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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Dough Master

Last year I gave you a holiday strategy for making cookies- See Archives December 18, 2009. This year I want to share with you my 2010 selection.

This is not a typical Christmas on The Edge. Life is in boxes waiting to sell the house and move on to new adventures so my pastry tips, bags, and random fun toys are packed away. Licking my wounds I confided in The Princess that I wouldn’t be making cookies this year. “But MOM you have to make cookies even if you make just one kind!” I could feel her eyes welling up with tears.

Wait a minute!! Was that The Princess who wanted me to MAKE something in the kitchen for her??? How could I turn her down? And so I rallied.

First on the list was a new cookie from The NYT- Cardamom-Walnut Crescents a quick dough executed in the Cuisinart. Next a classic from my family- Candy Cane Cookies-but wait-my little grey cells jingled. Why do I always make the dough in one lump only to split it in half to color one part red? How about-(and this is where rocket science kicks in-) I just split the recipe in the beginning! Bingo fans I broke through the sound barrier! I almost called one of my culinary cohorts to brag but I had other dough’s to conquer.

Next up were the brown dough’s. From Rose Beranbaum’s Christmas Cookie book (if you only buy one cookie book this is the one!) I made Mrs. King’s Irresistibles a dense oatmeal, raisin, chocolate cookie made even more decadent with chopped up E. Guittard semi-sweet chocolate (screw Toll House). When finished I think we will do a drizzle of white chocolate to gourmetize. Rose also contributed The Princess’s favorite, Peanut Butter and Jelly Jewels. I used to buy special hydrogenised peanut butter but have changed my ways and use our everyday peanut butter increasing the flour to absorb the extra oil.

Last year Heidi Swanson had a Triple Ginger Cookie I tried. It usurped my Ginger Thin recipe from The Joy of Cooking. If you love ginger this is unbelievable!! It is a trifecta of ginger, freshly grated, ground, and crystallized with a lacing of lemon zest.

For the last few years I have been making Gourmet’s Chocolate Christmas Cookies this year Serious Eats tempted me with Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Whoopie Pies. I read the title to NSSP and got a nod of approval. Really how can you go wrong with little cocoa discs filled with a peanut butter cream cheese?

And then I was done!! All wrapped labeled and accounted for chillin’ in the fridge waiting for The Princess to arrive and help with the baking.

If any of you are interested in the recipes. Drop a comment below and I’ll get them off to you!!

Pictures will follow~ Fa-La-La!!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Book Review-Buckhorn Springs Heritage Cookbook

Buckhorn Springs Heritage Cookbook
By Lauren, Leslie, and Bruce Sargent

I was recently contacted to review Buckhorn Springs Heritage Cookbook, by Lauren, Leslie, and Bruce Sargent. This is a unique cookbook that celebrates a family’s dream and those people the dream has touched. There is passion for the land, its history dating back to the American Indians, and how various owners tried their luck. The winners are the Sargents' who bring skill and love to a dream with success.

The book is woven like a tapestry. A cast of many lend their voice and stories about how Buckhorn Springs influenced them and lingers in their memories. Pictures are copious with before and after shots of the buildings, children growing up, and tempting food.

The stories and recipes are divided by the time of day; beginning with Morning and a selection of quick breads, a frittata, granola, and pancakes. All recipes are simply laid out and easy to follow. Noon’s offerings are many with various wraps, salads, and soups, just the right sustenance for a break in the day. Night is more substantial with many filling and mostly vegetarian dishes. After Hours has the kind of offerings that you want to take back to your cabin for a midnight snack.

Leslie Sargent is the driving force in the kitchen. She found her culinary infatuation at twelve when she began cooking for her family. The Buckhorn Kitchen philosophy is to create dishes “simple and fresh, with ingredients from the harvests of local farmers”. Her challenge has been to serve food that fits the wide variety of clients who pass through, taking into account diets, allergies, and food restrictions.

With that in mind, the recipes are stand alone terrific but with room for additions and subtractions to fit assorted diets. Leslie gives credit to her inspirational sources and suggests changes a cook may try. Always take note of the serving sizes because they vary.

If you try only one recipe in the Morning chapter it has to be Very Lemon Bread. This is a straight forward quick bread with the addition of a Lemon Pour that is poured over the bread while still warm. The pour soaks in and adds a fresh lemon infusion to the cake. Divine!

