January 7, 2013 § 27 Comments
On a lark, we drove to down to the Gulf Coast of Florida for a few days between Christmas & New Years. It was cold, windy, rainy at times. Much like the North Sea or the Atlantic, the waves were high, the sky dramatic, the wind blustery and constant. One of my favorite things is “wild weather”, bundling up and walking on the beach…snuggling inside and reading books long anticipated while subliminally plotting good things to cook at my leisure…Beach food like Gulf Shrimp & Pasta, Steamed Shrimp in their shells with a loaf of good bread & softened butter….Seafood from the Gulf, freshly caught & simply prepared.
Adapted from a recipe I pulled up on my Ipad from Epicurious (Bouillabaisse, Simplified) here is my recipe for “Bouillabaisse on the Beach”.
1 red onion sliced , 2 garlic cloves crushed, a few pieces of fresh orange peel, olive oil, 1 large can whole tomatoes with juice, 1 can seafood stock, 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley chopped, kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
Seafood: Red Snapper, Mussel & Clams scrubbed clean, Scallops, Shrimp with tails
1. Saute onions & garlic in olive oil in a large pot until softened & aromatic over med-hi heat. Toss in orange peel.
2. Add in tomatoes, seafood stock + 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, turn to simmer. Let cook for about 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile cut fish into large chunks & toss into the pot. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add in the shrimp & scallops & simmer 2 minutes. Add mussels & clams & simmer about 4-5 minutes until shells begin to open. Taste broth and adjust with salt & pepper to your liking.
4. Serve in bowls liberally sprinkled with chopped parsley and a loaf of crusty bread for sopping up the broth.
A Little Beach Gallery:
December 25, 2012 § 18 Comments
2012 has been a dramatic year with lots of ups and downs. I try my best to focus on the “ups”, but with compassion for others I also have to embrace & remember the “downs” which includes much suffering for so many others.
Let us hope that 2013 is a kinder, gentler year.
My best wishes to you all….
and a little gift to help you stay organized….
During the year I create small business-card size collage pieces using images cut from cooking magazines, decorating magazines, newspapers & adding drawings using Sharpies and paint pens. This is what I do when I am watching TV. I cannot just sit and watch. I must have busy hands. That is just my way of relaxing.
This is my little gift to you readers & friends. Just look to the left of my Food on Fifth Blog Home Page and click on the images in the “Box” to download and print. Each image has to be downloaded one at a time and saved to your computer. Then print adjusting size.These images work best if printed about 5 x 7 or 4 x 6 and on card stock or matt photo paper. Any heavier paper works great.Just trim using scissors or a paper cutter. I keep them in a metal clip hanging by my desk. Feel free to print and pass on as New Year’s gifts to friends.
happy new year
December 15, 2012 § 17 Comments
I have a front hall closet where one can find many things “brewing”. It is a veritable laboratory for making Limoncello, Blood Orangecello, Poire William & Vanilla Extract. It is the gifting time of year and what better gift to bestow on fellow cooks than a bottle of homemade vanilla extract?
The only tricky part is planning ahead. I started this batch a few months ago, every so often stopping by to give it a shake. Otherwise it just sat in the dark steeping…getting darker by the week. It is as “easy as this”…..
It’s December 15 and it is time…to decant, label & do a little gift-giving.
1 liter of vodka, about 10-15 vanilla beans split & a few months
1. Place split vanilla beans down into bottle of vodka. Replace lid & shake. Place in dark closet or cabinet & shake about once a week. I waited 6 months to decant. I started this batch in July. Every week the extract darken and gets a richer looking color.
2. Decant carefully into glass bottles that have been sterilized in boiling water & air-dried. Add a tight-fitting lid. (My extract was very “clean” so I did not strain it, but you can add this step if you have lots of particulates in the liquid.
(There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of recipes on the internet for making your own vanilla extract. My recipe is easy but there are many other good easy recipes available that might suit you better…or make up your own.)
I made labels with a simple roller alphabet stamp (on-line/Paper Source) & plain brown tags. I “sealed” the top of the bottles with sticky backed decorative tape (Martha Stewart at Michaels).
I know that for the most part Vanilla should be stored in dark bottles, but as most folks keep their extracts in a cabinet or pantry I used these pretty clear bottles I already had. You can also find a large assortment of dark bottles at The Container Store if you prefer.
…make it, bake it…give it this Holiday….it’s “easy as that”
November 28, 2012 § 19 Comments
“Drinkable Food”…beautiful beet juice cocktail with pear & star anise garnish….
In a few days it will be December….D-e-c-e-m-b-e-r! November went by in a flash. I remember returning from a trip to Mexico…lots of food styling shoots…and the last Third Thursday Dinner Party of the year…and…oh, yeah…Thanksgiving. If anything could send you running to the home bar I believe November would be it. The need for a very deep red, but somewhat wholesome cocktail comes to my mind this time of year. A cocktail that will give you vitamins & minerals while creating a sense of well-being & unreality! Basically a perfect cocktail to fortify one for what is to come between now and the New Year. A cocktail perfect for a party small or large.
