Thursday, January 26, 2012

Beef Stock

Beef stock is like liquid gold yumminess. Yes. I did just say that. You may think it comes in a can. And that it was put there by a man. In a factory downtown. But that beef stock is kindy sucky. And pretty hard to find kosher. Actually in truth I never really looked that hard, but I also have not seen it by the canned/boxed chicken broth in the kosher aisle at my local supermarket, so you do the math.

Good brown beef stock is made from roasted beef and veal bones. (As opposed to white beef stock made from unroasted bones.) I use mostly big ol beef bones, and a few veal bones, especially from the foot area, which produces lots of gelatinous goodness from the cartilage, and connective tissue, which is super healthy for you. If you have leftover bones from a roast or something along those lines, by all means save them, and use them to make stock! As an aside, also save the juices at the bottom of the roasting pan. It drives me nuts when I am at friends’ homes and they pour them down the sink after a meal. Freeze them and use them to flavor grains, or sauces. But ok back to bone… Before you yell at me for using veal bones, let me say, I don’t usually eat veal, not because it is a baby animal, the Torah is clear about it being ok to eat baby animals, as long as they reach a certain age, and that is good enough for me, since I do eat animals. I don’t usually eat veal because of that whole milk fed chained up so they can’t move torture the baby cows thing. However, not all veal is processed that way anymore, so inquire with your butcher before ruling it out. A good way to tell is by looking at the color of the meat. Non milk fed chained up veal will be darker in color. A good source for kosher beef bones, and other meat, from animals not tortured aka not raised in factory farms, is Grown & Behold, an awesome new company that you should totally check out if you are not yet familiar with them.

After you roast the bones you may have brown roasty meat bits and white fat aka beef tallow in the pan. Some people scrape it all up with a little water and add it to the stock pot, but since you are going to skim off the fat anyway that has never made sense to me. If you want to discard let it cool and throw in the garbage after it solidifies. However I keep mine. I break it up into little chunks, freeze them separately, and add to chulent. It kicks up the geshmake factor by a lot. And before you tell me that is not healthy I will preemptively say, it is chulent, not kale, get with the program. And anyway did you see how much hydrogenated fat is in the pre-made parve pie crust you buy for your broccoli kugel every week? Or in the margarine in your Zomick’s meltaway? At least this is natural, and hence not really bad for you in moderation. Ps- if you ever eat in my home schmaltz and tallow are hidden in the dishes you would least expect. Just a heads up.

I also add an assortment of basic vegetables such as onion, garlic, celery and carrot. I usually save the large scraps and tops when I am prepping vegetables in my daily cooking and stick them in the freezer for making stock.

Beef stock needs to simmer for a long time, like up to 12 hours, slowly, to extract all the goodness from those tough bones. So be patient. And plan to do it when you are home on a rainy Sunday. It is a great excuse to stay inside. Oh what you want me to come to your mothers cousins aunts childs party who also happens to have strep and chicken pox? Sorry I am simmering this stock today…..

One  last note before we get into the nitty gritty, don’t add salt to your stock. Since stock concentrates as you simmer, if you add salt it will end up tasting like salt stock, not beef stock.

Brown Beef Stock:

-Around 10 lbs bones, more or less, it is all good
-A Ziploc full of Leftover vegetable scraps OR 1 onion, a few cloves of garlic, a few carrots, and a few ribs of celery
-3 tomatoes diced, the acid helps break down the bones
-A teaspoon of whole peppercorns (if you have them, if not leave it out)
-1 teaspoon white vinegar
-Lots of water

Array the bones in a roasting pan, and roast at 425 for at least an hour, longer is better, but not more than 2 hours, turning halfway through. When roasted place bones in a large stock pot, with roughly cut up vegetables. A lot of people roast the vegetables as well, and you can, but I have never noticed it making a real difference for me. Sprinkle over this the vinegar and peppercorns. Now add lots of cold water to fill your pot. It must be cold. The bones need to heat up slowly to pull the impurities out so you can skim them off, and also to pull out all the healthy goodness from the bones, instead of shocking them in hot water and sealing up all the juicy goodness inside. Bring the pot to a boil, skim off the scum, and then turn down to a really low flame and simmer. Simmering means crazy low, like an occasional bubble comes up kind of thing. Simmer for as long as you can, but aim for 12 hours. If too much water evaporates as it simmers add more. Actually you probably will need to add more. Maybe a few times.