Lunch and dinner recipes embrace global flavors. Ginger Marinated Tofu Wraps with Peanut Sauce reside next to Sweet Potato Quesadillas and Minestrone for lunch. Aside from the usual salad suspects Leslie has included Quinoa Salad with Oranges, a brightly flavored dish with Middle Eastern spices, raisins, and almonds. Her Farro Salad has the addition of vaquer beans (sometimes called vaquero beans) that add protein, a unique color, and great texture. The dish is worth the adventure! Www.RanchoGordo.Com in Napa Valley, CA carries them.

A perfect hostess always sends her guests to bed with a little sweet. Leslie has that covered with a selection that appeals to all tastes and dietary restrictions. Vegan Wheat-Free Cashew Cookies, Summer Squash Spice Cake, Buck Bars (Leslie’s tasty answer to Cliff & Luna bars), and don’t forget Leslie’s Brownies or Lauren’s Oatmeal Granola all put a smile on visitor’s faces.

Buckhorn Springs Heritage Cookbook is an amazing story that one feels is ongoing and not yet at the end. It is a wonderful example of our unique state and what it has to offer the world.

I can’t wait to read the next installment!

Read! Eat! And Enjoy!

Judith Bishop



Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Buy My Calendar!

For those of you who are not relatives...And will be receiving a calendar for the holidays... Zip over to www.lulu.com, type in Judith Bishop and check out My Calendar 2011

Friday, November 12, 2010

Traditions be Damned! We have Memories!

I was asked not too long ago to write a piece on the theme Family traditions. I was flummoxed and hard pressed to come up with a tradition.

Would going to the Nutcracker for 18 years count? Hanging our 48 star flag on appropriate patriotic holidays? A toast to Nouveau Beaujolais in November? Lighting candles for dinner every night? This was a tough assignment.

I called my daughter to see if she fondly remembered any fleeting traditions. She said Christmas cookies.

I thought back to my childhood and tried hard to glean a tradition. I wrote to my sister and she mentioned our Christmas coffee cake, Thanksgiving turkey and maybe roast beef for Christmas dinner. “Geeze I guess we were a bit deprived on the tradition thing...” she wrote.

I don’t feel that my life is lacking because there are no family traditions. We have many fond memories to rely on. We always have a Christmas tree. In Florida we wore sunglasses to the tree stand. Out here on The Edge it has become a tradition to buy and chop one down from the same farm. When we move this tradition will become a memory. Our tradition of going to the Nutcracker was the cultural glue of the holiday season until our daughter decided we were done. Our family tradition of sending our daughter to visit her best friend every summer and vice versa came to an end when they no longer had endless summers. We share these memories.

When it comes to holiday food I seek both comfort and a different twist. “Why can’t we eat normal food like everyone else?” was a common lament. “I can’t cook that way” was my reply. Cranberry sauce is cooked with apples and Cointreau. My mother’s coffee cake is now made with dried fruit instead of the old standby candied fruit.

Each tweak to a recipe breaks tradition and shifts life’s sand. Perhaps my tradition is always to change.

Jessica’s Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies
Adapted from Rose’s Christmas Cookies by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Preheat oven 375°
1 1/4C All Purpose Flour
1t Baking Soda
1/8t Kosher Salt
1/2C Brown Sugar (firmly packed)
1/4C Granulated Sugar
1/2C Unsalted Butter
1C Smooth Natural Peanut Butter*
1Lg. Egg
1/2t Vanilla Extract
Raspberry, Cherry, or Strawberry Jam

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl. In a medium bowl beat the butter until soft and smooth. Add sugars and beat until well mixed. Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Gradually add flour. Mix until combined, don’t over mix.

Refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.

Roll 1 inch balls in your hands and place 1 ½” apart on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Use your finger to make an indentation in each ball.

Bake 6 minutes make the indentation again in the cookies and rotate the sheet pan in the oven. Bake another 5-6 minutes or until lightly brown.

Fill the indentation with jam just before serving.

*If you are using processed peanut butter (Skippy, Jif etc.) reduce the flour to just 1Cup.

