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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Family's Recipes - Grandma Grace's Strawberry Dessert

When I asked Mr. Dwayne what he wanted for Father's Day, without hesitation, he said, "Raspberry Dessert!" What originated as Strawberry Dessert with Dwayne's Grandma Grace, has become a family tradition for three generations. (I'll proclaim four generations as soon as Madelyn makes it for her family! We'll have to wait a while for that.) When my husband and I started dating, this was the special occasion dessert. Pat always had baked goods on hand, but this was for special.

Bill told me that his mom, Grace, got this recipe from a neighbor when they lived on Beaver Dam Road in Cedar Hill in up state New York. He was 14 or 15 when she first made it. It was always made with strawberries until I came along and used raspberries. Mr. Dwayne now likes the raspberry version best. Bill, who likes to mix flavors whenever possible, converted to both strawberries and raspberries. I guess his can be called Mixed Berry Dessert. (We sometimes call him Mixmaster Bill.)

Here is Pat's original copy of the recipe. She lists 1 cup of frozen berries, but when I first saw her make it, she used one of those 10 oz. boxes of frozen sweetened strawberries with the juice. For the version I made, I used all of a 15 oz. bag of frozen raspberries and the liquid they released. They were not presweetened. The notes on the side indicate she may have used powdered sugar for part of the sugar.

This recipe calls for raw eggs. In the 60+ years that this family has been enjoying this dessert, no one has become ill from it. Now, salmonella is a greater concern due to factory farming processes. I'm always careful to use organic, free range eggs. These were purchased from the farmers' market from an employee of the egg farmer. Care in purchasing should keep you safe.

My crushing hammer.

Raspberry Dessert
1 package of sugar wafers, crushed
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1 package frozen raspberries with their juice
(can use fresh - one to two cups, according to your preference)

Line a large casserole dish with butter. Press half of the sugar wafer crumbs in the bottom of the dish. Set aside.

Separate the eggs. Whip the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add a third of the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.

Beat the egg yolks, adding 1/3 of the sugar. Continue to beat until they are thick and lemon colored.

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add the remaining third of the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.

Place the beaten egg whites, yolks, cream and raspberries into a large bowl and fold gently until combined. Pour over the sugar wafer crumbs in the prepared dish. Top with the remaining sugar wafer crumbs. Cover and freeze at least 4 hours. If freezing longer, allow to thaw slightly before serving.

Serves 6 at our house.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Miso Udon

It's been kind of a rough week. My husband's beloved Grandma Grace passed away last week. I've already shared her recipe for bread and rolls. I will share more of her recipes as we enjoy them. We are grateful that she had a long and happy life. Even at 93, she was still baking pies and other goodies for her friends and neighbors. These past few years her daughter, Sharen, has helped her with the baking. While we miss her, we are also grateful that she passed into rest after a brief illness rather than a long one. My heart knows she has been welcomed home.

Because we've been so busy and work has been so stressful, I haven't done much cooking. I have some big cooking (and eating) plans for the weekend. I currently have homemade green apple pectin reducing on the stove and mulberries in my freezer. I'm also hoping for more cherries or strawberries at the farmers' market tomorrow. I love the scheming, anticipatory part of preserving!

For now, I'm sharing one of our comfort foods. It is easy-peasy, cheap and tasty. The proportions are really up to you, so my recipe will resemble instructions more than a structured recipe.

Miso Udon
1 quart box chicken broth
1 packet of fresh udon noodles
2 cups cooked, boneless, skinless chicken pieces
about 1 lb. of bok choy or baby bok choy
1 heaping tbsp. white miso (or more per your taste - this ends up being about 3 tbsp. for me)
3 sliced green onions

Place the broth in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Add the noodles, chicken and bok choy. Simmer for a few minutes, until the bok choy is done to your liking. Stir in the miso, sprinkle with green onions and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Marinated Tri-Tip

I'll start right away by saying that the reason this dish came out so well is our friend and GM Extraordinaire, Mark. In this case GM stands for both Game Master and Grill Master. I threw together the marinade and gave him woefully inaccurate instructions as to cooking times, but he saved the day.

This dish is one of those examples of how the most simple ingredients can add up to an outstanding dish with proper care. This hunk-o-tri-tip fed four of us with lots left over.

Marinated Tri-Tip

1 beef tri-tip, about 3 lbs.

1 1/2 cups red wine

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. cracked black pepper

2 fat cloves of garlic, crushed.

Combine all ingredients except the tri-tip and stir to dissolve the salt. Wash, dry the tri-tip and poke it all over with a small knife - about every two inches. (I only had a brief time to marinade and used these little holes to help the flavor come into the meet.) Place the marinade and meat into a bowl or zip-lock bag. If using a bowl, use a plate or other weight to insure the meat is submerged. Allow to marinate at least 1 hour.

