|OMG WTF is this even real?|
Food Network's preternaturally perky Rachael Ray is stopping by Sam's Club in Deptford, New Jersey this Fri., Dec. 5 and Williams-Sonoma in the King of Prussia Mall on Sat., Dec. 6, to sign copies of her latest cookbook, Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book.
The Sam's Club event is open to both members and the public: Free tickets will be distributed at 10 a.m. at the Sam's Club member services desk for the 4 p.m. book signing. Ray fans can call or visit Williams-Sonoma to purchase copies of the new cookbook and secure their free ticket for the noon signing.
If the fast-talking cook is wearing the outfit pictured at right, Rachael Ray haters might be converted into her most devoted followers. Hope the burn cream is handy. Nothing slows down dinner like molten sugar scalds on your bare midriff.
Sam's Club, 2000 Clements Bridge Road, Suite 116, Deptford, N.J., 856-853-0219
Williams-Sonoma, King of Prussia Mall, 160 N. Gulph Road, King of Prussia, 610-265-5970
|Exhibits A though Ugh.|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Exhibit A: My gloriously seared Cannuli Bros. pork shank, waiting to be returned to the pot to be braised.
Exhibit B-squad: A box of pink Franzia "wine" left at my house from an all-girl photo shoot. No, I will not tell you that story.
Exhibit C-list: A bottle of Holland House red-dyed "cooking wine" purchased at the Acme by my well-meaning but misguided boyfriend.
White Trash Dilemma: I'm braising this pork shank with ingredients culled only from the pantry and fridge. A can of crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes, a few fresh bulbs of garlic and fennel, and we're in business. The recipe calls for red wine to make up the rest of the braising liquid, and Exhibits B and C are all we have on hand. It's cold and I'm not driving to the liquor store for six ounces of wine, and for the first time ever, we have no beer.
Which of these two losers do I use? The boxed wine is at least real alcohol, and has this fun tap on it, so it won't be nasty and oxidized. But it's box wine. And it's pink. How embarassing. The Holland House swill is 100 percent fakeness, and tastes like your drunk uncle's morning breath. Oh vomit, I just grossed myself out.
Stuck between a box and a hard place... which one would you use?
|Common curly kale||Italian kale, "cavolo nero"|
Kale, that curly superfood, is making its annual appearance crowding greenmarket tables. It is hard not to feel dismay viewing the heaps of greens; their arrival hails the coming of winter and its attendant lack of vegetable diversity. CSA members whose boxes overflow with the stuff week after week may become vexed by it — how much stir-fry can one family eat?
Kale belongs to the same family as cabbage, Brussels sprouts and collards; all are excellent sources of sulfur-containing phytonutrients. According to the nonprofit Web site The World's Healthiest Foods: "Human population as well as animal studies consistently show that diets high in cruciferous vegetables, such as kale, are associated with lower incidence of a variety of cancers, including lung, colon, breast and ovarian cancer."
Abundant in our area from late fall through early spring, hard frosts will produce sweet kale plants. The crop is easy to grow and prolific, making kale dead cheap, as well as providing more nutrients and fewer calories per cup than almost any food. Science aside, you won't eat the stuff if it doesn't taste good. A Web search of kale recipes turned up some unconventional preparations for the vegetable that preserve nutritional value and crank up the crave factor.
Mark Bittman, aka The Minimalist, tosses Tuscan black kale with proscuitto and pasta for a toothsome first course. One of his commenters adds a recipe for a kale salad adapted from Saveur which features so much parmigiano-reggiano it seems to void any health benefits.
Allrecipes.com has a method for making a snack out of the vegetable: baked kale chips with seasoned salt that even kids will eat. No word on husbands.
Heidi at 101 Cookbooks provides a way to amp up the nutrition of mashed potatoes with kale and garlic. Commenters point out that picky eaters will likely pick out the green bits, but at least you gave it a shot.
