Category Archives: Recipes

All our recipes for large, un-fancy gatherings.

A Pot of Soup for Pops

photo (42)

When the going gets tough, the tough get cooking,” I repeated to myself as I drove down Highway 280 to my parents house. My dad was down with a tooth ache.  My mother was taking him to the dentist, so my plan was to make a pot of chicken soup for them to share when they returned. I was grateful to have a jar of homemade stock leftover from a huge batch I made earlier in the week. The hard part of this story is that original reason for making the stock was to bring to a dear friend who had lumpectomy.  It feels like one of those “bad” times when my people aren’t feeling so good.

It’s during these “bad” times, that I head to the kitchen to cook. I may not be able to solve the problem, but I can make soup. And the truth is, there is much comfort in the cooking, especially for the cook.  This is why I regularly make big batches of stock to keep in the freezer. Once I have stock,  any number of soups can be made depending on the who, the where, and the why, or it can be simply served as is with a little salt.

For the chicken soup, I sauteed finely chopped onions and carrots, then added a little salt and poured in the stock. I let it simmer until the broth was flavorful and slightly sweet, then added chopped chicken thigh meat and Italian parsley. Once the chicken was cooked through, I turned off the heat and left the pot of soup on the stove for my parents to find when they got back from the dentist’s office.

As the tough cooks say “I will be back.”

Tough Girl Chicken Stock

The longer you cook the stock the more flavorful it becomes. I prefer to use chicken wings because they make a rich, flavor broth that doesn’t much straining. The addition of lots of carrots make slightly sweet stock, however, if your taste is more savory, you can substitute celery for half carrots.

Makes 12 to 13 cups

4 to 5 pounds chicken parts, preferably wings and necks

1 large onion, peeled

5 large carrots,  chopped

2 bay leaves

15 to 20 parsley sprigs or stems

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place all the ingredients in a large stock pot with about 4 quarts (16 cups) of water.

2. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer. Cook, skimming any foam for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, taste-testing with a little salt.

3. Turn off the heat and let cool. Use a ladle to skim off some of the fat that has risen to the top (or you can do this after refrigerating the finished stock). Strain and discard the remaining solids.

4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Use the stock immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days. To freeze, let cool and pour into ziplock bags or into jars (leaving room at the top). It will keep in your freezer for up to 3 months.  

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Feeds & Feasts, Recipes, Sustainable Eating

Hope and Hoppin’ John for a Crowd

photo (35)

I much prefer New Year’s Day to New Year’s Eve. Reflection on things past turns to hope for things to come, especially with a pot of Hoppin John, a Southern dish said to bring prosperity.The black eyed peas are said to symbolize coins, while the greens and cornbread represent money and gold

No one seems completely sure where the name Hoppin’ John comes from. According to Jessica Harris, noted authority on African cooking in the Americas, the only thing that all seem to agree on about Hoppin’ John is that the dish is “emblematic of South Carolina and is composed of rice and some kind of pea.” Field peas are thought to be native to Africa and were brought to the United States in early Colonial times, during the slave trade. After the peas were harvested, the plants were left for grazing cows hence the names “field peas” and “cowpeas.” .

At her annual celebration Jessica, has made batches to feed up to 60 along with roast pork, collard greens, okra, corn, and tomatoes. As for why black-eyed peas are associated with luck Jessica writes:

 Just as nobody is sure of the origin of the name Hoppin’ John, no one seems quite certain why the dish has become associated with luck, or New Year’s. Some white Southerners claim that black-eyed peas saved families from starvation during the Union Army’s siege of Vicksburg in the Civil War. “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food” suggests that it may come from Sephardic Jews, who included the peas in their Rosh Hashanah menu as a symbol of fertility and prosperity.

For African-Americans, the connection between beans and fortune is surely complex. Perhaps, because dried black-eyed peas can be germinated, having some extra on hand at the New Year guaranteed sustenance provided by a new crop of the fast-growing vines. The black-eyed pea and rice combination also forms a complete protein, offering all of the essential amino acids. During slavery, one ensured of such nourishment was lucky indeed.”

One final tradition: On New Year’s Day, in some families, a dime is placed in the Hoppin’  John with the promise of more luck for the finder.  On that, writes Jessica, “ The thought of cracking a tooth makes me think that this may not be the best idea. Try it if you wish.”

