Showing posts with label gift. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gift. Show all posts

Friday, December 21, 2012

Recettes Secrètes: Fennel Mostarda

This recipe is a great way to use up the less desirable bits of a fennel bulb, stalks and all. It is delicious with a cheese plate, served on toasts, or in a sandwich. Can it and wrap it for an intriguing epicurean gift.

Fennel Mostarda

1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1 wineglass (5 oz) dry white wine
5 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons water
1 heaping tablespoon mustard seeds

In a saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat, simmering until fennel is softened and jam-like, about 15 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature. May be jarred and kept in the refrigerator for up to a week, or canned for shelf-stability.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Recettes Secrètes: Cranberry Shrub

Shrubs are all the rage, yet making them couldn't be easier. This fresh cranberry shrub syrup is festive and delicious simply mixed with sparkling water or in a cocktail.
Keep your loved ones current!

      Cranberry Shrub

1 cup water
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
3/4 cups red wine vinegar
peel of one lemon

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat, stir, cover and steep for 20 minutes. Press berries gently with the back of a wooden spoon to release juices. Strain through fine mesh and store in the refrigerator (or can for gift-friendly shelf stability).

Printable gift tag:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Recettes Secrètes: Apple Bitters

Top of my wish list this year is (once again, ah hem Santa) Brad Thomas Parsons' omnibus Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All, with Cocktails, Recipes, and Formulas. Luckily I was able to score this recipe last year even without the book and whipped up a batch of consumable giftage gold. Trust me, your whiskey drinking friends will thank you later.

Apple Bitters
by Brad Thomas Parsons

Peels from 6 medium to large (preferably organic) apples
Zest of half a lemon, cut into strips
2 Cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp allspice berries
1/4 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cassia chips
1/2 tsp cinchona bark*
4 cloves
2 cups high-proof bourbon
1 cup water
2 tbsp rich simple syrup (two parts sugar, one part water)

Place all of the ingredients except for the bourbon, water, and rich syrup in a quart-sized Mason jar or other large glass container with a lid. Pour in the 2 cups of bourbon, adding more if necessary so that all the ingredients are covered. Seal the jar and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 2 weeks, shaking the jar once a day.

After 2 weeks, strain the liquid through a cheesecloth-lined funnel into a clean quart-sized jar to remove the solids. Repeat until all of the sediment has been filtered out. Squeeze the cheesecloth over the jar to release any excess liquid and transfer the solids to a small saucepan. Cover the jar and set aside.

Cover the solids in the saucepan with the water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover the saucepan, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and let cool completely. Once cooled, add the contents of the saucepan (both liquid and solids) to another quart-sized Mason jar. Cover the jar and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 1 week, shaking the jar daily.

After 1 week, strain the jar with the liquid and solids through a cheesecloth-lined funnel into a clean quart-sized Mason jar. Repeat until all of the sediment has been filtered out. Discard the solids. Add this liquid to the jar containing the original bourbon solution.

Add the rich syrup to the jar and stir to incorporate, then cover and shake to fully dissolve the syrup.

Allow the mixture to stand at room temperature for 3 days. At the end of the 3 days, skim off any debris that floats to the surface and pour the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined funnel one last time to remove any solids.

Using a funnel, decant the bitters into smaller jars and label. If there’s any sediment left in the bottles, or if the liquid is cloudy, give the bottle a shake before using. The bitters will last indefinitely, but for optimum flavor use within a year.

*Can be ordered online through Tenzing Momo. Another great use for cinchona bark? Jeffrey Morgenthaler's Homemade Tonic Water.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Recettes Secrètes: Bacon Brittle and Pickled Okra

For the holidays this year I chained myself to the kitchen. I tried as much as possible to use homemade goods in place of store bought gifts. My main two projects were (of course inspired by the South) Pecan Bacon Brittle and Pickled Okra. Both went over quite well, so wanted to share the recipes, ma' dear readers.

Pecan Bacon Brittle
original recipe from Everything Tastes Better With Bacon
makes about 1 pound

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) chopped pecans
1/3 to 1/2 cup cooked bacon bits (6 to 8 ounces uncooked bacon)
Grease or butter
a large nonstick baking sheet

In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to a boil. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan, increase the heat to high, and cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 290 degrees. Immediately remove from the heat.

Stir in the butter, vanilla, baking soda, pecans and bacon bits. The mixture will foam. When the foam subsides, quickly pour the hot mixture onto the prepared baking sheet as thinly as possible. Do not spread with a spatula.

Cool at least 10 minutes before breaking into pieces. Store in a covered container.