As with other leafy greens, dirt and sand hides well in the heads of kale. Cut the root end off the head and individually wash each leaf, or chop the leaves and wash them in a salad spinner. The tough stems of kale and the more tender leaves are practically two different vegetables; fold each slice in half lengthwise and strip out that tough central stem before cooking.
|Scrub, scrub, rinse = more loot. |
I stumbled across the Web site Pioneer Thinking while researching ways to save money, and Jill Cooper's article "Dirty Dishes Cause Debt" stopped me in my cybertracks. Going out to eat, even when you can't truly afford it, is common amongst Americans. I am a slave to restaurants; when I'm not working in one, I want to be in one. I used to attribute it to spending too many hours scraping other people's plates, fetching other peoples' iced teas, and heading off to work at 5 p.m. when the rest of the world was on their way home. Like all good addicts on the road to recovery, I'm admitting I have a problem. And I'm not alone.
Cooper states, "Most people don't want to face the real causes of their debt. Their biggest problems are the things they like the most. Going out to eat is one of the top five causes of debt."
Keeping your kitchen empty of dirty dishes is the key to saving money. This is probably the #1 way to start getting out of debt. Most people are so overwhelmed with piled counter tops and dirty dishes that they would rather go out to eat than face a dirty kitchen. Do the dishes after every meal...Clean up as you go. If your sink is empty and the dishes are washed, your kitchen always looks good. This helps you save money because you have time and space to cook.
Chefs and restaurateurs can flame away: If you want to save money, you better learn to eat in. Restaurants were a treat for our parents; a special destination. When I was a kid, I thought Sizzler was a seriously expensive outing — that make-your-own-sundae bar was impossibly luxe. But for the past 20 years, farm subsidies and cheap fuel have kept food prices artificially low, and the number of casual restaurants has exploded. With belts tightening at every income level and exponential increases in the cost of food commodities, this glut of restaurants are in for the same tough year as their customers.
If you find yourself on the scary end of a pile of credit card statements, take the first step in the right direction. Pick up a pair of cheery yellow Playtex gloves and wash those dirty dishes.
|Photo | Felicia D'Ambrosio|
As the trees shed their summer green and dress, instead, in flaming scarlet and tarnished gold, the tables at the farmer's market are growing greener.
Leeks, apples, kale, pears, fennel, cabbages and hardy fall herbs dominate at Philadelphia-area markets; the color drained from the landscape reborn through the dirt. The key to eating cheaply and well is to use what is abundant- don't fret the lack of strawberries; rejoice in the bounty of pears. That said, sometimes you end up with a mighty sack of some vegetable you have no idea what to do with. In my crisper drawer, I swear the apples are multiplying, and stalks of leeks lie suggestively together, daring me to tear them apart.
Marrying these two off seemed the only safe option. Kissing cousin to the hot onion and pungent garlic, leeks are possessed of a milder, sweeter onion flavor and taste smashing cooked in butter (or bacon fat, for the unapologetic.) They are brilliant with eggs, crowning a burger, or gently steamed and dressed with vinagrette. Crisp and meant for eating out of hand, Honeycrisp, Gala and Granny Smith apples only need to be sliced down and added raw to salads and sandwiches, like an Apple-Leek Grilled Cheese.
Directions for cleaning and sweating leeks after the jump, along with the method for Apple-Leek Grilled Cheese.
|Butter the bread, not the pan, for ultimate goodness.|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Cleaning and Sweating Leeks
1 bunch big fatty leeks or 3 bunches small spindly leeks
1 sexy hunk of butter or bacon fat
1. Leeks grow from the inside out, with their stalks pushing up through the sandy soil they prefer. It is important to clean them thoroughly before cooking.
2. Cut off the tough green top of the stalks; remove any bruised or sad-looking outer stalks. Cut off the root end of the leek and slice down lengthwise.
3. Slice each leek half crosswise, about one-quarter or one-half of an inch wide.
4. Fill a big bowl with cold water, and dump in all of the sliced leeks. Swish them around, and the sand and dirt will drop to the bottom of the bowl. Lift the leeks out in handfuls, leaving the sand and water behind. Rinse the washed leeks in a strainer once more and spread out in a single layer to dry a bit.
5. Preheat a heavy cast-iron or nonstick pan over a medium-high flame. Throw all of the leeks in and stir them around, allowing any remaining surface moisture to evaporate.
6. When the leeks seem fairly dry, throw a big hunk of butter or bacon fat in the pan and stir it around to get the leeks coated.