“Drinkable Food” recipe for Good Health & Mental Fortification for the Holidays (makes 2 quarts)
1. Make a simple syrup using 1 1/2 cup water, 5 or 6 whole star anise & 1 cup dark brown sugar. Bring water & sugar to a low boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Toss in star anise and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes until mixture is syrupy. Remove from heat. Set aside to cool completely.
Strain mixture to remove star anise. Put in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and chill until ready to use.
2. Peel 3 medium size fresh beets. Chop into large chunks. Puree using a food processor. You will probably have to work in batches.
3. Strain pureed beets over a bowl, pressing pulp with a wooden spoon to release most of the juice. Don’t toss out that beet pulp! Fresh beet pulp is great in breads & cakes. See Nigel Slater’s Book “Tender” or wait for my next blog to see how to make a killer chocolate cake using beet pulp. Freeze the pulp.
As with most of my cocktail recipes this one is not an exact science project, but more a mix & taste project until I hit the “sweet spot”. Is there any color of red more delicious than fresh beet juice? I think not.
4. I had about 3 cups of beet juice when all my beets were pureed & pressed. To this juice I added 1 cup of the Star Anise & Moscovado Sugar Simple Syrup…
…..1.5 liter pure apple juice…..
….and 1.5 cups Bulleit Rye Whiskey.
Taste & adjust to your liking. Decant into glass jars with tight-fitting lids. Chill until ready to drink.
Add a label…or not. Great over ice with a star anise & slice of pear to garnish. Get ready, get fortified!
It’s almost December….get your red on!
November 15, 2012 § 30 Comments
“Nirvana in a Bowl”
One Butternut Squash & a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula are the main ingredients for this soup recipe.
One was left languishing on my kitchen counter after a photo shoot, the other was where I secreted off to, to do some personal languishing…a geographical place I love for all that it is. No phones, no television, no blogging…nada. Beaches, hammocks on porches, intriguing & delicious New World food combinations, & quiet, absolute quiet except for the soft swish of palm trees & waves.
All this Nirvana was punctuated by eating, which for me is nirvana. One night my friend, Terry, and I went to a small beach restaurant, “Tabanos”, in Tulum where we encountered some very sublime culinary combinations. Very-not-touristy dishes using traditional ingredients in some very surprising ways.
This is their menu board. I wanted to order everything. We tried!
The first sopa/soup on the menu I ordered. Creamy soup with tomatoes & papaya and the very unexpected addition of vanilla extract. Nirvana in a bowl!
Here is my recipe inspired by the above using my re-discovered Butternut Squash & pure Mexican Vanilla extract.
Silky Squash Soup with Vanilla:
1 Winter Squash, 2 garlic cloves, 1 onion, 3 carrots – peeled & cut into large pieces
2 teaspoons ground cumin, sea salt & black pepper, olive oil
3 tbsps Kerrygold butter (or any other good quality butter), 1 quart chicken stock
1 cup Lite Coconut Milk, I cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons pure Mexican Vanilla Extract
Spread vegetables out on a baking sheet lined with parchment, sprinkle ground cumin, salt & black pepper over all, drizzle with olive oil & toss. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes until vegs are softened.
Melt butter in a stock pot. Add roasted vegetables & chicken stock. Bring to a boil & simmer 3o minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.
Put soup into a blender (work in batches if necessary) and blend until silky & smooth. Return to pan. Reheat on low & stir in coconut milk & yogurt until well blended.
Right before serving add a generous splash of pure Vanilla extract. Stir and serve soup hot with some crusty bread. Pure, high quality Mexican Vanilla extract is not inexpensive, but a little goes a long way. It adds a hint of creamy, spicy & sweet to make this one bueno soup.
Back in Nashville, very wintry & a bit gloomy. I made this soup. Wouter & I had it for a late lunch. Things were much brighter and cozy…the creaminess without cream, the warm vanilla aroma… Nirvana in a bowl.
Both Butternut Squash & Vanilla are New World foods indigenous to Mexico. If you do not have or cannot find Mexican pure vanilla extract then use whatever you have. There are good quality Mexican vanilla extracts readily available online from King Arthur Flour & Williams Sonoma among many other sites.
This is a perfect soup to start off a Thanksgiving dinner. Leftover soup just gets better.
When in doubt…eat soup.
October 19, 2012 § 12 Comments
….just a bit for my hot cup of tea..not too much…just a demitasse spoonful….that’s all.
How, as a Southerner, can I not like a little sugar? You other Southerners know what I mean. “Give me some sugah” being said to you as a child most often from some of your favorite Aunts & Grandmothers. Not literally “sugar”, but “sugah” which we all know means a kiss…as in “come over here honey and give Aunt Ruth some sugah”. So it is no wonder that many of us have a bit of a sweet tooth. We like our tea sweet, our cakes & pies a bit over the top and question those who do not.
I take a New Southern approach to “sugah”…a little bit goes a long way and if it is an interesting & somewhat exotic sugar flavored with vanilla beans, ginger or lemon grass then it must be better for me when I stir a very wee amount into a hot cup of tea. Yes?
