Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hot, Hot, Hotcakes

If there's a category for the cookbook present that goes from under the tree to recipe on the table in the shortest amount of time, the David Tanis book I received for Christmas, Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys, would probably be the undisputed winner.

We'd been planning a post-present-opening breakfast featuring a coho salmon fillet that Dave had smoked the day before and a bottle of Gruet pink champagne. The only catch was, we hadn't quite decided what would accompany the smoked salmon. Eggs? Toast? Hash browns?

That's when David Tanis saved the day -- or at least the meal. I'd unwrapped the book and was thumbing through the first couple of pages. There, on page 8, Kitchen Ritual 1, was a recipe for jalapeño pancakes. Tanis said the pancakes were excellent with smoked salmon and a dab of sour cream. I shot off the couch, book in hand. Could we possibly have the ingredients?

While we didn't have jalapeños, there were Thai bird chilies in the freezer. No sour cream, but there was an unopened tub of crème fraîche from Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery. We had the scallions called for in the recipe -- plus some chives and capers that I knew would add the perfect flavor accent to the crème fraîche.

Best of all, our freezer also contained a bag of sweet corn kernels from  
last summer's crop. It was there, along with some of the corn cobs, ready for us to make a corn chowder this winter. I knew I could spare a cup or so, even though the recipe didn't call for it, plus I loved the idea of having a way to enjoy the summery taste of corn on Christmas morning.

The recipe is simple as could be -- only two steps, three if you add corn and saute the onions like I did.

In fact, it took me longer to concoct the crème fraîche topping.

The pancakes themselves are truly delicious -- with the heat from the chilies providing a pleasant, if unusual zip. Paired with Dave's salmon, it was the perfect savory treat. And the timing? From under the tree to on the table in less than an hour!

Jalapeño Pancakes
From Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys by David Tanis

Ingredients1 cup all -purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (I used powdered buttermilk)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon melted butter or olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion or scallion (I used a combination of scallions and finely minced shallots)
1 or 2 jalapeno chilies, sliced thin (I used Thai bird chilies, because I had them on hand. I think using chilies is key -- because it's the heat in the pancakes that makes them so unusual.)
1/2 tsp toasted coarsely ground cumin
NOTE: I added 1 cup of frozen sweet corn. Fresh would probably work as well.

1. Mix up the batter, and stir in the onion, jalapenos, and cumin. (I sauteed the shallots and scallions with the corn.)
2. Heat up the griddle, and make your pancakes.

Lynn's Crème Fraîche Topping
1 cup crème fraîche
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1-2 tablespoons of capers, drained (depends on how much you like capers)
1 tablespoon snipped chives

Mix together and serve with smoked salmon and corncakes.

Monday, December 20, 2010

In a Pickle For the Holidays

In German tradition, the last ornament placed on the tree on Christmas Eve is a blown-glass pickle, which is secretly hidden among the branches. Come Christmas morning, the first child in the family to find the pickle is considered especially lucky. That boy or girl receives a special gift from Father Christmas and a blessing for good fortune in the coming year from the parents.

This year, pickles of the vegetable variety created lots of excitement at the annual Farrington-Schweikart Christmas party. First, there was the great pickle fiasco, when jars of old pickles that our friend Jeff thought he'd thrown away prior to his move to California mistakenly reappeared to be offered as holiday gifts. (If you got some, throw them away--Jeff's special bottled vinegar is fine.)  

However, guests who sampled the various pickles that my brother-in-law Dave had made out of delicata squash, watermelon radishes, red and white salad turnips, baby carrots, and fennel discovered a real treat.

Dave's been into pickles for years, ever since he discovered the book, Quick Pickles: Easy Recipes for Big Flavor, from Chris Schlesinger of East Coast Grill fame. While pickling began as a  ancient form of preservation, for Dave, it's a way of giving vegetables a flavor punch they otherwise wouldn't have -- a great idea when your winter CSA provides you with lots of winter squash, turnips, and carrots.

