Friday, November 20, 2009

Autumnal Delights

Chanterelle Mushroom Soup


4 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 pound fresh Chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed, and chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups Vegg or Chicken stock
2 cups Half and Half (OR for a lower cal version, 1 cup 1/2 &1/2 + 1 cup 1% milk)
1/2 teaspoon Sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white fresh peppercorns
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley.

Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring often, until they soften and wilt.

Sprinkle the flour into the mixture and continue to cook, stirring constantly to coat the onions and mushrooms.

Add the broth gradually, stirring constantly, and bring to a full boil. Continue to boil for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add the Half and Half, salt and pepper, and continue to cook over low. The mixture should remain just below a simmer.

Continue cooking for about ten minutes. Serve sprinkled with snipped fresh parsley.

~Serve with~

(This is a photo of the 'Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie' version- made like an original grilled cheese)

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Diary of a Foodie: Season Three: The Collective
Serves 2 to 4
Active time: 30 min
Original Recipe by Lillian Chou, edited version by Lauren Lewis
Photograph by Stephanie Foley

1 Leek, white and light green only
1/2 shallot, chopped
1 green onion
1 large clove garlic (or 2 small cloves) minced
1 tsp olive oil
1 Tbls Salted Butter
4 thin slices of a good country bread- something local, MUST be hand made- it will just make it taste better!
1 1/2 cup Raw Organic White Cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 550º, or if you have a broiler, you can use that- just make sure it is hot, hot, hot!

In a medium skillet, place olive oil. Once it starts to shimmer, add all vegg- garlic, leek, green onion and your 1/2 shallot. Sate' till slightly caramelized. (In the original recipe, this is made like a traditional grilled cheese, but I have adapted the recipe to make open faced sandwiches). Remove Onion mixture after 7 to 8 minutes, and transfer to a bowl. Now, butter one side of the thinly sliced country bread, and place in the same skillet to toast. Cover, and let brown for 5 minutes, or until your liking. Make sure you watch them, they can easily become burnt. (You are only toasting ONE SIDE of the bread.) After the bread has reached your desired colour, place the now toasted bread on a baking sheet, toasted side down (if you have a silpat, now would be a great time to use it). Place one thin layer of the cheese on the bread, then pile the onion mixture on each piece- finishing with a final layer of cheese. This sandwich is not too oily, potent or filling- it is delightful! Bake or broil for 5 to 9 minutes, depending on your oven or broiler.
Serve alongside the soup!

Bon Appetite!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Indian Summer

If you have been in Los Angeles this November, you will have noticed that we have been experiencing rather warm weather. This, historically, is called an 'Indian Summer'. The period between the 1st of November and the 20th of November, if unseasonably warm, is referred to as this magical Indian Summer. However, being in Southern California, I believe we experience much more warm weather than most- so this Indian Summer, to us, may not be such a special occurrence. It was in the 1800's, believe you me! They used this gift of time to do last-minute winter preparations, such as sweeping the chimney, splitting extra firewood and cleaning the windows!

So, like the old fashioned woman that I am, I have decided to do the same- even though my fireplace does not need sweeping, (seeing as it's last burning hour was extinguished this February past) I am cleaning up my windows, preparing the earth for this year's winter crop and decking my halls in eager anticipation for the cold front to arrive from the north.

Speaking of the Winter crop, I'd like to share with you what I have decided to sew. Even though my backyard is petite- small enough to be considered a large allotment- I choose to make as much use of it as possible. Here is a list of things I shall grow:

~Tomatoes (On a string fence)
~Swiss Chard (Rainbow)
~Zucchini (On a string fence)
~Sugar Snap Peas (On my back wall)
~Snow Peas (Also on my back wall)
~Red Leaf, Butter-head and Romaine Lettuce (In pots, bordering my garden- Oh! I forgot to tell you my allotment is that of the raised variety- I have red bricks all around- than that is where I shall place every single lettuce pot)
~French Greenbeans (On the back wall)
~Leeks (Pre-started)
~Green Onion
~Cucumber (On a string fence)
~Yellow Onion
~Dwarf Lemon Tree ( I already own two full grown Orange trees, which supply me with a regular supply of Orange Juice)
~Garlic (This acts as a natural pest repellent)
~Marigold (Good for culinary decorations and a fabulous pest repellent)

I am also going to grow some Rosemary and mint in two separate pots!