When it is done, let it cool, it should be somewhat gelatinous and golden looking. If using within a few days you can store it in the fridge, but before using reboil to kill any bacteria that may have grown. If not using right away, and you will have a lot of stock so chances are this is the way to go,  divide into portions and freeze for future use. I freeze in quart size Ziplocs.

So after reading all of this you may be thinking, but now that I have made this yummy goodness called brown beef stock, what do I do with it? Well, lots of things. Use it as a base for soups, in chulent instead of or in addition to water, as a base for sauces, in chili, you get the idea….. It gives a rich hearty satisfying background note to dishes and a rolling off the tongue kind of amazing mouthfeel. And it is really super good for you.

Ok, so I don't have any pictures of the stock once it is done, but after 12 hours of simmering do you know how late at night it was?!?!

Happy Eating!

About the Kale

This post if for Uncle A who reminded me about the kale…

Kale with Tomatoes & Cannellini Beans:
Olive oil for sautéing
2 onions, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, diced
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and diced
4 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 heads of kale, stripped from stems, washed well, and roughly chopped
1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
A splash of soy sauce
Salt & pepper to taste

In a large wok or braising pan sauté the onion til translucent, add the garlic, ginger & tomatoes and sauté til it forms a yummy looking slurry. I know it doesn’t sound like a great word, but slurry is the most appropriately descriptive one I can think of to fit the circumstances. In case you are not familiar with fresh ginger, it is very fibrous and grating it makes a big old mess, hence the suggestion to peel it, and then dice it up kind of tiny the way you would a cloves of garlic, to cut through the fibers and make it useable.  

To prep the kale slide your hand over each leaf in the opposite direction that it grows, separating the leaf from the stem, wash well to remove any dirt, check for bugs, and chop by rolling the kale into tight bunches and cutting across. Kale stems are very woody and not so much good to eat (though I fully support eating the stems of other greens like chard which are supper yummy). As an aside, this recipe works well with collard greens too, both of which are super hearty and need time to cook down before eating. Next add the kale in fistfuls, stirring in between as it starts to wilt, til all the kale is in the pan, then stir well and cover. Let cook for about 20 minutes til wilted, stirring occasionally. Add beans, soy sauce, salt & pepper, stir, then serve and enjoy. This recipe makes enough as a side for 6 people, or as a main dish with a nice grain for 3 people.

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Take 2 - Agave Whole Wheat Apple Upside Down Cake

This post is for J, who asked if shaker apple cake would work well with whole wheat and agave. My response was that I think that particular recipe would be too dry and lose something in translation, but to try the one below for apple/nut upside down cake.

This particular recipe is one I experimented with on my own til I found something that worked. Many recipes you already use can be adapted for alternative sweeteners and grains, however you will probably need to adjust the liquid to solid ratios and add additional levening agents since your batter will be heavier and thicker. There are also some really good cookbooks out there that focus on alternative sweeteners and whole grains. Two of my favorites are Sweet & Natural Baking  and  Baking with Agave Nectar.

