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Posts tagged ‘Aioli’

Summer Simplicity and Frenzy

Faux deviled eggs (plain boiled eggs topped with aioli), boiled new potatoes and beet and avocado salad.

Herbs, hardboiled eggs, salads, fresh fruit, bread, cheese. . . .zucchini and green beans starting to come out of my ears. . . .It’s a good time of year for cooking (or assembling) with what you have. And as much as I love to cook I don’t really want to be at the stove much (other than making jam and baking pies and tarts) these days. We’ve been having a lot of  dinners of late that I loosely refer to as Abendbrot–the German word for a light evening meal, meaning literally evening bread.

I use the term to refer to any meal that is cobbled together with a variety of cold or room temperature items. Last night it was cooked green beans with aioli, the last jar of tomato jam from last fall, some bread, a few hard-boiled eggs and a bunch of blueberries. It might be steamed artichokes, a green salad and bread, or roasted beets, some canned tuna (delicious Oregon Albacore) and a white bean salad.

We’ve been digging our first couple of hills of potatoes and they need nothing more than salt or a bit of aioli or some fresh parsley to be perfect. And speaking of  parsley I made a pesto with parsley and toasted pumpkin seeds last week that may well find itself into my Herbs in the Kitchen class in August. If you grow a few of your own herbs, they are really the cheapest and tastiest way to shape a meal.

Toasted bread topped with parsley and pumpkin seed pesto and a fried egg.

When I’m really pressed for time dessert has been fresh fruit, as is, and thus my five-year-old has become an expert cherry eater and cherry pit spitter. But I have also been staying up late or baking in the afternoon and then working late at night to make this fantastic cherry slab pie from Smittenkitchen, David Lebovitz’s blackberry sorbet , the Tutti Frutti Crumble from Super Natural Everyday and jam after jam after jam.

Cherry slab pie from smittenkitchen.com–you get a bit more crust per cherry, it feeds an army and is most of all perfectly delicious.

This time of year is a conundrum for me. I get greedy. I want to pack that freezer with berries, make all my favorite jams and keep up with the green beans and parsley and squash in my garden. I have this slightly frenzied feeling in my body that is hard to control that makes me pit cherries and apricots faster and carry more canning jars up from the basement at once than is wise. I’m racing with myself and some deep-seeded need to preserve and not waste and take advantage of our ridiculous bounty right now. I feel so blessed to have all this amazing produce and fruit at my finger tips. So it’s one part greed and one part responsibility to use it and make the most of it and be frugal, frankly, so that for several months out of the year I wont buy much fruit at all. It’s a privileged position to be in–to have a flexible enough schedule to do this kind of thing–and a choice I’ve made deliberately. And I’m very grateful for that. And at the same time I want to let myself relax a bit and enjoy these fleeting weeks of warmth, neighbors on the porch sharing in that cherry pie, the sticky jam jars and even the fruit flies.

Happy eating, cooking and preserving!

 

 

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Perfect Green Beans

Green beans (Kentucky Blue) from my garden.

I have a small garden with only a few places with really good, sunny exposure. I sow green pole beans every spring in one of those sunny places and every year I’m taken aback by how delicious they are. Once they start producing I pick them twice a day–first thing in the morning and just before it’s too dark to see. I only have about seven plants that have wound their way up their strings along my fence but I managed to pick about a pound over a four-day period.

Aioli with green beans.

My favorite thing to do with these tender things is to make aioli (garlicky mayonnaise) and dip the perfectly cooked beans (by which I mean four minutes in salty, rapidly bowling water) into the aioli. I ate three-quarters of a pound of the  beans pictured above in a single sitting Sunday noon. My boys got a few but they don’t rhapsodize about them quite like I do so everyone was happy.

I know I’ve written about aioli here before but here are some photos to go with it.

2 beautiful yolks, 2 cloves of garlic (much less than is traditional but I like a slightly milder aioli), and fresh lemon juice--the foundation for aioli.

You can use a mortar and pestle to mash the garlic with some coarse salt (gives it the texture you need to mash it well) or just do it on a cutting board with the side of a chef's knife as I've done here. Just chop the garlic cloves first, sprinkle generously with coarse salt and then lay the side of the knife on top of the garlic, push down and pull the knife (dull side) toward you. Repeat until you have a nice paste. It takes a little practice but once you have it down it's a quick way to get a good, homogenous paste.

The finished product. I added about 1/2 cup of good olive oil (drip by drip at first and then in a thin stream) and then about 1/3 of a cup of sunflower oil.

Sunday's lunch: beans and aioli, leftover rice with leftover salsa verde.

Aioli 

2 egg yolks (preferably organic)

2 medium/large cloves  garlic (or more if you like it stronger)

lemon juice (1/2 to a whole lemon’s worth depending on your taste)

coarse fleur de sel (or any good sea salt)

freshly ground pepper

1/2 – 3/4 cup good-tasting olive oil

1/3 cup neutral oil like sunflower

Mash garlic to a paste with salt (either in mortar and pestle or with a knife –see note above). Put garlic in a medium-sized bowl. Add the egg yolks and 2-3 teaspoons of lemon juice and some black pepper. Whisk well. Then start adding the olive oil drip by drip or in a very thin stream at first. You’ll need to incorporate about 1/4 cup of oil like this before you can safely speed things up. This is the most important step in ensuring that it properly emulsifies and doesn’t break. Incorporate the rest of the olive oil and neutral tasting oil (it can get too bitter if you use just olive oil, though this is a non-traditional approach but one I like) and adjust seasoning with more lemon and/or salt.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

P.S. I’ve posted fall classes. . . .Late Summer Bounty, Beans, Pies, Soups, Eat Better Series. . . .a little something for everyone I hope!