Since these are recipes for quick pickles, there are no worries about boiling water baths, incorrectly sealed jars, and other horrors. Plus you can eat them the same day you make them, though they're better if they sit over night in the fridge. So if you're looking for an unusual treat for a holiday gathering-- or just need a new way to enjoy winter vegetables, give quick pickles a try. Here are a few of Dave's favorite recipes to get you started.

Watermelon Radishes ala Famous Back Eddy House Pickles

Adapted from Chris Schleslinger's Quick Pickles

This is a great way to use those big, beautiful watermelon radishes. They lack the bite of regular radishes, which wouldn't work as well for this recipe.

2 lbs. watermelon radishes (NOTE: the original recipe is uses pickling cucumbers or small, firm zucchini, plus garlic, carrots, red and green bell peppers, and onions, which makes wonderful summertime pickles.)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups white wine vinegar (the original recipe uses cider vinegar)
1 cup light brown sugar (Dave uses Demarara sugar, because he doesn't want the brine to have a molasses flavor)
2 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries, cracked
2 tablespoon coriander seed, toasted and cracked

1. Trim watermelon radishes and cut them into bite size pieces about 1/4-inch thick. In a glass bowl, toss the slices with the salt, cover with ice cubes or crushed ice and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

2. Drain the radishes, rinse well, then drain again. Set aside.

3. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium heat and toast the coriander seed, shaking the pan frequently to avoid burning the seeds, until the seeds just release the first tiny wisp of smoke, about 2 - 3 minutes. Remove the seeds to a small bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, put the coriander and allspice berries into a wooden or metal bowl and press them with the back of a large spoon, or use a mortar and pestle to gently crack them open. Set aside.

3. In a nonreactive pan (do not use cast iron or anodized aluminum as they will react with the acid), combine vinegar, brown sugar, and all of the spices. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and continue to boil for about 5 minutes. Pour the boiling syrup over the radishes, allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate.

Makes about 12 cups. These will keep, covered and refrigerated, for about one month.

Pickled Delicata Squash with Sage and Cardamom
Adapted from Chris Schleslinger's Quick Pickles

3 pound delicatata squash, unpeeled, seeded, sliced cross-wise 1/8 thick (about 5 cups). (NOTE: You can also use butternut squash, other winter squash, or pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into 3/4-inch cubes.)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
8 sage leaves, cut into slices
2 teaspoon cardamom seeds (without pods) lightly crushed
2/3 cup brown sugar                                                      
1 2/3 cups cider vinegar
3/4 cup apple juice

1. In a non-reactive bowl, combine the squash and salt, toss to coat, and allow to stand at room temperature for about 4 hours. Drain, rinse well, and squeeze out extra moisture by the handfuls.

2. In a medium non-reactive pot, combine all remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring once or twice to dissolve the brown sugar. Add the squash, bring back just to a simmer, then remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, uncovered.

3. When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, cover and refrigerate.

The squash will be tasty in about 2 hours, but will improve in flavor if allowed to sit overnight. This pickle will keep, covered and refrigerated, for about 2 months.

Pickled Turnips with Fennel and Star Anise
Adapted from Chris Schleslinger's, Quick Pickles

2 lbs. turnips peeled
1-2 fennel fronds
1/2 peppercorn melange
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoon whole allspice berries
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon anise seed
3 bay leaves
1 cup whole star anise
1 cup white sugar
3 cups white wine vinegar

1. Cut each turnip into 8 wedges, then cut each wedge into triangles 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch thick.

2. In a glass bowl or jar, combine the peppercorns and turnips.

3. In a nonreactive saucepan (do not use cast iron or anodized aluminum as it will react to the acid), combine the remaining ingredients except the fennel fronds and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes, until the sugar is melted and the syrup has been flavored by the spices.

4. Pour the hot liquid over the vegetables and allow them to cool to room temperature. Add the reserved fennel fronds, stir to incorporate, then cover and refrigerate.Cover and chill for several hours before serving. These pickles will keep well, covered and refrigerated for at least 6 weeks.