Apple/Nut Upside Down Cake:

Mix together and line the bottom of a large round cake pan, a spring-form would work exceptionally well in this case, with 4 tablespoons earth balance, ¼ cup agave, and 1 cup roughly chopped lightly toasted walnuts or pecans

Mix well in bowl 1-
½ cup canola oil
1/3  cup agave or maple syrup or honey
1/3 cup apple juice
2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla

Mix in bowl 2 –
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup chopped apples
½ teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 & ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 & ½ teaspoons baking powder

Mix bowls 1 & 2 together, then pour over the previously prepared cake pan. Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes. Let rest for about 10 minutes before inverting over a plate or tray to serve “upside down”

Happy Eating!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shaker Apple Cake

This Shabbos I made shaker apple cake for dessert, btw thanks J&S for hosting such a wonderful Shabbos dinner! Anyway, I had all these apples that were yelling out at me “use me or loose me” so I decided it was time for a ba’al tashchis project to save the apples. For those of you not familiar with ba’al tashchis  it is the injunction in the Torah to not wantonly waste. Ok, confession time, in truth I bought the apples a few weeks ago for the express purpose of making shaker apple cake and then procrastinated doing so, so really having a heaping pile of apples about to go bad sitting in my kitchen was entirely my own fault.

But anyway, more about shaker apple cake….  It is an awesomely yummy and simple dessert with limited straightforward ingredients you are likely to have at home right now. I came across a recipe for it a few months ago, and it attracted me right away. This is reflective of the ideology of the Shakers, who believed in simple well made things done right. You might be familiar with shaker furniture design. Well, welcome to shaker cake.

I wish I could give credit to where I first saw the recipe but I really have absolutely no idea. It was one of those things I liked, wrote in a notebook, and didn’t look at for 6 months. The recipe that follows below it my interpretation of the recipe I was initially introduced to. After trying out said recipe I made some changes, well, a lot of them actually, but don't worry I kept the simple wholesome goodness idea intact. The biggest difference is that mine is parve, the other big differences are in quantity of everything except flour and baking powder. But I guess since neither you nor I has the original recipe any longer you don’t really need all the details.

Shaker Apple Cake:

Mix in a bowl, and then pour into a greased round cake pan-
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup hemp milk
2-3 eggs, depending on size

Slice 2 apples and lay them on top. Pour over that-
1/4 cup sugar with 1 teaspoon cinnamon mixed in
1/3 cup melted earth balance

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour. Let cool for 20 minutes, then slide a spatula all around the cake to help unmold, invert it on to plate and then turn right side up so it doesn’t stick. Or, if not serving right away wrap in plastic wrap. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, or with yogurt for breakfast.

One note- this rises a lot, so if your pan looks about half full then you are 100% heading in the right direction.

Happy Eating!

A Word About Biscuits….

I happen to think biscuits are amazing. This is due probably in no small part to my mother, whose own mother was born in Georgia, and made them all the time. I am not going to give you a recipe for biscuits since I don’t have own of my own and use the one in the Joy of Cooking which is great, except one thing. It says it makes 20 biscuits. It actually makes about 6, so I suggest making at least a double recipe. Oh, and I should mention, good biscuits need to be dairy. They need the butter and the milk or else they just kinda suck.

So last week I made biscuits. I had some with Jam. And then I got this bright idea into my head to have some with parve imitation sausage. Now, I was very excited about my biscuits and sausage, it being a hard to accomplish kosher treat, but when I happily told this story to a good friend he said, oh it’s like a little hamburger. Appalled at how my Jewish kosher kugel eating Northern friend could miss the point of my biscuit story, I called my mother instead, who’s woops of delight finally validated my joy at sausage and biscuits. It is a North vs. South thing? Unclear. But one thing I do know is that I kind of love the biscuit. And now an ode to biscuits. Actually scratch that.  I don’t understand poetry and I certainly don’t write it.

Happy Eating!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tomatillo Salsa

Today I made Chili, Corn Bread, Brown Rice, and Tomatillo Salsa. Before we discuss the amazing yumminess that is our friend the tomatillo, a word about corn bread. Lots of different corn bread recipes you will find online or in cookbooks are great, use whichever you like, but there is one thing they all leave out, which is this: use fine ground cornmeal, not regular/course. It makes all the difference in the world.  And now the tomatillo…

The tomatillo, if you are not familiar with it, is kind of like a cross between a tomato and a lemon. If you want a real definition of the tomatillo, see this very informative one from wickipedia, about half of which I don’t really understand, science not being my strong suit.

