And Now For Something Sweet (with a Recipe)

I do believe yesterday’s post ruffled a few feathers out there.

It’s true that my primary allegiance isn’t to the Republican party, or the Democratic party, or even to these United States of America. When it comes down to it, my primary identity isn’t “American,” even though that’s what my passport says.

My primary identity is “Christian.” As a Christian–a follower of Christ–my sense of justice for “the least of these” is offended by such things as giving advertisers unfettered access to impressionable children.

End of story, for now. On to something much less controversial and much, much sweeter.

Caramel apples.

Oh, yes. It is apple season. Just after went apple picking some weeks ago, we had an occasion that demanded some dessert. I too tired to make another apple pie, and was all set to make brownies and THEN! Then I remembered that an easy, fun apple dessert could be had by slicing up some apples, tossing them with lemon juice and serving them alongside some caramel, like so:

Salted Caramel Dip

(adapted from a recipe by Chef Claudia Fleming)

Place in a large saucepan:

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water

2 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup (no, it’s not the same as HFCS)

Cook over medium-high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until mixture turns a dark amber (about 10-15 minutes.)

Carefully whisk in (the mixture will hiss and bubble–be careful!)

1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1/8-1/4 tsp. sea salt

and whisk until smooth.

Allow to cool. Can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Oh, come on. You’re not going to tell me that this is unhealthy, are you? What about all the apples?

Besides, look at those ingredients again. Do they look a little better than this?

HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SKIM MILK, CORN SYRUP, PALM OIL, SUGAR, BUTTER (CREAM, SALT), MODIFIED CORN STARCH, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, DISODIUM PHOSPHATE, SALT, POTASSIUM SORBATE (PRESERVATIVE),TBHQ (ADDED TO MAINTAIN FRESHNESS), ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS.

{I love that they call it “old fashioned.” Because anything old-fashioned clearly had to have TBHQ–a form of butane, by the way–“to maintain freshness”}

That’s what I thought.

Enjoy!

Two Kinds of Potato Pancake

{These recipes originally appeared as a part of a list of 10 favorite colder-weather recipes in the ‘Ten Things’ issue of Catapult Magazine. Since I’m still away–and since it’s getting colder here in the Northeast!–I thought I’d re-post these two recipes for two very different sorts of potato pancakes. Yum!}

Sweet Potato (& Corn) Fritters

This is one of my family’s new favorites, a new twist on our old favorite, potato pancakes (see below). Well, okay, my five year old isn’t crazy about them (yet.) But the rest of us are. Fresh cilantro is expensive (and likely imported) in the supermarket this time of year; it’s fairly easy to grow your own indoors. But don’t leave it—or the green onions—out. The orange, yellow, and green in these make them so pretty. If you’re inclined to be snobbish about frozen veggies, consider that few vitamins are lost during freezing, and that commercially frozen foods are frozen at the peak of freshness—you (and the planet) are way better off buying frozen veggies in winter than buying fresh ones that have been shipped long distances. Plus, recently, I’ve seen organic frozen corn everywhere from Costco to Trader Joe’s. If you planned ahead and froze corn yourself in the summer, so much the better.

Grate 3 large sweet potatoes (I don’t bother to peel them if they’re organic, just scrub and grate). Mix with 1 cup frozen corn kernels, rinsed, 4 chopped green onions, 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 3 lightly beaten eggs, and 1/3 cup whole wheat flour. (for non-gluten eaters substitute 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 2 tablespoons potato flour.) Stir in about ½ tsp. salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Drop by ¼ cupfuls into a pan well oiled with 1 part oil (preferably corn or grapeseed) and 1 part butter—enough to keep them sizzling but not floating. Cook about 3 minutes on each side, and keep warm on a cookie sheet in a 275 degree oven while you cook the rest. Serve with a simple sauce of juice from 3 limes, ½ tsp. minced garlic, 1 tsp. chopped cilantro, 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional), 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 2 tsp. sesame oil. Add chile flakes if you like things spicy, and please look for soy sauce that is just soy, wheat, salt, and water. (Or, again, if you’re gluten-free, look for gluten-free tamari sauce.)