Prepare a grill and allow the coals to come to a medium-low heat. The coals should be white. Grill the meat, turning occasionally, until the internal temperature reaches 135-140 (medium). (This is where Mark's expertise came into play - we had no thermometer and he was eye-balling it and did a fantastic job!) Remove from heat and allow to rest 15-20 minutes. Slice thin and enjoy!

Now, break out those grills and enjoy summer!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Strawberry, Lemon and Ginger Jam

Paired with goat cheese.

You may have noticed that I am a little vague about my actual canning methodology. I have posted a link to the USDA home preserving web site and they have the latest information on safety practices that are tested and approved. Problem is, people have been preserving food for millenia without the mod cons we enjoy today. When I began to read about botulism, I was appalled! I had been canning plum and pineapple jam for years and giving it as gifts and (apparently) it was potentially unsafe! My mom taught me that if you sterilize the jars, lids and equipment and the jam is boiling and the jars seal, it's fine. Turns out this is true for high acid jams and jellies with plenty of sugar to help preserve them. I was fascinated to learn that as late as the early 20th century jams were simply covered with oil cloth. That is why we still see gift jars decorated with fabric tied over the lid. I'm grateful to have so many historical cookbooks that offer insight into the ways foods were preserved before the USDA was even invented.

I'm glad for the information I've learned about food safety. I don't want anyone to get so much as an owie tummy from my preserves. But I also want to keep an open mind. My botulism paranoia nearly caused me to bypass a beautiful book created by a woman who tested her processes for 10 years. I'm talking about The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders. I had browsed her book at the book store and thought, "Oh my, she uses copper pots! Isn't that reactive? Is copper good for you?" Also, "Wow! She's processing her jars in the oven, not in the boiling water bath? Is that safe? Is that approved?" (Picture Rabbit from Winnie-the-Pooh wringing his hands as you read these worrisome questions.) When my friend Katy asked me if I had heard of Blue Chair, I said, "Oh yes, but her methods are controversial." (Clearly, they are not controversial enough to concern her local health department! )

What made me change my mind? I saw Rachel Saunders on a Cooking Channel show. I saw her passion for her creations. I saw her respect for the fruit. I saw that she knew what she was talking about! I also learned that many of her approaches were shaped by the time she lived in France. I realized, with some chagrin, that I had been programmed to obey the USDA without question. Don't get me wrong, they offer dependable information that will keep you safe. But, there is a whole world of people who grow, prepare, preserve and eat food without the benefit of the USDA. I must not dismiss methods or ideas out of hand simply because they do not fall under the USDA guidelines.

I have since purchased and used Ms. Saunder's superb book. It is filled with beautiful and useful photographs that illuminate the steps of jam and jelly making. The information is sophisticated and thorough. Even though it looks like a coffee table book, I think it would be an excellent book for a beginner.

This Strawberry, Lemon and Ginger Jam is adapted from Blue Chair's recipe for Strawberry-Rose Geranium Jam. I used the same proportions and methods, but substituted 1/3 cup (packed) of chopped candied ginger for the rose geranium flowers. She doesn't list lemon in the title, but I think the lemon flavor is quite forward and so chose to include it. The bright strawberry color and aroma are enhanced by the lemon and the ginger adds a warm finish.

Strawberry, Lemon and Ginger Jam
4 lbs. hulled strawberries
2 1/2 lbs. sugar
7 oz. lemon juice
1/3 cup finely diced candied ginger (packed)

Day 1
Place the strawberries, lemon juice, ginger and sugar in a large non-reactive bowl and stir. Cover and store in the fridge overnight. Stir occasionally.

Day 2
Prepare jars and lids and boiling water bath- I wash them and all my equipment in very hot soapy water in a very clean sink. I then place the jars on a cookie sheet and place them in a preheated 250 degree oven for at least 20 minutes. I prepare the lids by placing the lids inside the rings and putting them in a sauce pan. I cover them with water and place them on the stove on the lowest flame.

Place a saucer with several teaspoons in the freezer. (This is one of her methods that I will now adopt. I had been spooning the jam onto saucers from the freezer, but I like this spoon method better.)

Transfer the strawberry mixture to a large sauce pot. Use the largest one you have because this jam will foam a lot! Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat slightly, but continue a vigorous boil and stir frequently to prevent sticking on the bottom. Keep a close watch to prevent boil-over from the foam. Place a thermometer in the jam and as the temp approaches 220 degrees, the foam should subside and the jam should appear darker and more glossy. Begin to test for set. Reduce heat and scoop a small spoonful of jam out with one of the spoons from the freezer. Place the spoon back in the freezer for a few minutes. When the jam has cooled, test the texture. If it does not run easily off the spoon and mounds up when you push it, it is done. If it is not ready yet, increase the heat and boil for a few minutes more and repeat the test.