Nana Baker’s Candy Cane Cookies

Preheat oven 375°
2C Unsalted Butter
2C Powdered Sugar
2Lg Eggs
1T Almond Extract (or Orange Flower Water)
5C All Purpose Flour
2t Kosher Salt
Red Food Coloring*

In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until pale and smooth. Add eggs and almond extract beat well. Add salt and beat. Gradually add flour.

When well mixed divide the dough in half. Add red food coloring to one batch and mix until the dough is uniform in color. Cover both doughs and refrigerate 1 hour or 1 day.

When ready to form, break off an equal piece of pink and white dough roll into uniform cords. Put them side by side and twist over each other to make them look like candy canes.

Cut into 4” lengths curling one end into the cane hook (or leave them straight). Place on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Bake 5-8 minutes or until lightly brown around the bottom edges.

*To get a good dark pink color I suggest using a professional red dye paste. Sur La Table, Decorette Shop, or sometimes JoAnn Fabrics carries it. If you use liquid dye the dough will become too moist before the color is achieved.



Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Diane Morgan Rocks!!

Nothing to do on Sunday night? 11/14- Watch the FOOD NETWORK CHALLENGE: Thanksgiving Family Face-Off2! Check local listings for the
time. My friend and colleague Diane Morgan is one of the judges! Also check out her numerous cookbooks as well!
!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What will You be Reading this Christmas?

 
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I don’t know about you but I take my cookbook buying very seriously. Throughout the year I scan Jessica’s Biscuits newsletter and Kitchen & Letters and shuffle books over to a cookbook folder. At Christmas, when NSSP is looking to feed my habit, I give him the list. The first few years he DIDN’T GET IT meaning that he thought he had a CHOICE from the list. No, No dear NSSP I want all that I ask for! But as you know compromises occur in any marriage. So I modified my request. There were the ABSOLUTES and the “you can pick from my surprise list”. This has been a win-win ritual. NSSP “surprises” me and I get what I want.

There is a bit of excitement-will he place the order in time? What DID he pick? Then, the arrival of the box. I stroke, shake, and dream of its contents.

Christmas day when all the presents are opened a second pot of coffee is made and I curl up with my new stack. I know I have a few hours before the kitchen turns into Christmas dinner mayhem and I am riding high on my cookbook fix.

I thought it would be fun to share the books I have accumulated through the year. Some were bought at Christmas others gathered from the “can’t live without” category.

My southern cookbook section is slim so I “requested” John Besh’s My New Orleans The Cookbook. This is a book of seasonal ingredients, celebrations, and the terrior of New Orleans through Besh’s palate. Many recipes have universal appeal and can be made anywhere but after reading about shrimping, Mardi Gras, Feast Days and Creole Tomatoes I started to understand why this iconic cuisine needed to be recorded and passed down. A note must be made to Ditte Isager the photographer and Dorothy Kalins the editor who brought the whole concept together.

I always like to get a BIG book. That means a culinary tomb written by a chef with amazing recipes oozing with creativity. Last year’s hit was MOMOFUKU by David Chang and Peter Meehan. If you haven’t heard of one of David’s restaurants-MOMOFUKU Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar, Ko, Milk Bar or Ma Peche you’ve been living under a rock. This book is flipping hot! His combinations and techniques are worth a cruise. Who knew a compound butter of Miso and sweet butter could be so sublime?

In January I continued my Asian infatuation with Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat’s Japanese Hot Pots. Harris pens The Japanese Report. A blog that features his ruminations on Japanese ingredients, chefs, techniques and travel. Through the year I have become more comfortable with Japanese recipes and it’s thanks to Harris.

I didn’t really want to take a class on Stir Fry, but I did want to check out Grace Young. She was coming to The Edge and off I trundled to her class. Boy was I wrong! There was a whole level of stir fry that I didn’t know about. I quickly grabbed her The Breath of a Wok and Stir Frying to the Sky’s Edge and haven’t turned back. I have many Chinese cookbooks but what turned my head was the procedure logic in her recipes. Before I started cooking I could easily imagine the flow of the ingredients and execution. A recent dish I made was her salon stir fry. Excellent, light , and not a splash of soy sauce. I have been able to widen my Chinese repertoire and listen to the “Wok Hay”.