See! If you live in California, you can grow all year round! Oh, the wonders of gardening!
So, I hope you go out and sew a seed or two this winter, and make the most of this wonderful gift of an Indian Summer!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sweet Disappointment


Last night, I attempted to cook my dandelion greens- I blanched them in salted water, cooked them with a little butter, garlic and salt and pepper- however- they were so bitter and greasy! I was amazed at their bitter flavour! I shall not worry- there must be a way to cook these beauties to release SOME form of edible sweetness! It is possible!!!!!!

On another note- I have been using local Santa Barbara Honey from the farmer's market, and, as usual, I found out some interesting facts about the honeycomb! (which is something that I need to see in my Organic Honey- it's rather comforting, is it not?)

Honey, through out time, has been used to control weight, bladder problems, coughs, colds and sore throats, disrupted digestion, arthritis and asthma! This insect's potion, with the ability to promote relaxation and sleep, can also be used for a few surprising remedies:
~ Are you hot? If you chew a bit of the honeycomb, you can aid you body's natural cooling system.
~If your lips are chapped, you can rub a dab of honey on them! Natures own chap-stick!
~Trying to loose a few pounds? Mix 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of Cider Vinegar and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of Organic Honey to 1 glass of unsweetened, Organic Grapefruit juice- about 1 cup (1/2 pint, 237 ml) (You can even make your own!) Mix both together well and sip before meals to aid in minimizing your hunger. I like to pour this concoction over ice, add fizzy water and garnish with Honeycomb! You can even add a splash of Vodka to make a cocktail out of it!

If you are cooking with honey, here are some hints and tips!

~You can heat Honey, adding in cinnamon and ground cloves to make a divine ice cream topping.
~Glaze you winter root veg with honey! (But don't forget- honey has a lower caramelization point than most sugar, so please remember to reduce your oven temp by at least 25º Fahrenheit (-3.889º Celsius).
~If you bake your Holiday cakes and cookies with honey, they shall have a longer life!
~Make sure to oil your measuring utensils before pouring honey into them!
~ Please, always remember to store your Honey at room temperature. If you refrigerate your Honey, it will harden!
~If your Honey has been left to it's own devises for too long, it might crystalize- if this should happen, just let the jar of Honey rest in a bath of hot water for a few minutes- then all will be well!

I hope you enjoy this miracle of nature! We cannot live with out Bees!!!!!
(even though they do scare me a little...)

This info on bees was adapted from the "Ben Franklin's Almanac of Wit, Wisdom and Practical Advice: Useful Tips and Fascinating Facts for Every Day of the Year" by the Editors of "The Old Farmer's Almanac". I recommend you all go out and purchase one! I love this book- it makes me feel all warm inside.

And Today's Quote is:

"We have pumpkin at morning and pumpkin at noon,
If it were not for pumpkin, we should be undoon."
-17th Century American Folksong

Monday, November 9, 2009

Elderflower Picnic

With a cup of Fortnum and Mason's Elderflower Green Tea (sadly not available at the London Heathrow Airport anymore, one must purchase the tea from the Fortnum and Mason tea shoppe) a rustic home made loaf of bread, raw milk cheddar cheese and fresh apples and grapes, one's afternoon picnic can't get any better. I brought along an old knife- discolored and ragged at the handle- such history- and a couple of plates and thick green glass cups... it was a wonderful piece of time.
I suppose I have a fantasy of being back in the 18th or 19th century and having a picnic by the shore... or on a green heath- grey sky up above, damp grass below our red plaid picnic blanket. One does not need extravagant food on this type of picnic- just good quality, local, natural goods will fit the bill. Oh- and it does not hurt to have a period dress on at the same time.

Chicken with Black Pepper-Maple Sauce

I have got to share this with you- I made this the other day it was utterly beautiful and surprisingly simple!

"Chicken with Black Pepper-Maple Sauce
Diary of a Foodie: Season Three: Montreal: Cooking on the Wild Side
Active Time:20 min
Start to Finish:40 min

April 2009
This dish, inspired by a recipe from Gray Kunz's Elements of Taste, is a great alternative to roasting a whole chicken. To ensure that the bird lies flat and cooks evenly in the pan, we've used the spatchcock technique, which entails simply removing the backbone of the chicken and tucking the legs up and out of the way. Don't worry if the instructions seem a bit confusing when you're reading through the recipe—the steps become obvious once you have a chicken in front of you.