7. Now stir, stir and stir some more while the leeks cook down. You can turn up the heat if you want to caramelize them a little, but keep stirring and don't let it burn.
8. About fifteen minutes into this process, taste a leek. They are done when the leek is tender throughout and tastes sweet.
9. Season with salt. These sauteed leeks are perfect to add to almost all potato dishes (Potato-leek gratin!), egg anything, or to top hot sandwiches like a burger, or in place of slaw on a reuben.
Apple-Leek Grilled Cheese
Slices of any bread you like
One crisp apple, sliced thin
Some cheese of your choice (I like American for grilled cheese)
Butter for greasing the bread
1. Butter one side of your slices of bread. The easiest way to assemble grilled cheese is to butter the bread, then place the buttered sides of the slices together and build on top. That way you won't butter your cutting board (or, worst case scenario, the floor).
2. Put a slice of cheese on the bread first, then a layer of thin-sliced apple. Another slice of cheese, then a layer of the sauteed leeks. Top with the other slice of bread.
3. Place your sandwiches in a preheated non-stick pan over LOW heat. Grilled cheese is a delicate operation, it requires patience. A low flame will melt the cheese and give you an even toast on the bread. Lid the pan to maximize melt.
4. Flip sandwich after 3 minutes or so, when the down side is tan and toasted. Cover again.
5. Serve with salad and lots of napkins.
|Goodbye, marinara. It's been nice eating you.|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Every week, I head to Greensgrow Farms with my heart in my mouth, convinced that today is the day without tomatoes. Lusty red- and yellow-streaked heirlooms and petite plums are the soul of a simple marinara with caramelized onions and herbs that has sustained me since August, when the tomato harvest began pouring in from surrounding farms.
Every Thursday and Saturday, I rake the ruby bounty into my basket, casting suspicious eyes at my fellow shoppers, prepared to shovel yet faster should some other sauce-maker take a step toward my supply. Though I am not proud of this packrat behavior, these superior local tomatoes are at the true end of their season, and we will all go without fresh marinara until next summer's heat sends us a new harvest.
Scoop up the last tomatoes of the season and savor your last bite of summer with this garlic-less fresh marinara. Scads of caramelized red onions lend a subtle sweetness to the sauce without any additions of sugar. (But if you like garlic or have it on hand, by all means use it.) Shallots, red or white onions can be used interchangeably, and the sauce can be reduced to your preferred thickness. The marinara can also be puréed in a Cuisinart or blender to create a smooth texture for pizza or layered pasta dishes like eggplant parmigiana and lasagna. Gnocchi can be topped with marinara and grated Locatelli cheese for a quick dinner; simply scooped up with toasted slices of thick bread, it makes for a healthy Indian summer lunch. Recipe for Caramelized Onion Marinara after the jump.
|Bring your own box to Greensgrow|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
Caramelized Onion Marinara
(Makes one large pot of sauce)
Go Get This:
5 lbs. fresh local tomatoes
2 large red onions
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Big handful of fresh herbs: parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, or a combination
Salt and pepper
hearty pinch of red pepper flakes if desired
Then Do This:
1. Put a large stockpot of water on the stove to boil. While waiting for the water to boil, core each tomato with a sharp knife and cut a small "X" in the skin of the bottom of the tomato.
2. Prepare a large bowl of ice water.
3. While you wait for the water to boil, dice the onions to your desired size. Rinse and pick herbs, chopping large herbs like basil and parsley.
4. When the water is boiling, place tomatoes in boiling water for 1-2 minutes until the skin splits. Fish the tomatoes out with a sieve or tongs and drop into ice water. Peel tomatoes.
5. With your fingers, bust open each tomato and pull out the seeds. This is easiest to do over two bowls: one for seeds, skin and trash, one for juices and tomato flesh.
6. Chop the deseeded tomato flesh into rough chunks.
7. In a heavy stockpot or cast-iron pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When it is very hot (the oil will shimmer like the air over the highway on a hot day) add the chopped onions. Stir to coat with oil.
8. Gently caramelize, but do not burn, the onions. Refrain from seasoning with salt until you have reached your desired level of brownness.