Pickled Okra
original recipe from Alton Brown

2 pounds young, small to medium okra pods
4 small dried chiles, split in 1/2
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
12 sprigs fresh dill
4 cloves garlic, whole
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 cups rice wine vinegar
2 cups bottled water
Special Equipment: 4 pint-sized canning jars, sterilized*

Wash the okra and trim the stem to 1/2-inch. Place 1 chile, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, 3 sprigs of dill, 1 clove of garlic and 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns in the bottom of each of 4 sterilized pint canning jars. Divide the okra evenly among the 4 jars, standing them up vertically, alternating stems up and down.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the salt, vinegar and water to a boil. Once boiling, pour this mixture over the okra in the jars, leaving space between the top of the liquid and the lid. Seal the lids. Set in a cool dry place for 2 weeks.*Tips on Sterilizing Jars
Properly-handled sterilized equipment will keep canned foods in good condition for years. Sterilizing jars is the first step of preserving foods.

Sterilizing Tips:

Jars should be made from glass and free of any chips or cracks. Preserving or canning jars are topped with a glass, plastic, or metal lid, which has a rubber seal. Two piece lids are best for canning, as they vacuum seal when processed.

To sterilize jars, before filling with jams, pickles, or preserves, wash jars and lids with hot, soapy water. Rinse well and arrange jars and lids open sides up, without touching, on a tray. Boil the jars and lids in a large saucepan, covered with water, for 15 minutes.

Use tongs when handling the hot sterilized jars, to move them from boiling water. Be sure the tongs are sterilized too, by dipping the ends in boiling water for a few minutes.

As a rule, hot preserves go into hot jars and cold preserves go into cold jars. All items used in the process of making jams, jellies, and preserves must be clean. This includes any towels used, and especially your hands.

After the jars are sterilized, you can preserve the food. It is important to follow any canning and processing instructions included in the recipe and refer to USDA guidelines about the sterilization of canned products.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Recettes Secrètes: Holiday Canning

Every year 'round the holidays, I get a box in the mail that makes my season. It is generally filled with a couple of modest mason jars with handwritten labels. The fresh fruit butters, preserves and sauces filling these jars are always the most divine I've ever tasted. Nicole has never let me down! So for the holidays, I asked my favorite chef if she would share some of this year's secret recipes (and damn do they sound good!), and her canning tips. Without further ado, a gift to you, a guest blog by Nicole:
4 years ago, living at home due to a life I thought I could no longer handle, I decided the best therapy was to teach my self a new skill. I wish I could say my love of canning was passed down through the generations, but in reality I learned from the back of my mom's 70's copy of Betty Crocker. It took one giant batch of tomato sauce and enchilada sauce and I was hooked. Thus began my annual canning adventure. Last year's undertakings included salted caramel pear butter (a hit! But I gave the recipe away to someone who then canned it and passed it off as her own!) blackberry jam from berries I picked, port roasted plum, and quince. This year I've chosen 5 things (and that was narrowing it down), and I always do small enough batches so that everyone gets something different. Batch one was bourbon yam butter and roasted pear rosemary butter. I have the advantage of working in a commercial kitchen, which does make things easier, but it can be done at home! Here are some of my tricks:

1) Sterilize sterilize sterilize!!!! A dishwasher works really well, or else in the boiling canning liquid for 2 minutes. Everything goes in rings, seals and jars.
2) Wipe the edges down pre sealing (an extension of sterilizing)
3) Keep the water boiling!!
4) Use the right stuff (new seals always!)

I got my canning pot at a hardware store but have since potted a ton at thrift stores, it will ideally hold 9 jars and be pretty deep. I usually buy a new case of jars for each product and that includes all the pieces, but jars and rings can be reused, only the seals have to be changed and they are pretty cheap. Canned items will last years but these recipes will also keep 2 weeks tightly sealed in the fridge.
For more extensive canning procedures, you can check out the following in-depth articles:
Using Boiling Water Canners
Principles of Home Canning
(I find these a little TOO in-depth, but found this simple Sunset feature helpful)Bourbon Yam Butter:
5 yams
1/2 cup good quality bourbon
1/2 brown sugar
whole spices such as nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon sticks

1) fill canning pot with water and bring to a boil
2) roast yams in skin until soft
3) cool and peel yams and puree until very smooth in food processor
4) combine bourbon and spices, heat until boiling and then reduce or ignite if using a gas stove (this rapidly reduces and concentrates flavor )
5)combine yams, reduced,strained bourbon, and brown sugar in a large pot
6) cook until sugar melts and becomes incorporated
7) add the hot mixture to sterilized jars and wipe edges clean, place seals tightly on and then put rings on and tightened. place jars in boiling water and boil rapidly for 35 minutes adding water if necessary
8) remove from water and cool. when completely cool the center of each lid will be slightly depressed