Another Asian Chef blew through town and I signed up for her class on Asian Dumplings (book of the same name). Andrea Nguyen is an effervescent cook passionate about anything wrapped in dough. It was hands on, not my favorite venue but how else do you learn a new technique? The dough that captivated me was made with wheat starch. It took me 3 Asian stores before I found it in a reasonable quantity. A Google search led me to businesses that sold it by the pallet load. It is library paste to some but to Asian cooks it makes supple translucent dumplings that melt in your mouth. It was worth the search!

My Italian section has been growing. For years I dismissed Italian cookbooks. I liked my repertoire and felt comfortable creating my own versions. My sights turned to Italy a few years ago when The Princess went there for Junior Year Abroad (we called it finishing school…). Lidia Bastianich came out with Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy and it flew onto my Christmas list. Her passion is felt in every recipe and the chapters start with the regions in the north at Trentino and end in Sardinia. Each region is unique and each chapter illustrates this.

Another book I picked up this year dove tailed perfectly with Lidia’s and that was Why Italians Love to Talk About Food by Elena Kostioukovitch This book focuses on the people of the regions, their differences, and relationship with food.

Cruising the aisles of Borders one day, I picked up Venezia Food & Dreams by Tessa Kiros. Venice is a visual confection and walking the streets you feel like you are in a play. If you never go there buy this book! From the gold edging to the sumptuous pictures and velvet book mark, this cookbook is the next best thing to visiting Venice. The recipes are good and the chapters laid out like a meal from Cicchetti to Dolci you’ll want to share the romance.

Summer found me at the library and I checked out, Recipes from an Italian Summer published by Phaidon. I jokingly told myself I would just skim it but the mind is a devious organ. I didn’t get 10 pages into it when my post-its started dotting the pages. Half way through and I capitulated and bought it. I haven’t regretted the decision. Summer in Italy is easy to imagine with our wonderful Farmer’s Markets and this book. The recipes scream fresh, seasonal and languid meals. Always looking for another food holiday, Italian Summer didn’t let me down. I was introduced to Ferragosto an Italian feast that dates to pre-Roman times and a must celebration on August 15!

In gathering these books I’ve become humbled by all of the must have purchases. When I saw that Dorie Greenspan came out with a new book, Around My French Table I thought I could wait until Christmas, but no. A 40% off coupon at Borders coincided with a cookbook signing on The Edge. Dorie’s books aren’t for the weak wristed. Her Baking cookbook (fabulous- no need for any other baking book!) weighs 4pounds 13 ounces and the new one is 4pounds 11 ½ ounces. I was carrying 3 of them around to be signed and my shoulders were killing me. Ahh, the new book-Such gorgeous pictures by Alan Richardson and recipes that make you imagine your home is in Paris. Dorie is like a good friend whose love of France is infectious. This is about putting together good, simple, food not as a grand dinner party but as a vehicle to a casual night with good friends and conversation. I’ve done a little stroking of the book but am resisting its use until the holidays. I think Dorie’s book will be my featured holiday inspiration.

Last but not least, and in my quest for dinner table etiquette I found The Art of The Table by Suzanne Von Drachenfels. From Dining Fundamentals to Table Manners, Susan deftly covers every aspect of the table as well as upkeep and care of your items. The topic can be daunting but Suzanne keeps on track without bogging down. There is much to learn about setting the perfect table and how it sets the stage for a meal.

A few tips on buying books. I don’t just go off willy nilly and slap the plastic down as soon as I see a book I want. My three go-to sources are: www.powells.com, www.ecookbooks.com, and www.alibris.com. I compare ponder and oft times will buy a used one.

Soon the holidays will be here and I’ll slip my list under NSSP’s office door. I can’t wait for Christmas Day!! What will be under your tree?


 
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fall and Apples Go Hand in Hand

Fall is a magical time of year for apples. It feels like a true connection with my American heritage. Juice, cider, hard cider, vinegar; pies, sauces, betty’s and crumbles. A simple satisfying bite and snap of the skin as the juice dribbles into my mouth.

When I was growing up in a state that begins with an “I”,my parents would buy a gallon of apple cider and let it sit on the attic stairs to ferment, turning it into hard cider. The container had to be opened to release the gathering gasses. There had been some close calls with bulging plastic containers. My father would taste a bit to determine if it was ready. I never really liked the bubble feel on my tongue or the slightly sour flavor but it was a seasonal family drink.

