The Pudding Pledge (Salted Butterscotch Pudding)

Dear Readers,

I invite you to take the following pledge with me.

OK raise your right hand:

I (insert name), being of sound mind, do solemnly swear that I will never buy pudding in a plastic cup or powdered box mix again. I hereby acknowledge that making pudding from scratch is incredibly easy and with very little work I will create something that is far superior in flavor and texture to prepackaged pudding and pudding mixes.

Seriously, once you start making pudding from scratch you will wonder why you ever bought it pre-made before. One of my favorite recipes of all time  is the butterscotch pudding recipe from the no deceased Gourmet Magazine (RIP, may its memory be a blessing to generations of foodies). It’s not overly sweet like butterscotch puddings you may have had in the past; rer it has a deeper, more complex almost caramel like flavor. It’s a tried and true recipe, but after having that amazing experience at Sweet Cheeks in Boston, where they topped their pudding with salted caramel, I decided to attempt a salted version of Gourmet’s butterscotch pudding.

Salted Butterscotch Pudding

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar; tightly packed
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Fleur De Sel
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 Tablespoons SALTED butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In heavy bottomed medium pot whisk together sugar, cornstarch and Fleur De Sel. Then whisk in milk and cream.

Hey, who you calling heavy bottomed!

Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat; whisking frequently. Then boil for one minute; whisking constantly.

You can see and feel the pudding thicken up.

Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.

Pour into storage bowl or container.

Luscious

If you don’t want a skin to form, cover surface of pudding with a piece of buttered wax paper. I’m sort of skin neutral, but went skinless this time.

Skin protection, like SPF for your pudding

Chill until cold; at least 2 hours. Serve with extra Fleur De Sel sprinkled on top. Serves 4.

Extreme close up!

Tip: To determine how much salt to use, taste your butter first. Not all salted butter have the same level of salty-ness. I’d also suggest being conservative with your salt in the actual pudding since you can always sprinkle more in after the fact.

Enjoy!

Sharing the Table of Plenty

If you care about sustainability — the capacity to endure — it’s time to expand our definition to include workers. You can’t call food sustainable when it’s produced by people whose capacity to endure is challenged by poverty-level wages.

Bittman is at it again- forcing us to rethink our constructs of food and justice. Here at Sharing the Table, we’ve brought forth issues such as affordability, food deserts, obesity, genetically modified organisms, taxation of unhealthy food products, volatile price swings, fracking, local and international policies, and more. Admittedly, we have not delved into the issue of restaurant workers, their wages, and their rights.

How prophetic the message…it’s time to expanding our understanding of sustainability.

 

 Source: The 20 Million NYTimes Article

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I is for… Iran. Mid East Peace in My Belly

Flag of Iran

I attended a private Jewish day school from nursery school through 6th grade. Every once in a while to celebrate things like Israeli Independence Day or other special occasions we’d have Israeli food. Well, everyone else would have Israeli food while I ate a sandwich.

Israeli food is very similar to other middle eastern cuisine and middle eastern food is maybe even more dangerous to me than Asian cuisine. Between the sesame and lentils, the pistachios and figs, the dates and walnuts; it is a food allergy mine field for me. So, other than a delicious serving of plain couscous I nibbled on the food from my lunch bag while my classmates savored their falafel and humus and halva.

Then last year I stumbled on an amazing Libyan recipe. It was a lamb, olive and carrot casserole (it’s actually the photo in my banner on the top of this blog). I can’t tell you how excited I was to find a middle eastern dish that I wouldn’t have to modify at all to make. I was even more excited that it turned out to be delicious. Still this is recipe was an exception and most middle eastern dishes are still impossible for me to eat.

Another exception is Tah Chin, a baked rice and chicken dish from Iran. I did try to find an Israeli recipe, mostly so I’d have a good story to tell, but didn’t find any that would be safe for me. The Tah Chin though, required no modifications and I’ve been really anxious to get to “I” and try it.

