Monthly Archives: September 2012

Split Pea Soup with Rosemary

I had a marathon cooking session the other Sunday, preparing eight dishes for the family and for the freezer and for fun.  I love doing this, and posting my progress along the way on Facebook.  Great fun, gets followers to come along for the ride, and perhaps inspires a person or two to try it for themselves.  One recipe I made last week captured a bit of attention, and I decided that it needed to be posted here and there so that people could try it for themselves.

So here is a wonderful split pea soup–not the green soup with a piece of smoked ham most people are used to–a different, more aromatic and herbal treat that is just perfect for these fall days when a chill is beginning to show up.

Split Pea Soup with Rosemary

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups split peas

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

2 cups chopped onion

1 cup diced carrot

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon minced garlic, divided

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary, divided

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon soy sauce

6 cups ( 3 cans) vegetable stock

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup fresh parsley

¼ cup low-fat sour cream

Preparation:

1.  Sort and wash peas; cover with water to 2 inches above peas, and set aside.  Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and bay leaf; saute’ 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add 2 teaspoons garlic, 1  teaspoon rosemary, paprika, and pepper; cook 3 minutes.  Add tomato paste and soy sauce; cook until liquid evaporates.

2.  Drain peas and add to pot.  Add stock and salt to onion mixture and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Discard bay leaf.

3.  In batches, place the soup in a blender and process until smooth; then pour the soup into a serving bowl.

4.  Combine remaining oil, garlic, rosemary and parsley; stir into soup.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.

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Apple Fritters from America’s Test Kitchen

Anyone who’s followed my work for any length of time knows my allegiance to America’s Test Kitchen, the kitchen/laboratory attached to my favorite cooking periodical, Cooks Illustrated.  My experience is that any recipe they post, if followed to the letter, produces the best product in any food class.  I feature stuff from America’s Test Kitchen a lot, because I have come to trust their effort and their results.  I have several recipes here in Jeff’s Kitchen that are ATK-tested and recommended, and a couple of notes about stuff that is not.

Today, we’re featuring ATK’s apple fritters.  I’ve scoured the Internet and looked at hundreds of apple fritter recipes, and I can say, without worrying about the recommendation, that these are the best ones I’ve come across.  There are some pretty good fritter recipes out there, including one that includes fresh orange zest (I may feature that one down the road), but in terms of foolproof, great-tasting, great-looking, these are the ones to try.  If I have one quibble with this recipe (and I usually have no quibble with ATK), it is that I like to mix up a sweet apple with a tart apple, so I make mine with a mixture of Granny Smith and HoneyCrisp apples (when the HoneyCrisps are in season), or Gala apples when they’re not.

Ingredients

FRITTERS
  • 2 Granny Smith apples , peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup apple cider
  • 2 large eggs , lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
  • 3 cups peanut or vegetable oil
GLAZE
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Instructions

  • 1. Spread prepared apples in single layer on paper towel–lined baking sheet and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels. Combine flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in large bowl. Whisk cider, eggs, and melted butter in medium bowl until combined. Stir apples into flour mixture. Stir in cider mixture until incorporated.
  • 2. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat to 350 degrees. Following step 1, use 1/3-cup measure to transfer 5 heaping portions of batter to oil. Press batter lightly with back of spoon to flatten. Fry, adjusting burner as necessary to maintain oil temperature between 325 and 350 degrees, until deep golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer fritters to wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet. Bring oil back to 350 degrees and repeat with remaining batter. Let fritters cool 5 minutes.
  • 3. Meanwhile, whisk confectioners’ sugar, cider, cinnamon, and nutmeg in medium bowl until smooth. Top each fritter with 1 heaping tablespoon glaze. Let glaze set 10 minutes. Serve.

Jacques Pepin’s Apple Fritters

Here’s the simple approach to making killer apple fritters, the full monty, system-killer variety.  You can try it difficult or you can try it simple.  I prefer simple.

When I was the producer of the Larry King show in Washington, D.C., I had the pleasure of meeting Jacques Pepin, and then interviewing him several times.  Each time he brought wonderful foods with him to share with us and to talk about.  It being radio, it was pointless to demonstrate cooking techniques, so rather he simply brought with him those things about which he would talk, and let our enthusiasm for the food carry the narrative.  Needless to say, he was one of our most requested guests.  Radio carries with it such a strong component of conjuring up visions in each listener’s imagination that a wonderful man like Jacques and his sensory-overload recipes played incredibly well on the radio.  Try to imagine Jacques Pepin discussing the making of apple fritters in his inimitable charming French accent and his over-the-top personality.

Serves 4 to 6 (makes about 12 fritters)

Apple fritters sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar and eaten piping hot are simplicity itself. The fruit can be cut into sticks or slices or fan shapes and dipped into the batter and fried, or it can be coarsely chopped or cut into julienne.

If you are making the fritters ahead, be sure to cook them until they are crisp and well browned. Then reheat and recrisp them in a toaster oven or under the broiler just before serving them heavily dusted with sugar.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 large egg

1 cup ice-cold water

1 pound apples (any variety; about 3)

1 cup canola oil

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

Vigorously mix the flour, egg, and 1/3 cup of the water in a bowl with a whisk. The mixture will be fairly thick. When it is smooth, add the remaining

2/3 cup water and mix again until the water is incorporated and the batter is thin and smooth.

One at a time, stand the unpeeled apples upright on a cutting board and cut each one vertically into 1/2-inch-thick slices, stopping when you reach the core; pivot the apple and cut again, and repeat until only the core remains. Stack the apple slices and cut them into 1/2-inch-thick sticks. (You should have 4 cups.) Stir the apple sticks into the batter.