Potato Pancakes

The Hanukah favorite, perfect throughout the winter! My kids and husband like them with ketchup—they’re kind of like a hash brown, then, but I (and my parents) love them with the more Eastern European toppings of sour cream and applesauce. Either way, they’re cheap, filling, and really tasty.

Grate (again, if they’re organic, just leave the skins on) 3 large potatoes and squeeze in a clean cloth to release some of their liquid. Mix with ¼ cup flour, 2 eggs, and 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped.  If it looks soupy, add a bit more flour. Add about 1 tsp. salt and some fresh black pepper. Drop by ¼ cupfuls onto a hot pan oiled with 1 part oil (preferably corn or grapeseed) and 1 part butter—enough to keep them sizzling but not floating. Drain on paper towels, if necessary, and keep warm in a 275 oven. Serve immediately.

How We Make Pizza Dough

We love our NY pizzeria pizza, but homemade pizza makes all kinds of sense. First, it’s inexpensive. Second, you can top it just the way you like it. Third, it’s fun.

I’ve used various recipes for pizza doughs over the years, and many have worked well, but my favorite way to make pizza is with the recipe for pita bread from the Moosewood Cookbook.

This is how to make it:

Dissolve in 1 cup warm (about 110 degrees F) water:

1 and 1/2 teaspoons yeast

1 Tablespoon honey

Sift together separately:

1 teaspoon salt

about 3 1/2 cups of flour (or 3 and 1/4 c. flour + 1/4 c. vital wheat gluten)

Gradually add flour mixture to the wet mixture, and knead well until very smooth. (I let this ancient MixMaster fitted with kneading hooks do the work, but, sadly, it died shortly after.)

{Don’t be fooled by the bottle of olive oil in the background. This recipe doesn’t call for oil.}

Divide the well-kneaded and smooth dough into two smooth balls, cover bowl with a damp cloth or with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled.

When the dough has nearly doubled, preheat your oven as high as it goes. (Mine goes to 500F.) Put a baking stone on the lowest oven rack to preheat as well.

Cut each half into three roughly equal pieces (6 pieces total) and roll each piece gently into a ball. Cover gently with a wet cloth and let rest 10 minutes.

Gently, working with one ball at a time, roll each into an approximate 10″ round, using additional flour if necessary to keep dough from sticking. Place on a flat smooth surface well-dusted with cornmeal or flour–you’re going to slip it off THAT surface onto the hot baking stone. (Yes, it’s a pain in the neck, but it’s doable.)

Top however you like; and slip onto hot stone. Bake 7-10 minutes–or until it looks done, and allow to cool a bit on a wire rack. Repeat with each dough ball. (You can freeze some of the dough for another time.)

Dollops of fresh pesto, fresh ricotta, and halved cherry tomatoes with a bit of mozzarella (no sauce). Yum! Done right (and I do not always do it right, alas) this is THE closest a homemade pizza comes to tasting like a real NY slice.

Enjoy the weekend!

Boston Brown Bread, Baked Beans, and Apple Pie

“…times have changed. But some things haven’t. We still need food. Food’s still a gift. We still need each other. And it’s still those things–not money, not the economy, not our ambitions–that bring us joy.”

It’s Tuesday, which means we’re spending it with Fannie Farmer!

This week, my journey into the Fannie Farmer cookbook took place {mostly} on Saturday, when I decided to try and replicate Mr. S’s mother’s traditional Saturday night dinner: Boston Brown Bread (baked in an old can) and Boston Baked Beans.

Although our town is on Long Island, it’s so near the tip of the island, and was settled so long ago by people from New England, that–especially among the older folk–it leans culturally more toward New England than New York. That’s part of why I’ve chosen to peek into past American cookery starting with Fannie Farmer–because her cookbook more or less represents the kind of cooking that once went on in, well, the very room I’m sitting in now.