Apple cider emerged again when I was living with three other women. It was an ex- tavern built in 1747. On a cold night you could feel the wind scuttering over the wide floor boards. One of my roommates was fond of hot cider with cinnamon and a healthy splash of Captain Morgan’s dark rum. Served in a large coffee mug it chased the chill away and left fond memories. I still drink my hot cider this way with a nod to the roommate.

As a young wife I discovered making applesauce. At first I dutifully peeled the apples before cooking them, rendering a pale yellow brown sauce. One day I left the peels on and strained it afterward. The sauce was a beautiful pale pink. It was added to my growing repertoire.

I also discovered a chopped apple added to cranberry sauce softened the sourness. It sits next to the canned cranberry jelly on our Thanksgiving table.

My mother wasn’t a pie person but made crumbles instead. Easy, satisfying, a crunch of cinnamon flavored oatmeal any fruit would do but apples were the best. It took me awhile and a second husband to gather up the courage to make pie dough and an apple pie. Although the first attempt was tasty the gap between top of the pie shell and the apples didn’t look right.

One of my epiphanies was in talking to a friend of mine who was a chef. We were living in a state that begins with “M”and he was from apple country. He told me to always use as many different kinds of apples as I could find thereby giving as much depth to the dish. Made sense to me and I filed it away.

Moving to a state that begins with “O”, and another recipe, I discovered perfection. It was an interesting technique. Instead of putting fresh apples into the shell etc., the night before you cut the apples, added seasonings and let them sit at room temperature. When ready to make the pie you drained the apples, poured them into the shell, thickened the drained juices and poured it over as well.By making the pie this way the apples lost their volume before baking and the pie stayed high and the juice was thick. I don’t look for apple pie recipes any more.

I’ve made beautiful duck and pork sauces with shallots, apples, apple brandy, cream and stock. The ultimate caramel apples for a catered Halloween party were also drizzled in dark and white chocolate and packed with chopped walnuts. My Thanksgiving stuffing isn’t complete without chopped apples.

Apples store well but in time they lose their crunch. The season closes but I have learned patience and wait for another fall and its apple richness.

The Ultimate Apple Pie
I found this recipe in my local newspaper in 1997 and with a few twists of my own think it is the best! The filling must be made at least 8 hours or 1 day ahead.
Try this pie dough recipe as well. I multiply the recipe 4 times using about 5 pounds of flour, making it on my bread board. Once made, I weigh out ¾ pound portions wrap in plastic wrap, label and freeze. I’m ready for pie and pasty season.

Vinegar Pastry Makes 2 8 inch or 9 inch double crust pies.
1 ¼ C Butter or Shortening (I use half butter half non-hydrogenated shortening) cut in
3C All-purpose flour
1t Kosher Salt
1 Egg (I use 1/4C Egg beaters)
1T White or Cider Vinegar
5T Ice Water
Put flour in food processor and cut the butter in chunks over the flour. Add the salt. Pulse the mixture several times until the butter is about the size of small peas.

Mix the egg, vinegar and ice water together and with the processor running slowly pour the liquid down the feed tube. As soon as the dough binds together remove it and put it on a floured board. With the heel of your hand, push the dough 3 times away from you. Gather it, divide in half, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Apple Pie Filling
9-10 Assorted Apples (about 9 cups) peeled and sliced
1/2C Granulated Sugar
1/2C Firmly packed Dark Brown Sugar
1T Ginger Preserves
1 ½ t Ground Cinnamon
1/4t Ground Nutmeg
1t Vanilla
1/4t Kosher Salt
2T Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/4C All-Purpose Flour
1T Butter
Place the sliced apples in a large bowl and add sugars, preserves, spices, vanilla, salt and lemon juice. Mix well, cover and let sit at room temperature for 8-24 hours.

To Bake
Preheat oven to 425°.
*Position the oven rack in the middle.
*Roll out one piece of pastry for the bottom crust and place in a pie pan.
*Using a strainer; drain the apples reserving the liquid and combining it with the flour.
*Mound the apples in the pie pan and pour the reserved juice evenly over them. Dot with butter.
*Roll out the second pastry and put on top. Crimp or seal the edges and pierce the top several times with a fork. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
*Bake 15 minutes then reduce the temperature to 350° and continue to bake 45-60 minutes or until the apples are tender when pierced.
*If the edges are getting too brown, cover them with strips of foil until the pie is done.