Monthly Archives: November 2015

WARM APPLE COBBLER, AMERICAN CLASSIC

 

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American Cuisine all too often is solely looked at for it’s Processed and Fast Food side.  I’ll have to agree that YES America is the leader in Processed/Fast Foods but one reason is that American culture in many ways fosters the bigger, better, quicker, easier route to get from point A to point B.  Sometimes that’s a good way to live.  Sometimes it’s not.  And most times we can alter that pattern LIKE….cooking from ingredients that are not pre-made for you.  Here’s how I create my recipes, I use my head, my 57 years of cooking, eating, reading, traveling and take that and place it into my kitchen and create.  Then, when I’m ready to actually make something on the spot or have been planning on and commit it to this blog for you to follow I research my cookbooks and online as many recipes as I can to see if I’m still on the right track.  Only then do I title a recipe.  Cobbler is an American dessert that falls into that CONFUSING C WORD category..Crumbles, Cobblers.  Here’s what I’ve come up with..Cobbler is a flour based batter poured over sweetened and sliced fruits baked in a buttered pan.  They are easy.  The most laborious part is peeling and slicing the fresh fruit.  It’s also a wonderful “pantry” recipe.  Chances are, the fruit being the variable, you have all the ingredients in your pantry at all times.  320880_2097459198452_191891307_nApples!! That’s what’s in the pantry this time of year. APPLES!  Delicious baked in treats all year long but PARTICULARLY in the FALL/WINTER.

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This cobbler is my version of a very easy and basic American dessert.

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The farm markets are heady with their scent.  So….let’s buy a few and make an APPLE COBBLER.

SERVES: 8                                      TIME: just under 1 hour start to finish

FRUIT BASE:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour or cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 cups sliced peeled firm tart apples (4-5 apples)
  • 1/2 tsp Lemon zest
  • 1 tbs. fresh lemon juice (throw those bottles of lemon juice away!!)

BATTER TOPPING:

  • 1 cup  unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 11/2 teaspoons baking powder (check the expiry date on your BP, it might be time for a new one)
  • 1/4 teaspoon  Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted then cooled to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbs. sour cream
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • butter for greasing the pan
  • plain fine breadcrumbs for lining the bottom of the pan

Pre Heat the oven to 35- degrees F.  In an 11X7 rectangular baking pan lightly grease the bottom and sizes with butter.  Dust the bottom of the pan with dry plain breadcrumbs. Set aside.  In a large bowl mix all the Ingredients in the FRUIT BASE portion of the recipe.  Pour into the pan.

Beat together all the wet ingredients of the Batter Topping part of the recipe except for the milk. Then Sift together all the dry ingredients.  Stir 1/2 the dry into the wet.. When it’s combined stir in the milk. When combined stir in the rest of the dry.  When combined stop stirring and pour over the top of the fruit base.  Sprinkle with cinnamon lightly, then into the oven for 30-35 minutes, rotating it once 1/2 way thru. Test to see if the topping is done by poking the center with a toothpick. Do not let it go thru to the fruit.  If if comes out clean, you are done. If not at this point 5 more minutes should do it.

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Sometimes the baker doesn’t cover all the fruit!!! Shame on him !! (ok, that was me)…But this is what your APPLE COBBLER should look like!!  Serve in a few ways, warm (BEST!!!) topped with Vanilla Ice Cream, or sour cream, or whipped Cream…some sugar crystals or Raw sugar crystals, and when warm a drizzle of Maple Syrup (pure)…it’s heaven.. Room Temperature is ok too…Ice cold out of the fridge, not so good…the cold temperature masks all the flavors.

Happy Baking…Happy Eating…Happy Sharing!!