I have to confess that the Brown Bread was not particularly brown because I couldn’t find any molasses in town. Unfortunately, what makes both the bread and the beans “Bostonian” is that they are supposed to have molasses in them; apparently because Boston was a trade center for rum and molasses was (is?) used in rum-making. I had to “make do” (as Mr. S says) with dark brown sugar, and the result–in both bread and beans–was quite good.

Baked beans (you can find a great recipe–almost identical to Fannie’s–here) get cooked slowly all day, which makes them perfect for a chilly late-summer/early fall day when you’re cold but not quite ready to turn on the heat. It’s a warming and simple dish, and totally recession-friendly, since a huge pot can be made for something like $5 or less.

And apple pie makes a perfect dessert, especially Fannie’s apple pie. It’s so light in sugar, so simple, and so very homey and delicious! I’m having lots of fun making pastry and pie crust, and my favorite “discovery” so far is the old-fashioned advice of rolling pastry on a floured linen. How simple! It’s better than a Silpat for that purpose.

But the best part of this old-fashioned dinner was bringing it to my friends. The world has changed so much since their mothers served them brown bread and baked beans and apple pies. It brings me great joy to share something tasty and familiar with them, and sit together, eating and talking about old times, including the days of rationing and Victory Gardens. Yes, the times have changed. But some things haven’t. We still need food. Food’s still a gift. We still need each other. And it’s still those things–not money, not the economy, not our ambitions–that bring us joy.

(Swiss) Chocolate Roll Recipe (Gluten Free!)

(plus a powdered-sugared cat.)

he insisted on being right there with me as I was making a powdered sugar mess. oops.

When I was a little girl, my very favorite snack cake–the kind that comes wrapped in plastic–was the Swiss cake roll. (Is there also a brand called Yodels?) I don’t think I had them very often, but I sure liked them. I liked the way they looked, and the texture created by many small layers of “creme” and cake.

Because my dad has had severe celiac disease since I was 5–and has thus been totally gluten-free since then–we tended not to have much in the way of packaged junk food; we didn’t want to exclude him, and as a side benefit, it probably kept me and my mom healthier. In the days before people started going gluten-free as a ‘lifestyle choice,’ there weren’t many packaged cookies or cakes, breads, or pastas.

What there were in abundance, though? Little old church ladies, eager to make something that the good Reverend could have at potluck. And so they pulled out their cookbooks, these ladies; they tested modifications, and they would proudly bring their offerings to church with a little sign in their spidery old script: “for Pastor.”

One of these cakes was especially delicious and noteworthy, made by the very same Mrs. S to whom I’m bringing Fannie Farmer dishes. In fact, the recipe comes out of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook (11th ed.), and it is delicious, even if your taste buds and tummy are accustomed to gluten. And it is not nearly as difficult to make as you might think. And so, the recipe!

Chocolate Roll

Butter and sprinkle with cocoa powder a jelly roll pan about 10 x 14 inches. Preheat the oven to 350F. Separate:

5 eggs

Beat the whites until stiff. Mix and beat in, a little at a time:

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa (I recommend Dutch process)

the yolks should be looking like this before you fold them into the beaten, stiff whites. Beautiful color and texture, no?

Without washing the beater, beat the yokes until very thick and FOLD them in. Spread evenly in the cake pan. Bake until the cake shrinks from the edge; about 20 minutes. Turn out onto a cloth (NOT terry cloth!) sprinkled with

confectioner’s sugar.

Cut off the edges of the cake if they’re crisp. (If not, leave them.) Cover the cake with a slightly dampened cloth and allow to cool. Spread with

1 cup heavy cream, whipped, lightly sweetened (~2 tablespoons), and flavored with vanilla or rum.

Roll firmly but gently, and place on serving dish with the fold underneath. Sprinkle lightly with confectioner’s sugar. Serve with chocolate sauce.

I glazed mine with chocolate sauce, something Mrs. S never did, but it made it hard to cut. Better to serve the sauce on the side, I think.

(But it’s also good plain.)

Enjoy!