9. Season caramelized onions with salt and pepper; pour in the chopped tomatoes and all of their liquid. Turn flame up to high.
10. Bring tomatoes and onions in their liquid to a boil, stirring frequently. If you are short on time, leave the heat on full blast, stirring and checking frequently to avoid burnt spots, reducing the sauce to your desired thickness. If you've got all Sunday to do this, reduce heat to medium, simmer and reduce.
11. Once sauce has reduced to your preferred thickness, add chopped herbs and red pepper flakes (if desired). Serve hot over pasta or with thick toasted slices of bread.
|Slide over here, my little lamb.|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
I'm a whore for good buns, which I'll say now before some other smart-ass does. Here in Philly, where we will get in to fistfights over the best cheesesteak house, sandwich bread is Serious Business. Old school South Philly bakeries Sarcone's, Cacia's and Faragalli's turn out the choicest chewy torpedo-shaped rolls for hoagie and cheesesteak purposes, but the noble burger requires a gentler hand.
Wild Flour Bakery in the the Northeast bakes the eggy rolls that ensconce the city's best burgers: the Good Dog's stuffed patty oozing lavalike cheese, the oft-lauded Rouge Burger; none would be where they are without the delicate, smashable bun that blends so magically with medium-rare juices.
Though Wild Flour is primarily a wholesale bakery, they accomodate Philadelphians' insatiable need for bitchin' bread at their retail stand in the Headhouse Farmer's Market. Gruyere-proscuitto croissants, free-form loaves of rye with cracked caraway, and snowflake dinner rolls flirt, demanding that every hungry locavore stop and slaver.
As if this heap of carbs and happiness wasn't tempting enough, Wild Flour has added six-count bags of wee challah slider rolls, which are so off the cuteness charts they cannot be denied.
Inspired by two bags of the petite pains, I attacked the Sunday morning market on a mission to make a slider worthy of such a fine bun. Hillacres farm yielded up a package of lovely ground heritage lamb; Margerum's a crop of fresh mint, oregano and shallots. Thus armed, I dragged my cast iron skillet to dad's house and converted everyone into a lamb lover. Recipe for Carried Away by Cuteness Lamb Sliders after the jump.
|Wee little challah rolls: so shiny, so eggy.|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
(serves 4-6 people as an appetizer or fat-kid snack)
12 Wild Flour challah slider rolls
1 lb. Hillacres Farm ground lamb
3 big sprigs mint, rinsed and dried
2 big sprigs oregano, rinsed and dried
2 not so big shallots
1 tablespoon of butter
salt, pepper, dash of cumin
THEN DO THIS:
1. Peel the shallots, dice small. They are already small so this shouldn't be hard.
2. Pick the herbs off their stems. Reserve one sprig each mint and oregano for topping the sliders.
3. Chiffonade the herbs, excepting the ones you reserved for topping. Chiffonade is just stacking the leaves together, rolling them up like a tiny cigar, and then slicing across thinly to create a pile of skinny strips. You can do it!
4. In a small saute pan over medium heat, melt a tablespoon of butter, and gently sweat half of your pile of shallots for about 2 minutes. Don't char the little things, just let them soften up.
5. In a bowl, combine the raw ground lamb, the sauteed shallots with their butter, the raw shallots, the chiffonade herbs and a dash o' salt, pepper, and cumin. Combine well until the various elements are homogenized.
6. Heat a pan-preferably a heavy cast iron skillet- over a medium flame. While the pan heats, shape the lamb mixture into 12 small balls. Press them down lightly to make a mini burger shape.
7. Cook the sliders 6 at a time in the hot pan. Once placed on the pan, don't move the burgers for the first three minutes of cooking, so they can sear and not stick to the pan. Do not squash them with your utensil. It mashes all of the tasty tasty juices out of the burger.
8. Flip after three minutes, and cook for just another minute on the second side. These are meant to be eaten mid-rare to medium, and they are small, so please, no well-done sadness.
9. Slice the wee little challah buns and insert your baby lamb sliders. Top with 2 whole mint leaves and 2 whole oregano leaves.
10. Eat. You're welcome.
|The indispensable and deadly cast-iron skillet.|
|Photo l Felicia D'Ambrosio|
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