Tah Chin

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken; cooked and shredded (you can use leftover or store bought rotisserie if you’d like)
  • 3 cups basmati rice
  • Salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 8-10 oz yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron (or saffron threads crushed and steeped in hot water)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 Tablespoons butter plus more for dotting

Rinse rice a few times until water runs clear. Cover with water by about an inch. Add salt. Bring to a boil uncovered then turn down the heat, cover and let simmer for 6-7 minutes. At this point the rice should be about half-cooked; soft on the outside, but still a bit hard on the inside.

Remove rice from heat and allow to cool a bit for easier handling.

Preheat oven to 350.

In separate bowl beat 3 egg yolks. Add rice, saffron and yogurt and mix thoroughly. You want enough yogurt that the rice begins to bind together, but not so much that the rice is wet.

I love how the saffron turns the rice such a beautiful color

Remove one-third of mixture and set aside. Stir raisins in to remaining two-thirds.

Cut a round of parchment paper and place at the bottom of a 4-6 quart dutch oven. Over medium heat melt butter. When butter is melted coat the sides of the pot as well (tip: use the leftover scraps of parchment paper to spread the butter). Reduce heat to low

Place the rice and raisin mixture in the pot, pressing down so it covers the bottom of the pot. Press the middle down in to a well and place the chicken on top.

Cover with remaining rice mixture and dot with butter. Cover with lid and leave on the stove top for 5 minutes. This will help the crust start to form.

Move covered dish to the oven and cook for an hour and a half.

Place an inverted plate on top of the pot and, using pot holders, flip the pot over allowing the Tah Chin to unmold on to the plate.

Unmolded perfectly

Slice like a cake to serve.

Serves 6-8

FINAL VERDICT: B

I really enjoyed this dish. It looks absolutely beautiful with the rich brown color on the outside and the vibrant yellow on the inside. The texture is also wonderful; crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

Dinner

I kept this recipe pretty basic, but I also saw some versions that called for the addition of sautéed onions with the kitchen and some that marinated the chicken in a yogurt sauce too. Next time I would definitely try one or both of those things to add more flavor, but overall this is a satisfying and comforting dish. This is also a dish that would be great if I was hosting people as the presentation is really dramatic.

BONUS RECIPE

I had some leftover yogurt and I’d recently heard about a savory Persian yogurt drink, Doogh, so I thought why not make a glass to enjoy with my Persian feast. I Googled for a recipe and used it to figure out the proportion of yogurt to seltzer and then just eyeballed the rest of it.

Doogh

  • 1 part yogurt
  • cumin to taste
  • dried mint to taste
  • honey to taste
  • 2 parts seltzer

Mix together yogurt, cumin, mint and honey. Top with seltzer. Stir. Serve Ice cold.

Make sure there’s plenty of room in your glass, the seltzer will fizz up when you stir it

This drink was delicious and so refreshing. Since I know this is supposed to be savory I went light on the honey and this was not at all sweet so it’s not for everyone, but for a savory gal like me it was perfect. As I said above, the Tah Chin would be a great dish to serve for a group and I’d love to serve a big pitcher of Doogh on the side. Maybe one of these days I’ll have to host a Persian party.

I Done Gone Strawberry Crazy!

As it is my deeply held belief that strawberries are the greatest food on earth (and likely in the whole universe), I make sure to buy some every single week when they’re in season at the farmer’s market. Yesterday, at my lunchtime visit to the market, I went strawberry cray-zay! I saw those sweet smelling, luscious red, heart shaped globes of amazingness in front of me and instead of buying my usually pint of strawberries I bought a quart!

Much as I love strawberries and will happily eat them every day, as soon as I was back in my office I knew I’d made a mistake. Stupidly I hadn’t even bought rhubarb so that I could make a quick compote. I have a wedding to attend this weekend and so had no intention of baking either. What to do, what to do?

Then sitting on my couch last night watching Bravo’s Top 20 Real Housewives Reunion Moments show PBS it hit me; Strawberry Balsamic Sauce! It’s incredibly easy to make and really versatile. You can drizzle it on vanilla ice cream or scoop it on a simple pork loin. It’s also super simple to cater to your own personal tastes; add more sugar if you like it sweeter (or if your strawberries aren’t that sweet) or more vinegar if you like more of a tang.

