Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lady Marmalade

We were tossing around ideas for homemade Christmas gifts and decided to make marmalade. It's a super-easy sort of jelly to make because the rinds and pith go in (so no peeling or juicing) and those rinds and pith are what causes the jam to gel (so no need to add pectin).

We used instructions from Mad Evil Science Laboratory, except that to make it even easier than their "way easier" method, we didn't chop the peels separately; we just threw everything -- peels, pith, flesh, juice -- into the food processor. (Jack's mom was helping, so rather than admit my completely barbarian upbringing, we did seed the tangerines. And remove a little pith from the grapefruits.)

A limited-edition practice flavor, brewed from cheesecake party leftovers.
Of course, we can't do "way easier" without also doing "way more complicated," so we made four different flavors at once (grapefruit orange, tangerine cinnamon, cherry clementine, and orange lemon ginger), using 15 pounds of citrus and filling 34 jars (mostly cute little 4-ouncers).

(Generally speaking, I would recommend marmalade as an economical holiday gift, but I didn't consider I would have to pay Delta $23 today to check my traveling backpack, which contained way, way more than one quart of three-ounce containers of gel-like substances.)

Some folks have asked the difference between marmalade and jam or jelly. I'm pretty sure it's just jelly made with citrus fruit and including the rinds. (A truly pretentious but probably technically correct blog comment I read claimed that true marmalade is made with Seville oranges and anything else is just "orange jelly.")

 P.S. One more last-minute gift recommendation: I just saw this book of cooking projects and am a little bit dying to try many of them (olives, marshmallows, ginger beer), and I heartily endorse the ones we already have (crackers, potato chips, mayonnaise). To the kitchen!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gifts for Cooks

Yikes, you can barely seed a squash around here without getting some on a holiday gift guide for cooks ...

My favorite so far is We Are Not Martha's Holiday Gifts for Food Lovers, which introduced me to several mind-blowing things (there's an Etsy for food? there's an olive oil store in Boston?) and includes my all-time-favorite two-ended magnetic measuring spoons (I prefer mine, at the link, to the fancy Martha version in the guide). A few of the things are a bit too silly or gadgety for me, but I'm finding it both a source of things to covet and as creative inspiration for gifts for others.

Smitten Kitchen's gift guide (from 2009) has the investment pieces (I love her philosophy of buying high-quality everyday items instead of cooking ephemera, but what kind of lifestyle do you need to justify a $100 serrated knife?). Sadly, the Smitten Kitchen book won't be ready until 2012.

David Lebovitz (a new favorite of mine) has a Favorite Cookbooks of 2010 that's lengthy and inspiring, even for a person (me) who would never consider buying a book devoted entirely to coconut desserts. I don't just say that because the first book on the list is one that I production edited and personally love. (There are, of course, a million year-end cookbook roundups -- New York Times and a web bonus, Publishers Weekly, NPR, the Huffington Post's Best Blogs-to-Cookbooks 2010 -- though I didn't find any of them particularly exciting.)

In the more-practical, less-food-porn, more-referency, not-necessarily-published-in-2010 genre, my personal literary Christmas wishes and recommendations are Harold McGee's new book, Keys to Good Cooking, as well as Ratio, The Flavor Bible, Veganomicon, Cooking for Geeks, and if you're feeling spendy, Larousse Gastronomique.

Oh, and has anyone gotten their hands on a Remedy Quarterly (new indie cooking journal)? I found it via Kickstarter, and then again the other day via one of the editors' gingersnap sandwich cookies, which won me a prize at the office cookie swap. I wouldn't say no to a subscription to Cook's Illustrated or Vegetarian Times, either.

Finally, have I mentioned that I like Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian? I mean, sort of a lot? That would be my desert island co-op cookbook and I recommend it to everyone looking for a first comprehensive helps-with-the-CSA cookbook.

P.S. Oh, gosh, just discovered the Atlantic's Holiday Kitchen Gift Guides, which is ridiculously, lovably discursive and right-on in so many ways (we love our Microplane, immersion blender, electric kettle, and one good chef's knife, and use them all nearly every day) while being completely practical and mundane.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lots of Latkes

Posting this a bit late, but housemate Sara's beautiful latkes were the highlight of our end-of-Hanukkah potluck last week.

There's lively debate about whether you have to hand-grate the potatoes or if you can use a food processor, but -- as we learned -- you can't use the food processor if you're too lazy to go find your shredding disc.

Letting your grated potatoes oxidize to pink is apparently a sign of moral turpitude, but no word on what it means if you start with pink-fleshed potatoes (the last of the Enterprise CSA). Also, we might have, um, thrown in a sweet potato or two.

P.S. Counter my conventional wisdom, Smitten Kitchen insists latkes are easy, do-ahead, and not just for Hanukkah, and has lots of tips for food-processing, cheesecloth-squeezing, and keep-warming. She also knows how to make apple latkes with caramel sauce for dessert.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Butternut Blues

I know, I know, just a few weeks ago I was gung-ho about cooking squash, but when the reality of 30-degree-temperatures and dark at 4pm and no fresh green vegetables in the house started to set in ... I just wasn't feeling it. Seeing winter coming on and imagining the long months of orange soup after orange soup filled me with an overwhelming sense of ickiness.

Unfortunately, I'd also agreed to go to housemate Sara's church Hanukkah potluck at the last minute. And when I asked her what to bring, she said vegetables for 15 to 25 people ... and what we had in the house was more than 40 pounds of squash.

So, in search of inspired preparations, here's a selection of butternut squash recipes that seemed significantly different from the typical roast/soup/puree (mostly found via the inimitable Tastespotting):

Curried Butternut Squash with Brown Chickpeas (eCurry)
Butternut Gnocchi (My Easy Cooking)
Butternut Squash and Leek Latkes (Food & Style)
Roasted Butternut, Sausage, and Fennel Stuffing (Gimme Some Oven!)
Butternut Squash Orzo (We Are Not Martha)
Butternut Squash Risotto (A Beach Home Companion)
Butternut Squash Polenta (Epicurious)
Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding (Epicurious)
Whole Wheat Butternut Waffles (How Sweet It Is)
Butternut Squash Fondue (Cooking Books)
Butternut Squash, Drunk Mushrooms, and Goat Cheese Napoleons (The Lonely Bean)
Butternut Squash and Brown Rice Porridge (Dog Hill Kitchen)
Shrimp with Butternut Squash in Coconut Sauce (Modern Comfort Food)
Butternut Squash and Cider Doughnuts (Art & Lemons)
Butternut Squash Butter (Art & Lemons)
Your Best Butternut Squash Recipes (Food52)

Of course, after all that, I only had half an hour to cook, so I ended up making the world's simplest squash puree after all. But as I saw the diners happily adding sunny orange glops of Vitamin A to their plates of latkes and brisket, I felt some measure of my joy in squash restored. And, as you see, they nearly licked the serving dish clean.

Squash Puree a la Running Late: Peel and seed squash and cut into small chunks. Boil (in barely enough water to cover) for 15 minutes or until very soft. Drain and transfer squash to food processor; process until very smooth. Stir in some butter and salt and pepper, and for gosh sake, try not to spill orange goop all over the subway while running for your train.