I came up with this recipe last year when I was living on the farm. It is super easy to make, which always gets bonus points from me, seeing as how anything ungapatched (Yiddish for overly complicated) is not in my repertoire. Our tomatillos ripened in early fall, and though they were plentiful, the skeletal staff left after the summer rush was not so much plentiful enough to eat them all. Enter tomatillo salsa. Actually first entered pickled tomatillos, and though I have heard the canned vinegar kind can be good, the lacto fermented kind we tried would not make it onto my recommend list, which still seems odd to me since pickled green tomatoes are awesome. But I digress. Next up was tomatillo salsa.  Inspired by salsa verde, the green salsa made from roasted tomatillos which is a staple of Mexican cooking, I decided to try my own, but made with raw, not roasted, tomatillos. Raw tomatillos taste really light and fresh, retain their lemony flavor nicely, and cut the richness and spiciness of Chili and various other spicy rich foods really well.

Tomatillo Salsa:

About 12-15 tomatillos, or whatever fits in your food processor, skin off and washed
5 cloves garlic
1 hot pepper
1 bunch cilantro
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
Salt & pepper to taste
Pulse till well blended and serve with chips, on chili, or wherever else you can imagine it being yummy….

Happy Eating!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

newborn babies and pickles gone awry

My newest niece, was born last Thursday at around 2:30 in the morning. I found out a few hours later at 6am when I was woken up by the ringing doorbell of my brother trying to get back into his house. This is niece 2 along with 5 nephews, under the age of 6. My brothers are clearly doing their part to resolve the shidduch crisis for the next generation by making lots of baby boys.  But let me take a step back.  At 2pm Wednesday afternoon I got a frantic phone call and 2 texts from my brother and his wife asking me to come watch their older kids, 3 adorable, precocious, and very close in age to each other boys, so they could go to the hospital. Happy to oblige, I took the container of pickles I had just put up to ferment and stuck them in the fridge. Reasoning with myself, I thought, self, last time you ran to your brother’s because a baby was born you ended up staying for 5 days, and pickles usually get moved to the fridge after 3 days of fermentation on the counter, so let’s not have our pickles turn to mush, let’s delay the fermentation process a bit. I regularly make pickles, because, well, I love them. And because drinking lacto fermented pickle juice is like a healthy bacteria party for your digestive track. Returning after Shabbos I took said pickles out of the fridge and stuck them on the counter. It is now 4 days later and instead of delicious sour pickle spears I have a soggy mess. They look odd, and they taste terrible. The only other thing I did differently was to ferment them in a food grade plastic container and not a glass one, though I don’t see why that should have made any difference. I looked all over the internet to see if some wise person could tell me if the brief stint in the fridge was what killed my attempt at lacto fermentation, or if it was just one of those things that randomly does not work out, like when bread doesn’t rise, sometimes they happy bacteria just don’t want to play. Alas, the internet has failed to enlighten me, so if you have any thoughts send em my way.

On a related note, I was very excited to meet my new niece. Don’t get me wrong I love my 5 nephews more than I knew I could love anyone. But at a certain point you can’t buy another blue sweater as a baby gift without failing to get it up. Not that all babies need to be socialized by gender normative colors. But since my brothers insist their kids need to be, and these are their kids, not mine, I have been mostly deprived of buying all those cute pink baby dresses that are totally impractical but also ridiculously endearing. In the end I realized though that they had nothing to put the baby in except blue onesies hand me downs from her older brothers, so I got a 3 pack of these cute but still practical sleep romper things from gerber baby. And am holding off on all  these cute dresses that I really want to buy, til she is a few months older, after all where is a 2 week old going that she needs a party dress? And p.s. $30 for a baby dress worn for 3 months?!?! I spend $30 on a dress for me worn for 5 years. Yes I really am that cheap. What a racket.