Cooking away

Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

  • About 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Throw everything in to a pot and gently boil for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Yes, it’s that simple and so so delicous. If you’re serving it over ice cream or with pound cake I’d suggest grabbing some fresh basil, slicing into chiffonades and sprinkling on top.

Good on pretty much everything

Enjoy!

Lincoln Ristorante

This is what awesomeness looks like.

This is the ticket my waiter received when my parents and I had Father’s Day dinner. Matt, our ridiculously awesome amazing waiter, showed it to me after our meal. Sorry that the qualities so poor, but down in the bottom it reads “ALLERGY,” which means Matt was prepped before he even got to our table. That translates to a fantastic and safe experience for me.

Lincoln, which I believe opened two years ago, is located right in Lincoln Center which is undoubtedly one of the prettiest structures in New York. Though I rarely comment on the ambience of a restaurant (I do notice, I’m just too lazy to blog about it), I have to give a Lincoln a shout out for utilizing their beautiful location. The walls on three sides (I think) are entirely glass so you really feel like your eating in the middle of Lincoln Center. Anyway, on to the food.

As Matt stood at our table taking our orders, he reviewed the ingredients of everything I ordered with me, assuring me he’d also of course make sure the kitchen was aware of all of allergies. Having a waiter who could run through ingredients with me and who was so attentive already put me at ease before a bite of food entered my mouth!

This definitely amused my bouche!

After ordering, a food runner brought an amuse bouche to our table and explained that these were toast rounds with a mushroom, herb and goat cheese mixture. As I’ve said before, restaurant often forget about food allergies when it comes to the amuse bouche — well not so much forget as one station forgets to tell the other– so I eyed the amuse nervously when I noticed our waiter, Matt, nearby. I called him over and he assured me that they were safe for me and that the kitchen was aware of my needs and wouldn’t send anything to the table that I couldn’t eat. Upon hearing that I excitedly grabbed for my goat cheese mushroom toast and found it to be delicious. I loved the earthyness of the mushrooms with the creaminess of the goat cheese.

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

Next it was appetizer time. It’s soft shell crab season here on the east coast, a time that makes me very very happy! During the summer months blue crabs shed their hard outer shells leaving them “soft shelled,” which means you can eat right through the shell. I know that many people outside of the east coast have never seen soft shells and are a bit freaked out by the concept, but they are really delicious. The mean inside is, at it’s best, plump and juicy and the shell is really easy to chew through with just the slightest bit of crunch.

Left: mom’s prosciutto with artichoke mustard
Right: dad’s quail with barley, bacon, pickled currants

Lincoln served their soft shell crab tempura battered with pickled green tomato, cucumber, red onion, celery and tomato mayonnaise. It was basically like eating a northeastern summer on a plate. Though the crab looks heavily battered, the coating was so light and crispy with a hint of butteryness that highlighted the plump juicy crab inside perfectly. The vegetables were bright and crisp with just the slightest tang from pickling.

This is sexy food

The most frustrating part of my whole meal came early on when I had to order my entrée, the problem; too many awesome things to choose from! OK, I’ll admit that’s a great problem to have. With some helpful suggestions Matt  I decided on the Strozzapreti Neri Alla Puttanesca; squid ink pasta with shrimp, olives, caperberries and anchovies. Puttanesca is one of my all time favorite pastas and this was basically a crazy kicked up gourmet version. I wish I had the words to describe this dish.

Left: mom’s steelhead trout with polenta
Right: dad’s mixed seafood with fregola

The squid ink pasta itself was incredible. The pasta had such a fantastic texture I hesitate to use the word chewiness which might lead you to think that the pasta was undercooked and tough or over cooked and mushy, but the pasta just had a great feeling on your teeth. The sauce had a nice kick of heat with plenty of acidity and brightness from the tomatoes and that great salty kick of olives, anchovies and caperberries. The shrimp were fresh, meaty and perfectly cooked. I could eat this pasta every day and die happy.

Oops!

