Peter

 

 

 

This may sound like an unlikely combination, but believe me this is a vinaigrette that is going to reinvigorate your seasonal salad combinations. I have been tinkering with this recipe for a couple of months and I am finally happy  with the resulting  recipe that follows.

Blood oranges are native to Spain and Sicily and grown here in the US in Florid and California. The flesh is of course blood red. The juice is sweet with a slight sharpness. Blood oranges are in season and generally available in supermarkets from December through May.

Miso is a Japanese fermented soy bean paste available in most supermarkets in the international section. It is the miso’s subtle umami note, found in many Japanese dishes, that  brings this unique vinaigrette to life. The fermented sweet saltiness of the miso bonds seamlessly with the zesty bitter sweet blood orange juice. This unlikely combination will brighten up all sorts of seasonal salad combinations.

As we are in the depths of winter try to gather together an assortment of hearty wintry leafy greens for your salad. To those add some Belgian endive, radicchio, mustard greens, baby arugula, some thinly sliced radishes, and julienne of carrots. Toss everything together along with the vinaigrette. Serve with a final flourish of flaked sea salt and you have a crisp dazzling winter salad to serve along with your winter meals!

For warmer weather this is a vinaigrette shines when tossed together with freshly picked garden fresh greens, cucumbers, vine ripened cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs, seasonal fruits, and edible flowers.

 

Blood Orange Miso Sherry Vinaigrette                 

 makes 1 ¼ cup

  • ¼ cup minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons julienne of blood orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons white miso
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed blood orange juice
  • ½ cup Jerez sherry vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup light olive oil
  • sea salt to taste
  • flaked sea salt for finishing (Maldon salt)

 

Combine the shallots, blood orange zest, miso, blood orange juice, Jerez sherry vinegar, and the black pepper in a medium size nonreactive bowl and whisk until well combined.

While whisking vigorously begin adding the olive oil in a slow steady stream. Continue whisking until the vinaigrette has emulsified and thickened.

Taste and add sea salt if needed to your liking and whisk to combine.

Set the vinaigrette  aside until you are ready to serve the salad. Vigorously whisk the vinaigrette once again just before dressing the salad for serving.

Storage

Store the dressing in a jar with a tightly fitting lid and refrigerate. Be sure to remember to remove the vinaigrette from the refrigerator well before you are ready to serve as the oil will have coagulated once refrigerated. Shake vigorously and serve.

 

Simplified Winter Cassoulet

Simplified Winter Cassoulet

 

With winter’s weather bearing down in earnest hearty meals are de reguer and I can’t think of a better meal to make than a cassoulet. It is my very favorite winter meal bar none!

Cassoulet is a classic French white bean stew with an assortment of herbs, meats, and poultry all baked together in an earthenware pot. It is undeniably delicious and the perfect antidote for winter’s bitter chill.

 

That said, making a classic Langeuuedoc white bean cassoulet requires copious amounts of assorted meats, sausage, duck confite and fat along with a considerable investment of time and expense.

Winter Cassoulet

Winter Cassoulet

Deconstructing the concept however, as radical as that may seem, can produce an as hearty and flavorsome cassoulet with all the allure of the original sans excess fats and expense.

In the recipe that follows I have included a modest amounts of pancetta and sausage, but they may be omitted without sacrificing flavor. It really is all about the quality of the beans, vegetables, and seasonings that brings this cassoulet to life with or without including meats.

Be sure to source your dried beans for freshness and quality. My favorite supplier is Rancho Gordo in California at ranchogordo.com (click here). All of their dried beans are top quality. Supplies do vary so it’s a good idea to subscribe to receive harvest updates and availability.

 

A simplified Winter Cassoulet

For the beans:

  • 1 pound dried white tabais, canellini, or great northern white beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 thin slices pancetta, finely diced (or substitute 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, added later)
  • 3/4  cup diced onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • ¾ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage leaves, crushed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt plus more as needed after the beans are cooked
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 3 quarts stock or water, plus more as needed

Pick through the beans and rinse well. Place them in bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside to soak for several hours or overnight. Then drain the beans and set side.

