.
3. Once everything is heated through, the right consistency, and seasoned to your liking divide the scramble onto two plates, garnish with cilantro and serve.
Chef Leichte spun on the balls of his feet. A millisecond ago he was heading forward, and I was following him. Now we are face to face, and he pokes my chest with his finger. “Commit!” he says in a raised voice, his chef’s toque rising from his head and towering above me like the leaning Tower of Pisa. “Quit asking all these questions and cook! Commit to the recipe; if it fails, we will fix it, but realize you will probably learn more from your mistakes than if I coddle you through the process.” Continue reading →
This morning little Lynnie keeps yelling and pointing in excitement at the cake I made for last night’s Sunday dinner. She is telling me she wants it for her birthday. The heels on the last three slices of the cake have been nibbled. Last night she kept slipping her little hand in and under the wrap so she could pinch and sneak little pieces off. The edges now look like we have a mouse in the house, and I finally had to move the cake to higher ground.
We had guest last night for dinner and while making dessert yesterday I recalled making a promise this year to make more desserts. I haven’t been. So I started thinking about this commitment while making this cake. I figured I need to sort out my likes and dislikes. Set some parameters and set myself up for success.
Most of the time I don’t want anything sweet. I am not a big sweets person. When I do a simple, small piece of dark chocolate usually suffices. I don’t want anything overly sweet.
Not only that, but as with many chefs I have a certain disdain for making desserts. It’s not that I don’t like to make them but that these grumblings occur because I usually wait till everything else is done before I think to make something. It is like opening the dishwasher to to put in dirties only to find you haven’t yet put up the clean ones. I have no explanation for this other than I think it comes with the toque. It’s why the gods made pastry chefs.
The idea of a dessert that holds the potential of a coffee or tea break snack but can double as an after-dinner treat always appeals to me. I am always out to kill two birds with one stone.
I have made this cake multiple times but I haven’t made it since I became gluten-free, so I figured now would be as good a time as any. Knowing the kind of cake it is — a very buttery shortbread — I figured it would make the conversion without suffering. It did. In all honesty I think I like it better gluten-free. The rice flour really gives it a quintessential butter cake texture in a shortbread way.
There are technical things I like about it too, or maybe I should say, the lack of technical things. It is a put-all-the-ingredients-into-a-bowl, mix, dump and bake affair. Not a lot of extras to clean up.
It holds well too. It is on day three, still on the sheet tray, covered with plastic wrap and pieces keep disappearing.
It is a cake of no regrets and, if this afternoon I do have any, they are gone by the time I have finished my last delicious bite and sip the last sip of coffee from the cup. Again, two birds with one stone.
Breton Butter Cake (Makes 12 pieces)
- 600grams King Arthur all-purpose gluten-free flour
- 30grams corn starch (1/4 cup)
- 395grams sugar (2 cups)
- 448grams salted butter, yes salted, soft (4 sticks)
- 140grams egg yolk (7 yolks)
- 22grams rum (2 tablespoons)
- 1egg yolk mixed with one tablespoon of milk
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Sift the flour and cornstarch into the bowl of a mixer. Add the sugar and butter. Use a rubber spatula and scrape every bit of butter off the butter wrappers and put it into the bowl too. Then, using the paddle attachment, mix until combined. Add the yolks and rum. Mix till smooth.
- Using one of the butter wrappers grease the inside of a 9 inch ring mold that is 2 inches deep or spring form pan. If you use a spring form pan, dust it with flour after greasing and tilt and shift the pan so you get the sides dusted too. Shake out the excess.
- Using a spatula, scoop the batter into the mold then spread the batter out evenly. You may need to moisten the spatula with a little water to keep the dough from sticking to it.
- Using the tines of a fork make a cross hatch pattern on the surface of the cake. Using a pastry brush gently paint the top of the cake with the yolk and milk wash.
- Bake the cake for 45 minutes. Keep an eye on it and if it starts to brown to quickly reduce the heat. The top should brown and it should be firm to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool completely before removing the ring.
We all know gravy or pan sauce in large quantities might be good for our soul but it isn’t so good for our heart health. After all we are doing nothing more then adding flour or cornstarch to the fat in the bottom of a roasting or sauté pan to thicken it and adding back some stock, wine, or cream for volume. So we have deemed it less healthy which to me means it is an occasional treat and as such we reserve serving gravy for holiday feasts or occasional celebrations, and rightly so.
So why then when I look into the chicken-less roasting pan that held tonights dinner only a short time ago and I see those beautiful glistening juices that are on the edge of coagulating do I feel like I am throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t get me wrong I am no health nut. In fact I have this beautiful physique that could make me the poster child for a Bittman campaign on obesity. I am sure it goes back to my waste not want not way of thinking. Nevertheless all this made me think.
When I make my own stock I always cool it down, put it in the fridge and then the next day I lift the disc of fat off the top. I know the stock is pretty fat free, although I haven’t calculated it and I have know idea how to do so, but it has to be pretty lean and I also know it has very little salt because I didn’t add any. So looking at it in this light I started refrigerating the roasting pan and the next day I remove all the fat cap and what is left is the reduced intensely rich jelly. I use a rubber spatula and scrap all the jelly up and into a small Ball jar. I have already made a plan for its use, did so before I even roasted the pork, beef or chicken, so I know when I store it in the fridge it will be used up in a day or two. I could freeze it but I don’t like to collect things like this and my motto is use it or loose it.
The jelly is infinitely better then bouillon cubes or stock base and can be used in all sorts of ways. Sometimes I like the jelly to have lots of debris(meat bits and spices) and other times I don’t but it is easy to heat and strain, if you need too, just before you want to use it. While you don’t have too I often try to keep in mind the flavors of what I roasted with the flavors of what I am going to make with the pan juices just to make sure they coincide.
Pan juice possibilities:
- Of course it is always good to use the pan juices in soups. Added to the broth it can give a flat soup the kick it needs.
- Pasta or noodles of all kinds.
- For chicken pan juices: Make a simple fresh lemon juice and olive oil vinaigrette with salt and lots of fresh ground pepper, take a couple big hand fulls of baby Bibb lettuces and toss it with the dressing. Just before serving heat the pan juices and drizzle over the salad for a “healthier” wilted salad.
- For beef: You could make Grits and debris. Make a bowl of grits, pour on the warm pan juices and top with a fried egg.
- For pork: Ramen noodles.
Pasta with Chicken, Black Olives and Lemon
12 or 16 ounce box of spaghetti noodles
extra virgin olive oil
half a can of black olives, drained
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken meat
4 cloves of garlic, trimmed, peeled and slivered
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup chicken stock
2 to 3 tablespoons pan juices
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
1. Place a large pot filled with 4 quarts of salted water over high heat.
2. While you are waiting for the water to come to a boil place a sauté pan over medium heat. Add a good glug or two of extra virgin olive oil. Add the garlic and let it gently cook until it just begins to turn golden, be careful because browned garlic can be very bitter. Add the white wine and let the alcohol burn off. Now add the lemon juice, stock and pan juices. Bring them to a boil and season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Reduce the heat and let the liquid reduce.
3. When the water is at a roiling boil add the spaghetti. Cook according to the directions on the box, I am guessing 10 minutes or so. Once the pasta is just tender remove a cup of pasta water and reserve it, drain the pasta and immediately add it to the pan along with the chicken, olives and lemon zest. Season the pasta with salt and fresh ground pepper. Taste and make the necessary adjustments. If it is to dry add a little bit of pasta water. This is the kind of pasta that should have a broth. Toss to combine and once the chicken is hot add the parsley toss again and serve with lots of parmesan.