Fun fact- strawberries are my favorite food in the entire world. As much as I love going out for these artful meals and experimenting in the kitchen myself, if you simply brought me a giant flat of the freshest juiciest (organic and locally grown of course ;)) strawberries I would be yours forever. So you can imagine that when I saw the ricotta cheesecake with macerated strawberries, black pepper crema and strawberry sorbetto I looked no further. My dad shared it with me and shared some of my mom’s Zuppe Inglese with raspberries and lady fingers too. Matt informed me that there was usually something with almond on the dessert, I think maybe the crumbs underneath the sorbetto, but the kitchen would simply replace it with vanilla for me. Love!

Right: mom’s Zuppe Inglese, rapsberries, lady fingers
Left: 2008 Vintage Turnina to accompany the meal

When the dessert came I had a moment of panic, as is common with people living with food allergies, but Matt assured me that the kitchen had taken care and it was vanilla and not almond on my plate. Feeling reassured, I couldn’t wait and dived right in and ate and ate and ate, until there were two bites left and I remembered that I hadn’t taken a picture. Sorry! The cake was so light it pretty much floated in to your mouth. The strawberries were perfectly sweet while the cake had just a touch of sweetness so they played off of each other perfectly. For someone who is not a huge sweets eater and has a take it or leave it attitude towards chocolate, this is pretty much my perfect dessert.

Petit freaking fours for me!

Once our dessert plates were cleared, a food runner brought over a plate of petit fours and placed it between my parents. I found this really considerate since all I heard was walnut this and peanut that. I wasn’t paying much attention since I never eat the petit fours out of concern that they haven’t been vetted for me, when I noticed Matt coming towards me with a silver platter. He’d brough out special petit fours just for me! Some kind of caramels that were amazing (seriously I could’ve eaten a bag full) and a bite sized buttery raspberry crumb cake. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever eaten petit fours before because no ones ever brought me “safe” ones before.

 BEST. WAITER. EVER.

Seriously I wish that I could clone Matt and have him as my waiter at every place I eat!

As a broke ass non-profit do gooder I only go to these fancy joints when my parents are paying, but the food, service and atmosphere were so divine at Lincoln that I’m thinking of going back to grab a drink and an entrée at the bar. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Lincoln Ristorante and to Matt especially for making this allergic to everything gal’s experience so special!

The verdict:
Food rating: A
Service/food allergy accommodations: A+
Overall rating: OMG

Urgent: 2012 Food and Farm Bill Vote Only Hours Away

“Every 5 years, Congress passes a Food and Farm bill that dictates food and agriculture policy for decades to come. This is the single most important piece of legislation that determines what Americans, and many people around the world, eat on a daily basis. Today, voting on vital improvements to the Senate Farm Bill are only hours away! It’s your turn to decide who benefits this time around: You or corporate lobbyists?”

Please your name to the list of reformers standing up for a healthy Food and Farm Bill by clicking here!

H if for… Haiti; Facing Fears and Failing

Alo!

Haitian flag

I have heard multiple times that Haitian food is delicious so I was really excited to cook “H.” I decided to go with two dishes; Griot, a fried pork dish which is probably Haiti’s most famous and Pikliz, a quick pickled cabbage condiment that served alongside most everything in Haiti.

The ingredients for these two recipes are all quite common save two; sour orange juice and Scotch Bonnet (or Habanero) peppers. One of the great pleasures of doing this international cooking project in New York City, and one of the greatest pleasures of living in New York City is that you can get your hands on pretty much anything. I got lazy though. It’s been a really busy few weeks and I just didn’t feel like traipsing the city to get my hands on sour orange juice; instead I used Rick Bayless’s tip of 1/2 cup orange juice and 1 cup of lime juice. Then came time to decide what to do about the hot peppers.

As a spicy food lover I’m always eager to eat a fiery dish, but cooking with one of the hottest peppers on the planet struck fear in my heart. I’m a huge klutz and I could easily visualize myself sitting in the emergency room after thoughtlessly rubbing my eye with a hand that had just held the cut peppers. “No,” I thought, “I won’t let fear hold me back. I will be extra careful and take all the necessary precautions. Bring on the peppers.”