Add the olive oil to a stock pot set over medium low heat. When the oil is hot add the pancetta and saute until fragrant and just beginning to color. If you are omitting the pancetta, add the smoked paprika along with onions and saute until wilted. Then add the garlic and saute until softened. Add the thyme, rosemary, sage, and bay leaf and saute until well combined and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Stir in the drained soaked beans and promptly add the hot stock or water. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook the beans until they are softened but still holding their shape. Cooking times will vary depending on the age of the beans, but generally about 1 ½ or 2 hours should do it. Taste the beans and add salt to taste and set aside.

While the beans are cooking you can go ahead and prepare the sausage if using as well as the radish leaves or kale.

For the sausage:

  • 1 pound Polish or Kielbasa sausage
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup dry white wine

Heat the oil in a skillet and when hot add the whole sausage and seer on all sides until nicely browned. Then add the wine and cook until the wine has mostly evaporated. Remove the sausages and slice on the diagonal into 1 ½ inch pieces and set aside. 

Add a little stock to the  skillet and swirl to gather up the juices and scrape them into the pot of cooked beans and stir well.

For the Greens:

  • 2 large bunches of radish leaves or kale, well rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • sea salt to taste

Note: If you are not using sausage  you may want to use both radish and kale leaves seasoned with 1 teaspoon of crushed marjoram leaves and ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil. when hot add the chopped greens and saute just until wilted. Season with salt and set aside.

For the topping:

  • 1 cup bread crumbs, or panko
  • 2 tablespoons finely sliced flat leafed parsley 
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 sea salt 
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Toss the breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, and salt together. Drizzle with olive oil, toss, and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 300 F /150 c with the oven rack set in the middle position. Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any overflow while the cassoulet is baking.

Assembling the cassoulet:

Select a large earthenware casserole dish. Using a ladle add a layer of drained cooked beans in the bottom of the casserole dish. Layer some sausage pieces ( If using) over the beans, and add a layer of the sauteed greens. Continue to layer the ingredients in the same order, ending with a layer beans with a few pieces of sausage  (if using) for the top layer.

Spread the crumb topping evenly over the casassoulet. This will form a nice crusty topping to the finished cassoulet.

Run a spatula round the casserole to create a crevasse. Then spoon some bean cooking liquid into the crevasse all the way around the casserole dish. Giggle the dish several times while continuing to add more liquid until the liquid has nearly reached the rim of the dish. This will ensure an evenly moist cassoulet when fully baked.

Bake for 2 hours, turning the casserole dish from front to back after the first hour to ensure even baking.

Should the crumb topping brown to quickly during baking cover the casserole loosely with foil.

Remove the cassoulet from the oven and set aside for 15 minutes before serving,

Serving:

Placing the hot cassoulet in the center of the table is sight to behold as the aroma beckons! Let everyone serve themselves family style.

 

Serving a simple wintery greens salad including some mustard greens, Belgian endive, and a baby arugula leaves completes this meal beautifully.

Bon apettite!

You might also like to try A Summer Casssoulet (click here for recipe)

Guacamole Basics

Guacamole Basics

Guacamole, ahu ctl in the Aztec language, is unequivocally Mexico’s most loved contribution to an ever evolving international cuisine that embraces diversity as a commonality of taste.

Guacamole making has been practiced for thousands of years in central Mexico where avocados originate from. The simple traditional guacamole recipe is essentially unchanged. Avocados, onions, chiles, lime juice, cilantro and salt are tossed into a molcajete, a volcanic stone mortar, and pounded with a stone pestle into a rich and flavorful guacamole much like the guacamole we are making today.

IGuacamole ingredients

IGuacamole ingredients

I use a mixing bowl and a wooden Mexican bean masher instead of a molcajete for this process which works perfectly. The bean mashers are sometimes available online or in markets in Mexico. Otherwise use a wooden mallet or pestle. Doing the mashing by hand is an essential part of the process that melds the flavors together while preserving their charter. Please, do not even think of using a food processor!

I have probably made guacamole over a thousand times in my lifetime, yet every time I make it, it feels fresh and new. Repeating time tested rituals is what I love about being a cook. There is always a shared history in everything that one does in the kitchen.