“My Very Little Recipes for Aromatic & Flavored Sugars for Beverages & Desserts”
#1. Brown Sugar Cubes Scented with Candied Ginger
Fill a glass jar loosely with brown sugar cubes & toss in a handful of candied ginger pieces. Shake well, add tight-fitting lid. After a week or so your scented sugar is ready for a hot cup of strong black tea.
#2. Lavender & Lemon White Sugar
Into a glass jar filled with white sugar add a few stems of air-dried lavender & fresh lemon peels. Add tight-fitting lid & shake jar every few days. After a week or so the aromas & flavors will meld into a very delicate lemon sugar with hints of lavender. Very good with an Earl Grey tea or sprinkled over shortbread cookies.
#3. Coconut Palm Sugar with Star Anise & Green Cardamom Pods
Combine 1 tablespoon of slightly crushed cardamom pods & a few star anise with a generous cup of coconut palm sugar for a wonderfully earthy sugar. Put int0 a jar with tight-fitting lid, shake often for a week or so allowing the sugar to become aromatic. I like this sugar with hot tea as well as cold tea over ice cubes.
#4. Very Vanilla Bean Raw Sugar
Not so unusual but oh-so-perfect with afternoon tea and a good book. Cut vanilla bean carefully down the length, open up to reveal beans and stick into a jar of raw sugar. Shake & leave covered for a couple of weeks before using. When you open the lid for the first time the scent is amazing. The perfect topping for a fruit tart or to make sugar-butter toast.
#5. Caster Sugar Scented with Fresh Lemon Grass
Add a few stalks of fresh lemon grass cut into pieces to this superfine cane sugar for a few days, shaking often to keep sugar from clumping, for a delightful sugar that is great dusted over pancakes or cookies or stirred into hot lemon-zinger tea.
#6. Swedish Pearl Sugar with Cinnamon & Nutmeg
Readily available at most supermarkets in their international food aisle, I have always loved the way it looks, but really never knew what to do with it. I bought some, added a partially grated whole nutmeg & a couple of cinnamon sticks and was loving the aroma immediately. I think I will use this to decorate some simple cocoa sugar cookies for the holidays.
This blog was inspired by my collection of sugars from around the world. I found some of them while traveling, some were given to me as gifts and some I found in local international markets. Palm Sugar from Malaysia & Cambodia, White Pearl Sugar from Sweden, Rock Candy Sugar from China, Basterd Sugar from the The Netherlands, Dark Muscovado from the Mauritius, Panela from El Salvador & Piloncillo Sugar from Mexico, as well as Turbinado, White & Caster.
“Be sweet & make every sip count”
September 26, 2012 § 18 Comments
I love soft creamy butter….
I have very vague memories of my grandmother on the back porch of her house using a churn to make fresh butter. At times I think I just imagined this image. Other times I am sure it is a true image from early childhood. In late summer this same crockery was used to make pickles. A tallish ceramic crock with slices of cucumbers, vinegar and spices. It is the butter churning that I remember the best. A few years ago before my Mother died I asked her about this memory & she verified that it was very much a true memory.
I never considered making my own butter. I just buy my favorite Kerrygold butter at the supermarket. Recently I had quite a bit of fresh, local cream left over from a photo shoot, as I am not one to be overly crazy about cream in general, I thought of making fresh butter, which I am crazy about. I found lots of how-to recipes on-line. All of them simple & easy. In fact so simple & easy I wondered why I had not made butter before.
Here is a modern recipe for making butter. No churning necessary! It is Easy as This….
For 3 to 4 sticks of homemade butter you will need:
2 pints of fresh cream
a food processor & some cheesecloth
fresh herbs & sea salt for the dressed-up version
1. Pour fresh cream into a food processor.
2. Process cream for about 10-15 minutes. The first wonderful stage happens about halfway through the process…the most beautifully whipped cream I have ever seen. This is how I shall make perfect whipped cream in the future.
3. Keep an eye on the action in the processor. Soon after the whipped cream stage, like magic, the butter will separate from the whey. Turn off the processor.
4. Pour whey & butter through a cheese cloth lined sieve sitting over a bowl. The butter will remain in the cheesecloth. The whey will run off into the bowl. Bunch the cheesecloth up around the butter & twist to squeeze out most of the remaining liquid. Butter…dreamy…creamy butter ready for spreading, smearing & melting.
5. I pressed half of my butter into “sticks”, wrapped in wax paper & tied up with string for later use.
6. Into the second half I stirred herbs from my garden & some sea salt to spread on crusty slices of bread, add to a baked potato or to season homemade croutons for a salad.
As I was making this butter I thought of my Grandmother…. about how hard much of life was for her. She made butter, had a garden, chickens to care for, a large family to feed…just what she & her generation of rural, Southern women did. No complaints. My batch of butter took under 15 minutes…made for an urban household where everything is comparatively easy..no large family to feed..made not as a necessity, but simply for the pleasure of the act. It really was as “easy as that”.