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VONGOLE ARRABBIATA, CHILE SPICED CLAMS

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This is a great idea for hanging around on the weekends watching games, or casual get togethers, even works for a weeknight  meal.  America LOVES Chiles, after all it’s one of our indigenous plants.  We go crazy for hot sauce, for whole chiles, for all foods made with them in their fresh, cooked, or dried states.  America is a CHILE CRAZED nation.  From the Americas the rest of the world learned how delicious they are…with a seemingly addictive nature they have regardless of where in the world they are being consumed.   Let’s explore Italy (shocker) for a moment, in particular Southern Italy.  Chiles are a mainstay in all hot climates and the southern regions of Italy are hotbeds (pun intended) for growing these peppers.  Depending on the region they are referred to as PEPERONCINO or DIAVOLiCCHIO .DIAVULLILU, and many others.  Just an aside, don’t confuse PEPERONCINO with the Italian-American pickled Vinegar pepper known as PEPPERONCINI as they are 2 very different foods including their spelling.

Basilicata where my paternal Grandpa comes from LOVES the chile pepper in it’s cuisine.  Shows up in so many of the regional dishes.  We grew up with that tradition which was further cemented by my Dad who grew tons of redhot chiles and dried them every year strung up all over the basement rafters. Dad’s been gone since 2003 but I have the last jar he gave me. It’s my most prized “food” possesion. A pinch of peperoncino is a usual cooking method in COUNTLESS Southern ITalian dishes but sometimes it becomes the dominant flavor as in ARRABBIATA style, or FRA DIAVOLO(more ITalian-American) meaning ANGRY.  A colorful way to describe a dish..it’s a popular tomato sauce for pasta.  Here I take that southern Italian seafood and chile tradition and elaborate on it.  I rarely say this, but certainly adjust the amount of peperoncino that you are using to your taste but if anything spicy is not in your wheelhouse this isn’t the recipe for you.  My suggestion for how to serve this is as you would serve a pot of steamers…just the clams…and some good bread.

TIME: 1/2 HOUR                               SERVES:  4

4 TBS OLIVE OIL

4 CLOVES OF GARLIC, SLICED

1 1/2 TSP. PEPERONCINO

4 DOZ LITTLE NECK CLAMS, or COCKLES, or MANILA CLAMS, well scrubbed and rinsed

1/4 CUP WHITE WINE

JUICE OF ONE LEMON

SEA SALT

In a heavy bottomed pot heat the olive oil, then add the garlic and the 1 tsp. of the Peperoncino. Let this cook on medium for 2 minutes being careful not to let the garlic brown, then add the wine.  Bring to a boil then to a simmer. Add the clams.  With a heavy spoon get all the clams coated with the wine and garlic liquid.  THEN, cover tightly and keep on simmer and STEAM the clams until they have opened, takes about  8  minutes.   Shake the pot midway thru GENTLY.  Carefully remove the cover  and give the clams a good but gentle stir.  Remove any that did not open.  Add the lemon juice and the balance of the peperoncino and gently stir again. SERVE! with some good bread.  That’s it!! Now,are you wondering why I have salt in the ingredient list?  Taste that liquid.  I will venture a guess that it’s totatlly seasoned.  Why?  The liquor from the clams is salt water.  That will season the juices. Adding salt will put it over the top, unless you feel you need to, SO,before you serve, taste..then season if you need to, and drizzle with good Olive oil, then serve.  COOKING RULE…you can always add, you can NEVER subtract salt from a dish. There’s also a lack of greenery here..it’s no needed. Those clams look beautful without the green addition.  If you feel you need it…a little chopped flatleaf Italian parsley I guess (can you see my displeasure?? lol)..but one should always eat to one’s taste and pleasure.

 

PUMPKIN MAPLE SUNFLOWER SEED BREAD

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Now that it’s November I can officially stop whining that the Summer is almost over, it’s done and like the first few days of November celebrate the dead, it’s a haunting reminder that my pool will not be used for quite a long stretch.  Breathing a deep breath it’s onto the FALL and WINTER  with the end of the year Holidays in front of us in all their PUMPKIN-Y spiced deliciousness…no..no…i’m not talking about the #PSL everything that has taken over everything we eat or smell but something enduring. An  American baked good long made long before Starbucks was even thought of.  PUMPKIN BREAD. An American “Quick Bread” as my mom’s old cookbooks called it..a bread made without waiting for it to rise from yeast, but using other leavening agents like Baking Powder or Baking Soda.  I’ve been cooking for years and still do not know why one is used over the other in certain dishes, but I’ll just do what I’m told.  For this Pumpkin Bread of mine, Baking Soda is the choice.  Do any of you remember your family baking this in a coffee can?  I do.  Another great memory of things that in the absence of a calendar or your iPhone giving you the date, you know what month of the year it is and certainly know the season.  Pumpkin Bread means October thru January.  Let’s get you in the mood..I like “mood”…makes for a better eating and cooking experience..so here’s my current view..my home..thanks to my wife Deb for doing what I can’t (nor want) to do, and that is decorate the house, set the mood, make our home…I’ll happily stay in the kitchen.  punkin 009