Roasted Pear Rosemary Butter:
5 pears
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
5 sprigs rosemary

1) fill canning pot with water and bring to a boil
2) combine rosemary, sugar and water and cook until all sugar is dissolved, set aside
3) dice pears skin on and roast until golden brown
4) puree pears with rosemary simple syrup until smooth
5) cook mixture until hot
6) add the hot mixture to sterilized jars and wipe edges clean, place seals tightly on and then put rings on and tightened. place jars in boiling water and boil rapidly for 35 minutes adding water if necessary
7) remove from water and cool. when completely cool the center of each lid will be slightly depressed

Friday, December 18, 2009

Super Bon!: ChocoMeats' Holiday Gift Guide

I've been trying the past couple of years to get more creative with my holiday gifting... Focus on the concept of giving simple luxuries someone might not have thought of for themselves; Also each year focusing attention on homemade alternatives to overpriced store-bought goods. As everyone's pocket book gets a little smaller, here are some suggestions of great gifts starting at just $5.99.

For an inexpensive, simple but useful item that makes a statement, try the playful Animal House line of kitchen gadgets by Boston Warehouse. Their Monkey Peeler ($8) is becoming quite the celeb. $5.99 - $18.00

For the winelover, pick up one of Silverlake Wine's custom designed wine journals. These notebooks have pre-selected categories to ease the fear of the blank page. There is also plenty of space to indulge creativity. $12
For the connoisseur, enroll them in one of SW's wine clubs. The Front Table Club starts at just $25/month.

If you opt for simply a bottle of estate wine or small-batch liquor instead, wrap it in a charming single-bottle environmentally friendly 100% cotton reusable Maptote wine tote. $12

For the coffee drinker/design nut, give one [or a color palette set] of Pantone coffee mugs. Available at Show in Los Feliz (along with MANY other fine products). $14

My favorite glassware (that years later I still haven't bought myself!) are Heath Ceramics' wine punt glasses. Made from recycled wine bottles, these tumblers are both rustic and chic. $15 set/2

For the host, check out the book Forking Fantastic: Put The Party Back in Dinner Party by Zora O'Neill and Tamara Reynolds, two veterans of the New York food world showcasing their very best recipes and how to focus on the practical joys of down-to-earth entertaining at home.
$20 sale $15 at

For the chef with a sense of whimsy, give the gift of color with Pure Komachi 2 Series knives. A subsidiary of Shun, Komachi 2 pulls its weight in the knife world, impressing critics despite its playful aesthetic. The stainless-steel knives each feature a different colored non-stick blade that runs right through the handle.
All under $20! $6.99 - $19.99 each ($89.99 set)

Slow Food Nation by Carlo Petrini (with cover by Nikki McClure) outlines many different routes by which we may take back control of our food. The three central principles of the Slow Food plan are: food must be sustainably produced in ways that are sensitive to the environment, those who produce the food must be fairly treated, and the food must be healthful and delicious. Guidelines any true food lover should abide by! $20

For your favorite Russian baker, get these Matryoshka Measuring Cups ($28), available at Anthropologie. [I was originally going to featur this more modern/designy version by M-Cups ($12), but they seem to be sold out everywhere until the new year!]

For the serious cook, enhance their cookware collection sustainably with a piece of La Chamba black earthen cookware. La Chambaware is hand made earthenware pottery, keeping food moist as it cooks, and easy to clean. You can use it in the oven, directly on the stove top, and even in the microwave. Each piece is unique. No two pieces are identical. Available via La Chamba's website; A small selection is available at Kelly Green Design. from $34

A winsome design indulgence would be the Kippis Tray by Marimekko, Finland. This fetching pattern designed by Maija Louekari is actually fabric pressed into plywood, for a unique handmade effect. Available in NYC and online from Scandinavian Grace. Other Marimekko products available at Plastica and Reform School. $48

Or my personal favorite, the gift of food! Homemade liquor infusions are easy as pie, and an indulgent tasty gift. Make Rosemary Limoncello or Bourbon Pear Butter if you're feeling kitchen-crafty, otherwise go to one of these amazing shops and compile a basket of culinary delights:
the Mercantile
The Cheese Store of Silverlake
Joan's on Third
The Oaks Gourmet
The Alpine Village (Torrance, CA)
Galco's Soda Pop Stop (Stumped? Get a dozen bottles of rose flavored soda!)