I purchased two Habaneros (there were no scotch bonnets) and a pair of rubber gloves, and blasted the theme from Rocky on my iPod… well ok maybe not that last part. All the Pikliz recipes I found called for 6-8 thinly sliced Scotch Bonnet or Habaneros. 6 to 8! As much as I love spicy food that just sounded insane so I decided to go with just one thinly sliced pepper.

Pikliz

My first mistake was buying rubber gloves instead of latex. The gloves were big for my little hands which made the process arduous. I thinly sliced about 3/4 of the pepper, but by the time I got to the upper 3rd, where the seeds are I was annoyed by the gloves and figured I wouldn’t want to use the seeds (the hottest part) anyway so I quit and threw the thin slices of Habanero in with the rest of the ingredients to “quick pickle” over night.

For the Griot I couldn’t seem to get a consensus on what to do with the peppers; some recipes called for one pepper minced, others used half and some wimpy americanized recipes called for just a couple of dashes of hot sauce. Then there were a few recipes that said to just cut the stem off the pepper and throw it in whole thereby making the dish hot, but not lethal. I went with that one. I did actually cut a few slits in the pepper and, once it was inside the bag I used to marinate, squished it a bit hoping some oils would seep out.

Griot

The vinegar in the Pikliz neutralized the heat in that pepper. As for the Griot, as soon as I transferred the mixture to a cooking pot I could tell there was no heat. Habeneros are so strong that I’d be able to smell the heat. I decided to remove the pepper, thinly slice it and throw it back in to pot. I’d thrown out the rubber gloves after cutting the first pepper so I instead covered my hands with plastic baggies. Again this made chopping cumbersome and again I only chopped as far as the seeds, fearing to do more and again there wasn’t enough heat.

So hear’s a question; can cooking be a metaphor for my life? Is the lesson hear that I should be more open to risk, more willing to take chances? Nah! I think the lesson here is; buy better latex food prep gloves!

Even with the lack of heat, these dishes were both great so I’m going to give you the Pikliz recipe and the recipes as I intend to make them next time.

 Pikliz

  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 2 Scotch Bonnet or Habanero peppers thinly sliced
  • 4 whole cloves (or a large pinch of ground cloves)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cups white vinegar

Place all ingredients in an airtight container.

Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Pikliz will last in the refrigerator for up to two weeks since vinegar is a preservative.

Griot

 
  • 2lbs pork shoulder cut in to 1 inch cubes
  • 1 large bell pepper; sliced
  • 1 large onion; diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic; chopped or crushed
  • 1 scotch bonnet or Habanero pepper; finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.5 cups sour orange juice (or 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice)
  • 1/4 cup oil for frying

Place all ingredients except oil in a large sealable plastic bag (or bowl) and refrigerate several hours or over night.

Preheat oven to 375.

Transfer mixture to a dutch oven and cook for 1.5-2 hours until the pork is very tender.

Remove pork chunks from pot and place pot over medium heat with the lid off, allowing the mixture to reduce (there’s not much liquid so this won’t take long).

Meanwhile heat oil in medium saute pan and, working in batches, fry pork chunks until crispy and brown on all sided being very careful as the hot oil will splatter. This can also be done in a deep fryer.

Toss pork back in to pot and serve over rice with Pikliz on the side.

I need more pepper, you wuss!

THE FINAL VERDICT: A-

This recipe would’ve totally earned a solid A had I not been so conservative with the peppers. It was delicious.

The Griot is flavorful and the texture of the pork chunks almost reminds me of ribs; browned and crispy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside. The vegetables in the Pikliz remain bright and crisp and the vinegarey bite cuts through the richness of the pork when eaten together.

Obviously next time I make this I’ll add more hot peppers, but other than that I wouldn’t make any other changes. I love recipes like this where you get so much flavor for so little work.

Bon Apeti!

**Remember Haiti is a place that needs your help! Please consider opening your hearts and your wallets. Two organizations I would recommend are Partners In Health and Fonkoze so check ’em out.