I highly recommend using Hass avocados for guacamole or any other application for that matter. They are plentiful here in the US. Most are imported from Mexico and consistently top quality. Hass avocados are smaller than the smooth skinned Fuerte avocados. They have a darker textured skin and a higher oil content that imparts a richer flavor and creamier texture for your guacamole.

The recipe I have provided is only an approximation. Every time you make a guacamole involves orchestrating a delicate balance of flavors so quantities of ingredients will vary somewhat! The key here is to taste and trust tour instincts as you go until the balance of flavors tastes just right. Keep in mind the assertive flavors of a margarita. Balancing the creamy fresh green taste and texture of the oil rich avocados with the tang of onions, the heat of chiles, the tartness of fresh lime juice, and the zest of the cilantro requires an assertive saltiness to bring all those flavors harmoniously together. Practice will have you making a truly authentic guacamole in no time!

Keep in mind that guacamole is best when served fresh so prepare batches accordingly.

Guacamole (basics)

  • 2 or 3 Hass avocados
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 1 or2 serrano chiles, seeds removed and finely diced
  • 2 tablespoon finely sliced cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice + more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil f using Fuerte avocados.

Slice the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits, reserving one to use when serving if you like.
Spoon out the flesh of the avocados and place in a non reactive mixing bowl.

Add the diced onions, diced chiles, sliced cilantro leaves, lime juice, and salt to the bowl.

Using a wooden bean masher, wooden mallet or wooden pestle, mash the contents of the bowl together until the mixture has a relatively uniform textured consistency and a thick overall creaminess without overworking it if that makes sense.

Taste the guacamole and add additional lime juice and salt as needed. Keep in mind that the lime juice and salt is what is going to bring the guacamole to life!

Serving

Guacamole

Guacamole

 

Serve the guacamole in a non reactive bowl. Tradition has it that placing an avocado pit in the center of the guacamole will retard any discoloration due to exposure to the air. Whether this is true or not is questionable, but it does make an alluring presentation so why not if you like.

Serve guacamole with crisp corn tostada chips, as an accompaniment for tacos, or my favorite, with huevos rancheros for breakfast.

If you refrigerate the guacamole for any lengthen of time before serving press cling film directly onto the surface of the guacamole, seal tightly and refrigerate.

Buen provecho!

 

My first encounter with gomasio was in the mid 60’s when a macrobiotic diet, popularized by Micho Kushi in the mid 1950’s, was embraced by those seeking an alternative lifestyle in the “ Age of Aquarius” and the Woodstock generation that followed. I again dabbled with macrobiotic cooking with my neighbors while living in the Netherlands and have included some aspects of  macrobiotic ideas into my cookery ever since those colorfully spirited halcyon days of youth, discovery, and change.  

Gomashiro / gomasio dates back centuries in Japan. The recipe is quite simple. All that is required is toasted sesame seeds, sea salt, a traditional ceramic suribachi, a wooden pestle, and some elbow grease.

Gomashiro / Gomasio

Gomashiro / Gomasio

There are times when only a hand tool will do to achieve the desired results you strive for. Guacamole comes to mind using a traditional wooden Mexican bean masher or making making Gomasio using a traditional Japanese suribachi.

The ridged ceramic suribachi dates back to the 6th century in Japan and, sure enough, a mostly unchanged traditional design is available on Amazon at a very reasonable price. I urge you to purchase one. The ritual of hand grinding various seeds and spices preserves the flavor and texture that an electric spice grinder would quickly over process and scorch the flavor in the process. You also have the satisfaction of being an integral part of the process as well as having one of those Zen moments that makes cooking ever so fulfilling!

Gomasio is used to season almost anything you would normally season with salt. The nutty saltiness brightens up a salad, vegetables, omelets, soups, meats, fish, rice, grains, stir-fry, sushi, and on and on.

 

 

 

 

 

    No exact recipe required and let your creativity reign free!

 

 

Pictured is a gomasio made with toasted sesame seeds ( click here for recipe), flaked sea salt, and toasted nori seaweed which is optional.

Grind the sesame seeds to break them down and then add the salt and grind until combined.

If using toasted seaweed, crumble before adding to the gomasio and then grind to incorporate.

 

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