When the jam is ready, remove it from the heat and skim any remaining foam. Allow the jam to cool for about 5 minutes and stir gently to distribute the fruit. Use a funnel to ladle the jam into the hot jars. Wipe the rims and cover with the lids and rings. Do not over tighten the lids. Carefully place in the boiling water bath and process for 10 minutes. Remove to a towel lined tray and allow to cool overnight. The next day, check the seals and label. Makes about 8 half-pints.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Random Food Fridays - Braised Radish Greens Hash

Eat vegetables for breakfast!

One of the things I like best about cooking is that I never seem to run out of discovery. I don't always succeed, but there's always something new to try and innumerable combinations of well known foods. This delicious dish arose out of my inability to garden very well. Like many things in life, I often enjoy the activity of gardening more than the outcome.
I have a little back yard with a few little garden patches. I try to place the few little patches of garden in the few little patches of sun that my back yard gets. This year I had about three square feet of radishes in two little rows. Radishes are so rewarding. They are the first to make an appearance from seed. Somehow, seeing those little baby dicot leaves peeking up makes me feel like a better gardener than I am. They are alive at my invitation and I've made a little home for them.

As you can see my radishes are a bit bushy. So far, I have only obtained one radish root in the customary spherical shape. I keep waiting for the rest of them to plump up, but, not so much. My friend Paula (who has a fabulous garden and very happy chickens) suggested that I clip back the greens to encourage root development. I gave it a try, but still, no orbs. However, I ended up with a giant flower vase of radish greens. I thought, I like greens. Maybe these are good. I took a bite and thought, A little pokey, but good green flavor. I didn't know how to treat them, so I began to ask around the interwebs. Tigress and her fans set me on the right course - braised with an egg on top. I thought potatoes would be a natural addition and they were. This hash is soft and creamy as opposed to crispy. I advise soft eggs as well. Poached would be nice, but I opted for gently cooked over-easy.
No orbital condition here.

Braised Radish Greens Hash
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
A very large bunch of radish greens - roughly the size of a dozen roses!
2 cups cubed new potatoes
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

To prepare radish greens, wash thoroughly. Remove tough stems. I held the stem end and zipped the leaves off the end. Do be careful though - there are tiny spines on the stems. Roughly chop the leaves.

Heat a large pan over a medium-low flame. Add the olive oil, onion slices and minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper. After about 5 minutes, add the greens and potatoes. Stir to coat with the oil. Add the broth and simmer gently until the greens are tender. Mine took about 20 minutes, but my radish greens were pretty darn mature. Check for seasoning. Serve with soft eggs. Mine made four generous servings.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Asparagus Pickles

There won't be a Random Food Friday this week because I'm going for a Big Girl's Weekend with my beloved daughter Madelyn. It will be three days of Bay Area food and art. Tomorrow night we're doing the Art Murmur, which is Oakland's version of Sacramento's Second Saturday Art Walk. We haven't done this in about three years and it's long over due. While I'm away having fun, I offer pickled asparagus for your consideration.

These were served at an exciting night of gaming last Saturday. The feedback was a unanimous thumbs-up, with requests for more for the express purpose of stirring bloody marys.
One of the things I learned from this first attempt is that I'd like to make them longer. Four and half inches seems longish for a pickle, but it's positively stumpy for asparagus. I will be seeking out some wide mouth jars that hold more than a pint. I did use the bottom end to make asparagus pickle chunks. It seemed the sensible thing to do. I think they will fabulous chopped into an egg salad.
I made two jars with red pepper flakes and two without. Next time, it is all red pepper flakes all the time. For these pickles, I put the flavorings in each jar, along with the asparagus, then poured the hot brine over. As usual, I had some brine left over. Not the worst thing that can happen. They are not exactly crunchy, but nor are they soggy. They are highly seasoned tender-crisp spears of goodness. Enjoy!

Asparagus Pickles
4 bunches of asparagus, about 5 lbs.
4 large cloves of garlic, split and peeled
4 sprigs of fresh dill
2 cup white vinegar
6 cups water
1/3 cup pickling salt
1 tsp. whole black pepper corns
1 tsp. dill seed
1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Start a boiling water bath. Prepare 4 wide mouth pint jars and lids.

Add the vinegar, water and salt to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Set aside.

Wash and trim the asparagus to fit into your jars with 1/4 inch head space. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch prepared asparagus for 10 seconds (no more!) and remove to ice water to cool. This helps set the color. Once cool, drain.

When the jars have been sterilized, measure 1/4 tsp. each black pepper corns, dill seed and red pepper flakes into each. Tightly pack the asparagus tips into the jars, inserting the dill weed about halfway through. (If you wish, make use of the asparagus ends as I did.) Pour the hot brine over the asparagus. Wipe the rims and close the jars. Process in the boiling water bath 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let stand 5 minutes before carefully removing the jars to a towel lined tray. Do not disturb until cool and the seals have formed.