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet. When it is hot, pour about 1/3 cup of the batter into the pan for each fritter, making 4 or 5 at a time. Using two forks, spread the batter out so the fritters are no more than 1/2 inch thick. Cook for about 4 minutes on one side, until brown and crisp, then turn and cook for about 3 minutes on the other side. Drain the fritters on a wire rack. Repeat with the rest of the batter. Sprinkle the fritters liberally with the sugar and serve.

Braised Chicken in White Wine Sauce — Weight-watchers Style

I’ve got to tell you about this chicken recipe.  There’s three things to recommend it:  1) it’s about the simplest hearty chicken dish I’ve ever made; 2) because it’s weight watchers, it’s a guilt-free supper, being extremely low in fats and carbs; and 3) it’s so wonderful and tasty to eat that I make it about once a week.  You won’t ever find a more tasty, simple, and filling dish, great for a busy family like mine.

Ingredients

  • 3  slices turkey bacon, chopped
  • 3 1/2  pounds chicken pieces, skin removed
  • 1  onion, chopped
  • 2  celery stalks, chopped
  • 1  head garlic, cloves peeled
  • 1  tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2  pound cremini or white mushrooms, sliced (cremini mushrooms add a wonderful layer of flavor)
  • 1  cup frozen small onions
  • 1 (14 1/2 oz.)   can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2  cup dry white wine
  • 1/2  pound small red potatoes, quartered
  • 4  carrots, cut into 2-inch lengths
  • 2  tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2  tablespoons water
  • 2  tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. Heat nonstick Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes; transfer to paper towels to drain.
  2. Add chicken to pan in two batches, and cook until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer chicken to plate.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Add chopped onion, celery and garlic to Dutch oven; cook, stirring, until vegetables are lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Add mushrooms and frozen onions; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add broth, wine, potatoes and carrots; bring to boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot.
  4. Return chicken and bacon to Dutch oven. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender and juices run clear when chicken thigh is pierced, about 25 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, whisk together flour and water in small bowl. Stir in about 1⁄4 cup of hot stew liquid until blended. Add liquid to pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid bubbles and thickens, about 3 minutes. Serve sprinkled with parsley.

Are You Growing Your Own Herbs?

Are you growing your own herbs?
In my opinion, the foundation of any good kitchen is the tools and supplies you have on hand that find their way into all the cooking that you do. This includes knives, pots and pans, basic condiments–salt, pepper, garlic, ginger, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise–and the basic ingredients you use on a regular basis.
This includes, of course, herbs and spices.
Spices I will leave for another discussion, but what I’m about here is herbs. The ones you use all the time, and maybe don’t even think about until either a recipe calls for a teaspoon of dried cilantro or dill or oregano, you reach for the little bottle in the cupboard by the stove and there’s not enough for the recipe.  Do you know where your thyme came from? Your oregano? Your sage? Did they ride in a truck for hours? How many gallons of diesel fuel did they use? Were there pesticides on them? Were they washed? What do you really know?
I say, grow your own. Many of you probably do, and if so, you know that there’s not much better than whipping up a quick mushroom and cheese omelette and snipping a few chives to complete the dish. Homemade marinara with fresh parsley and basil? A snap, and so much better than store-bought.
Growing your own herbs is: a) simple; b) cheap; c) delicious; d) interesting–there are so many varieties of herbs to try, just sticking to the basics; we’ve grown three or four different basils and at least three different thymes; and e) rewarding–both in the sense of pride you feel from adding homegrown ingredients to your food, and for the compliments you’re likely to get from company who don’t know why that red sauce tastes better, but it does.
People who do their own herbs do it in all kinds of ways–herb-garden window boxes, and setting up a section of their vegetable garden are common. We grow ours in pots outside our kitchen door. A little water every day or two in the summer–not too much, herbs like to be a bit on the dry side– and a little advance planning, and you won’t be buying expensive little bottles of herbs at the grocery store any more. Where do those herbs come from anyway?
Grow any herbs you like, most will flourish here and where you live if you provide just a little bit of care. The real trick to successful herb gardens is to harvest often. Don’t let the herb plants get too big. Like any other plant, the more you prune the bigger the plant will get, so prune them often. Cut herb plants back frequently–usually when they outgrow the perimeter of the pot or when they look just a little out of control in the garden. Cut a large bunch, tie them up with string and hang them in a warm, dry, dark place–I do it in my garage–and forget about them for about three or four weeks. When they are dry to the touch and crumble easily, place the dried bunch in a large steel mixing bowl and crumble them to bits. Pick out and discard the stems and pour the dried leaves into nice little herb bottles you got at the dollar store or saved from when you ran out of thyme (get it?).
We grow thyme, oregano, basil, parsley, sage, cilantro, chives, and mint (actually, our mint is out of control in the backyard, but it grows really well in pots). We harvest them for dried herbs to use in the winter, but here’s an added bonus: if you grow them in small pots, bring them into the house in the fall and keep them as house plants and keep harvesting. What I’ve discovered, however, is that in spite of recommendations to the contrary, most herbs overwinter very nicely in a garage. Simply put the pots on a shelf in a cold (but not freezing) garage, near a window if you have one, give them a little water about once every two weeks, and in the spring after the freeze is gone, most of them will come back, usually even stronger. I haven’t done this with basil–we use enough basil all year long that I try to keep a pot of basil growing in the kitchen– so I’m not sure how that overwinters. Or, you can just let the basil go in September, harvest a bunch just before the first freeze, and make a load of pesto, for home use or for holiday gifts.
Fresh and local. What could be better?

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