Most importantly, have fun! Don't forget to enjoy the spirit of giving.

"No Chocolate for Xmas" illustration by Stuart Kolakovic

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Merry Recession: Gifts From Your Kitchen

If there has ever been "A year" in recent times for making gifts, this would have to be it. I've perused the magazines, websites and blogs and these are the batch of goodies I am whipping up for some lucky boys and girls this year.
Another tactic I am using this year is wrapping some of my favorite "Super Bon!" food items in festive cellophane as gifts. Most of these items are all under $10 and a fine addition to any food lover's cupboard.
(Note: Though it's now too late to start the limoncello in time for the holidays this year, BOY is it fun and easy - and a crisp delicious treat any time of the year, especially come summer!)

Rosemary Limoncello
(From Sunset Magazine, December 2007)
Italy's Amalfi Coast and adjoining Sorrento Peninsula are the regions most famous for this intensely lemony liqueur, traditionally served ice cold as an after-dinner drink. Here, it is enhanced with a subtle note of rosemary.
Prep and Cook Time: about 1 1/2 hours, plus at least 2 weeks and up to 80 days of infusing time. Notes: Either Meyer or Eureka lemons work in this recipe (the fragrant Meyer is especially good, though). To speed up the process, shorten the infusing time in steps 2 and 4 to 1 week each, and you'll have a fine although less intense liqueur. Limoncello keeps indefinitely in the freezer.
Makes 10 2/3 cups (ten 8.5-oz. bottles) (serving size: 1 oz.)

18 Meyer lemons, washed and dried
One 4-in. rosemary sprig, washed and dried
2 bottles (750 ml. each) 100-proof vodka, such as Stolichnaya
4 1/2 cups sugar

1. Peel lemons with a microplane or sharp peeler, taking only the zest (top layer) and avoiding any white pith. Put rosemary in a 1-gal. glass or ceramic container with a tight seal. Add zest to jar. (Juice the lemons and freeze for future use).
2. Pour 750 ml. vodka over rosemary and zest; seal container. Let sit undisturbed in a cool, dark place for 40 days.
3. In a saucepan, bring 5 cups water to a boil and add sugar. Cook, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Let sugar syrup cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
4. Pour syrup and remaining 750 ml. vodka over lemon-vodka mixture, stir, and seal container. Let sit in a cool, dark place for another 40 days.
5. Pour limoncello through cheesecloth into a large spouted pitcher and divide among gift bottles.

Ginger Sandwich Cookies
(From Food&Wine, December 2008)
World-renowned pastry chef Nick Malgieri adds a puckery note to his gingersnap cookies by sandwiching them with a fresh lemon cream.
Makes 20 three-inch sandwich cookies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (You'll have plenty of this around if you made the limoncello!)

Preheat the oven to 350° and position racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Make the cookies: In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and molasses. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until incorporated, scraping down the bowl.
Working in 2 batches, drop scant tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, 3 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 20 minutes, until risen and fallen and slightly firm; shift the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through for even baking. Let cool slightly, then transfer the parchment paper to racks and let the cookies cool completely. Bake the remaining cookies.
Make the filling: In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with the confectioners’ sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the lemon juice.
Arrange the cookies in pairs on a large work surface. Spoon or pipe 1 rounded tablespoon of the lemon filling onto the flat side of half of the cookies. Sandwich with the remaining cookies, pressing them together so the filling spreads to the edge.
The sandwich cookies can be stored in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper for up to 1 week.

DIY Flavored Pistachios
The beauty of pistachios are their diversity. So to flavor them, don't be afraid to get creative with the ingredients.. You're not limited to "chili-lemon". Bourbon-maraschino.. tequila-black pepper-lime.. salt & vinegar.. cayenne-clementine... (liquid) smoke-cinnamon!? Get nutty.
Start with bulk pistachios. First dry the nuts a little more than they are when you buy them. To do this, put them in a large pot in the oven on low heat for a few hours.
After that add about 1/2 cup of Kosher salt per 5 pounds of nuts, spices or liquors to season them, and then water to dissolve the spices (no water if liquor).
Let them soak for 2 or 3 days to absorb the flavors, agitating them at least once a day and adding more liquid or spices if the nuts dry. The nuts will be soggy after this.
Then roast them by putting them in an oven with as much surface area as possible in contact with the air and dehydrate them at about 150 - 200 deg for 4 - 5 hours. Then roast them at about 300 deg or slightly more for about 1/2 hour to 45 min.
It helps to spray them with olive oil, or butter. This brings out more nutty flavor.
ginger cookie photo by quentin bacon