Artichokes

What was left of five artichokes the three of us had for dinner last night.

There were two things I remember eating in great quantity as a child (actually I’m sure there were many more than two) artichokes and corn on the cob. I think my artichoke record was four in one sitting and eight ears of corn. The corn was always homegrown and the ears weren’t usually quite as large as store-bought ones but still, I loved these two things. I have a feeling my four-year-old is going to give me a run for my money on the artichoke front soon. I certainly can’t put away four in one sitting anymore. And he ate one and a half artichokes last night and they were big.

For inexplicable reasons we haven’t eaten many artichokes for a few years but somehow this year the bug is back and I’m buying them at every turn. The ones pictured above are from a local farm (DeNoble Farm in Tillamook, OR) and are available at the Portland Farmers Market on Saturdays.

Growing up my mother boiled them and we dipped the leaves and much-anticipated heart in regular store-bought mayo and I loved them that way. Then I spent a lot of time in Italy and learned of the dozens of other ways of preparing them, all of which I loved as well. Most of those preparations–stuffed, grilled, roasted, in a ragout, in a frittata, etc.–are a bit more time-consuming so this spring I’ve mostly been doing it the good old American way.  I made them for my in-laws in Colorado 10 days ago and it turned out to be the first artichoke my father-in-law had ever had and he loved it.

For last night’s I used a bit of leftover aioli (with chives and thyme) and stretched that with the store-bought stuff and it was perfect.

I was much too excited to start eating to remember to take any photos of the original, beautiful bowl of five whole artichokes so all you get is the dregs that I promised I'd save for Ellis for dinner tonight.

So, if you want a low fuss summer meal, pick up a bunch of artichokes; get out big bowls for the leaves and thistle parts and a bowl of mayo, homemade or not and go to town.

P.S. I know it’s more common to steam artichokes but I’ve always just boiled them, water coming about half way up the artichokes (stem end down) for about 45 minutes to an hour (depending on size they might take longer). You want the stem and heart to be very tender when pierced with the tip of a knife or fork. When tender I hold them upside down by their stems to drain them well and then they are ready to eat. I’ve always assumed boiling was faster than steaming and I always seem to be in a hurry but by all means steam them if you prefer.

Celebrating Mothers and Daughters & Homemade Mayo

I was born on Mother’s Day. I joke with my mother that I don’t need to give her a gift as long as I’m still around. And my mother always says, “All I want is a hug and maybe a piece of chocolate cake.” I added the latter – she doesn’t actually say that but I think that’s what she would love to have, in addition to that hug.

As you might recall from previous posts, my mother is also my biggest culinary influence. She is the original “cook with what you have” cook. And she does it with style and for a dozen people on the fly practically weekly. She also lives 13 miles from the nearest grocery store. And she has the most bottomless and varied of all chest freezers (all home-grown too)– far better than most stores!

I don’t know about you, but it’s not always easy cooking with other people and in other people’s kitchens. And my mother, who is a very fast and efficient cook, does not always love sharing her kitchen with others. But whenever I’m at her house I inevitably cook and we have such a seamless rhythm together in the kitchen and she never fails to note how much she loves to have me in the kitchen. I’m sure it’s that we’ve worked side-by-side in kitchens for 30 +  years but it still seems noteworthy that it’s such fun.

We do have our culinary disagreements, particularly about what constitutes properly cooked meat and fish. She’s more of well-done type! And she doesn’t quite see the point of stocking two different kinds of olive oil: one for finishing dishes, salad dressings, etc. and one for sauteeing and such. But beyond that, we’re pretty similar. We just cooked Easter dinner together and I have to admit, even though the leg of lamb was more done that I would have chosen, it was very good.

So I think we should celebrate mothers and daughters for the whole month of May this year and I’ve scheduled a class on Sunday, May 16th for you mothers and daughters who would like to spend a few hours in my kitchen with each other and cook together. And if you’d like a private class with another mother/daughter pair or two either in my kitchen or yours we’ll schedule something!

And speaking of spring and Easter and Mother’s Day. … home-made mayonnaise season has started in my house! It is actually never really not in season, it’s just that now that my chives, oregano and parsley are prolific in the garden I love it even more. We had fried razor clams the night before Easter and dipped them in herbed mayo; last week we ate it with sweet potato fries (made with lime juice and cilantro), and this week it will go in the egg salad (using up all those easter eggs).

Homemade Mayonnaise with Fresh Herbs

2 egg yolks (organic or from a local farm if possible)

1 -2 tsps lemon juice (plus possibly a bit more to taste at the end) or white wine vinegar in a pinch

Couple of pinches of kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

3/4 – 1 cup or more of safflower oil or canola or some neutral vegetable oil

Herbs you have on hand (good with chives, parsley, basil, chervil, tarragon, etc.)

Whisk egg yolks with lemon juice and salt and pepper. Then very, very gradually start pouring in the oil in a very thin stream, whisking as you go. After you’ve incorporated about 1/4 cup of oil you can start speeding things up a bit. Continue until you have a consistency you like. It will get thicker and stiffer the more oil you add. Add chopped herbs at the end and add more salt and/or lemon juice if it needs more tang.

Aioli

To make the classic French garlicky mayonnaise (aioli), mash as many cloves of garlic as you want (you can start with as few as two and go up to about 10 for a very spicy, strong aioli) with some coarse salt with the side of a chef’s knife (or in a mortar) until you have a fairly smooth paste. Add the garlic paste to the egg yolks, lemon juice and salt and proceed as with the mayo above. Typically aioli does not have fresh herbs in it but sometimes I add some chives or parsley or basil. And traditionally you would use olive oil for this but I find that it often gets too bitter and strong if you use 100% olive oil so I suggest you use half very good-tasting extra virgin olive oil and half sunflower or some other more neutral oil.