Watch this Diary of a Foodie episode and view its accompanying recipes. Plus, explore all episodes and more recipes from the show.
1 3- to 3 1/2-lb whole chicken
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons 3-inch-long sprigs fresh rosemary plus 1 (1-inch-long) sprig
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1/4 cup dark amber or Grade B maple syrup
3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup cider vinegar

Special equipment:
kitchen shears; 2 (10-inch) heavy skillets (one well-seasoned cast-iron or heavy nonstick); a 10-inch round of parchment paper; 5 to 6 lb of weights such as 3 (28-oz) cans of tomatoes

• Cut out backbone from chicken with kitchen shears and discard. Pat chicken dry, then spread flat, skin side up, on a cutting board. Cut a 1/2-inch slit on each side of chicken in center of triangle of skin between thighs and breast (near drumstick), then tuck bottom knob of each drumstick through slit. Tuck wing tips under breast. Sprinkle chicken all over with salt and ground pepper.

• Heat 3 tablespoons butter in 10-inch cast-iron or heavy nonstick skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Add chicken, skin side down, and arrange larger rosemary sprigs over chicken. Cover with parchment round and second skillet, then top with weights. Cook chicken until skin is browned, about 15 minutes. Remove and reserve weights, top skillet, parchment, and rosemary, then carefully loosen chicken from skillet with a spatula. Turn chicken over and re-place rosemary sprigs, then re-cover with parchment, skillet, and weights. Cook until chicken is just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes more.

Make sauce while chicken cooks:

• Toast peppercorns in a dry 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, shaking pan occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a clean cutting board and coarsely crush with a rolling pin. Return peppercorns to saucepan and bring to a simmer with syrup, 1/2 cup broth, and small rosemary sprig, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.

• Transfer chicken to a platter and loosely cover with foil. Add vinegar to skillet and deglaze, boiling and scraping up brown bits with a wooden spoon until liquid is reduced by half. Stir in maple mixture and remaining 1/4 cup broth and boil until slightly syrupy, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low and swirl in remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Season sauce with salt and pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, discarding solids. Serve chicken with sauce."

Recipe by Paul Grimes and Ruth Cousineau
Photograph by Stephanie Foley

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dandelion Greens

I bought some Dandelion Greens today at the local Farmers Market, however, I an unsure what to make with them! They just looked so beautiful- guess I now have a culinary challenge! I'll post my new recipe tomorrow with pictures!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Raw Milk Cheese

Today, as I strolled along the market shelves, trying desperately to find local goods- which is not easy to do at a market- I picked up some fresh raw milk cheddar cheese. Since one cannot open up each cheese and buy according to taste, I used my nose to detect the perfect dairy product. The raw milk cheese had the most beautiful oder- unlike any of the British or Irish imports, this California-made raw milk cheese boasted some of the best scent notes; nutty, fruity and deep- perfect for fruit or paired with ham and rustic home made bread. However, as I researched the raw milk cheese industry, I found that it has been on the FDA's naughty list for quite some time.
Here is an expert from the Raw Milk Cheese Association:
"About 10 years ago, the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) proposed banning ALL raw milk cheeses, even those that were properly made and aged more than 60 days. This generated quite a bit of controversy, and eventually some representatives from the American Cheese Society (a trade organization for American cheese-makers) worked with Oldways (an educational association) to launch the "Cheese of Choice" coalition, which collected thousands of signatures to defend the existing milk regulations. One of the tactics used successfully by the coalition was to tell Americans that the new rules would prevent the importation of Roquefort and Parmigiano, both very popular cheeses here. In the meantime, a few scientists, including Dr. Cathy Donnelly and Dr. Paul Kindstedt, both at the University of Vermont, have conducted research to demonstrate the safety of raw milk cheese. They are doing this through both epidemiological analysis and direct experiments making raw milk cheese. It is very difficult to find scientists in the US who can conduct such independent research. Most universities receive scientific funding from large food companies and agribusiness, which are not interested in defending raw milk cheese."

"The Australian government recently published a report that virtually proves the ability of cheese producers to make raw milk cheese (Roquefort) equivalent in safety to pasteurized cheese."

"In the Seafood, Poultry and Meat industries the US government, through the USDA, requires the use of a system called HACCP to ensure the safety of their potentially dangerous products. This system is also used voluntarily by many food producers."

"For all these reasons, Slow Food USA has been working with raw milk cheese-makers to create a "Raw Milk Cheese Presidium" and also, this new organization, the “Raw Milk Cheese-makers’ Association” . The Presidium created a Protocol which encourages raw milk cheese producers to make humane, socially and environmentally responsible, high quality raw milk cheese. This Association will also provide a forum and some educational tools to help raw milk cheese producers make safe and high quality cheese."

Visit SLOW FOOD USA and join us as we live a more sustainable lifestyle!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009