If that doesn’t make you want to hang with some Pilgrims and Native North Eastern Americans and enjoy the dried corn and pumpkins, nothing will.  Something about these colors too, they are warm..evocative…and the spices in the bread, while sharp on their own blend into this orange hug that makes you happy.  Pumpkin Bread is supposed to taste of Pumpkins and Spice.   As the leaves turn and peak with the colors of Fall, fill your home with the warm scent of this Pumpkin Maple Sunflower Seed Bread.  Now let’s go into the kitchen…

TIME: 1 hour 15 minutes               SERVES: 8

1 1/2 CUPS UNBLEACHED FLOUR

1 CUP SUGAR

1 TSP. BAKING SODA

1/4 TSP. EACH OF CLOVES, ALLSPICE, CINNAMON, NUTMEG

1/2 TSP. OF GINGER

3/4 TSP. KOSHER SALT

2 EGGS BROUGHT TO ROOM TEMPERATURE, ORGANIC IF POSSIBLE, WELL BEATEN

1 1/8 CUP PUMPKIN PUREE (I RECOMMEND TRADER JOE’S ORGANIC PUMPKIN, but any good pumpkin puree works, If you are crazy enough to do the pumpkin puree from scratch, remember it’s a Sugar Pumpkin that’s used for Pumpkin pies, not Jack o’Lanterns, everything about them is wrong for this smooth puree, they are watery, tough to work with and full of fibrous flesh, so..while they look like the right thing..they are a different type of pumpkin than what’s used for cooking pumpkin..)

1 TSP PURE VANILLA

2 TBS PURE MAPLE SYRUP plus 1 TBS for finishing the loaf

1/2 CUP VEGETABLE OIL

2 1/2 TBS ROASTED SALTED SUNFLOWER SEEDS

 

Pre heat your oven to 350 Degrees F.  You will need 2 large bowls.  In one, crack the eggs and beat well, then add the oil, mix well..then the pumpkin, vanilla and maple syrup till smooth and well blended.  In the other bowl sift ALL the dry ingredients together. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry and gently combine the two using a folding motion JUST until lumps are gone, and it’s a smooth batter.  Over mixing will toughen the bread. Pour into a well greased loaf pan :punkin 001  Then top the loaf with the sunflower seeds       :12179337_10205151361846037_935758826_nPlace on a baking sheet and into the middle rack of the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes, rotating at the 30 minute mark.  That helps to evenly bake your bread. The bread is done when it’s springy in the center and a tester run into the center of the loaf comes out clean.  It should look well risen and like this:punkin 003   Here’s a close up of the top of the bread.  12188474_10205151540770510_980123793_n After the bread has sat out for 5 minutes, take it off the hot pan and leave it to cool on a wire rack. Drizzle the additional Maple Syrup over the top of the loaf.  Now leave it to completely cool before you serve/slice.  Fast forward 3 hours….time to slice it..LOOK AT THAT!~!!punkin 006 Moist, warm, spicy, you taste the pumpkin in the background..it’s wonderful.  PLEASE don’t short cut and use Pancake Syrup..no lecture on Corn Syrup here other than Pancake Syrup is Corn Syrup with imitation flavorings and colors added…it’s texture is all wrong for this too.  So, if you plan on making this make sure you get yourself a nice bottle of American or Canadian Pure Maple Syrup, my favorite is the DARK AMBER grade.

I concede, I wave the white flag..Summer is over…let the Pumpkin Bread bake.  Enjoy!!!