Depending on the region, availability of ingredients and family traditions, there are as many versions of Hoppin’ John as there are cooks. In this big batch version by award-winning cookbook author and teacher Rick Rodgers from his book The Big Book of Sides (Ballantine 2014), Rick creates a delicious ham broth that can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days ahead of time. Rick recommends serving this dish with boldly flavored main dishes including smoked or roasted meats, spicy sausages, sautéed greens and vegetables.

Big Batch Notes: For 8 to 10, Rick used a stock pot (12-qt) for the stock, and a 6-qt large saucepan/Dutch oven for the John. For the double, he recommends using the same stockpot (12-qt) for both.  Make the stock, strain, and then use the same washed pot for the beans. Also if making the broth ahead of time, make sure you have room to store it in your refrigerator.

HOPPIN’ JOHN

By Rick Rodgers

This hearty, full-flavored dish will warm you on the coldest January day. Please note that the beans need to be soaked 8 to 12 hours before cooking. Have your butcher halve the ham bones for you. Make ahead notes: The ham broth and its meat can be be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for 3 days. The Hoppin’ John is best made right before serving.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: about 2 ½ hours

Screen Shot 2013-12-31 at 10.05.45 AM1.  To make the ham broth:  Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the ham hocks, broth, and 1½ quarts (3 quarts for the larger batch) cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off the foam that rises to the surface.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the meat on the hocks is tender enough to be cut from the bones, about 1½ hours.

2. Strain the broth into a large bowl, reserving the ham hocks but discarding the other solids.  Cut the meat from the hocks, discarding the bones, and chop it into ¼-inch pieces. Measure the broth; you should have about 1¾ quarts (3 ½ quarts for the big batch).  (The broth and meat can be separately cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

3.  To make the hoppin’ John: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and browned, about 8 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving the fat in the pot.

4.  Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper to the pot.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the drained beans and 6 cups of the broth and bring to a boil over high heat.  (Set the remaining broth aside at room temperature.) Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are barely tender, 30 to 45 minutes.  (The exact time for cooking the peas will depend on their age and softness after soaking.)

5.  Stir in the drained tomatoes, diced ham meat, salt, and hot sauce and return to a boil over high heat. (See Note) Stir in the rice.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook at a steady simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender and has absorbed almost all of the cooking liquid, about 20 minutes. If the rice has absorbed the liquid before it is done, add some of the reserved broth.  (Leftover broth can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months; use it for soups, especially split pea soup.)

6.  Remove from the heat and cover the pot.  Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes to finish cooking and soaking up the liquid.   Transfer to a huge bowl, fluffing the rice as you do so.  Sprinkle with the scallions and reserved bacon and serve hot, with hot sauce passed on the side.

Note: If you wish, you can cook the rice separately and serve the pea stew on top.  In this case, cook the the rice according to the package directions. For 2 cups of raw rice, use 2 cups water, 2 cups Ham Broth, and 1 teaspoon salt.  For 4 cups of rice, use 4 cups water, 4 cups Ham Broth, and 2 teaspoons salt.)

** If you want to learn more about African cooking in the Americas, check out one of Jessica’s twelve books. In addition to being an accomplished author, she has been a National Board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food and a board member of the Caribbean Culinary Federation, the New York Chapter of Les Dames D’Escoffier, and the Southern Foodways Alliance where she was a founding member and also served as chair of the planning and then programming committees. Currently, she is a Board member of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, The New Orleans Afrikan American Film Festival, an advisory board member of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and the New Orleans Edible School Yard.

1 Comment

Filed under and Kitchen Hacks, Big Feeds & Feasts, Chefs, Cooks, Recipes

What a Combo! Soup and Meatball Gathering for 25

photo (14)

My father will often put two foods together and exclaim “What a combo!”  Sometimes these combinations are brilliant–like potato chips and chocolate and sometimes the combinations are more challenging (usually involving kimchi), but the phrase is used so often in my family that it has become an adjective.

I was thinking about this phrase while deciding what small bite to serve for soup night. My mother suggested the Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion and Cumin from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book, Jerusalem. Who doesn’t love a meatball? I thought. And why stop there? In honor of the late Marcella Hazan, I decided to make her classic Meatballs and Tomatoes from The Essentials of Italian Cooking. As my father might say “Soup and meatballs—what a combo!”

My soup gatherings often start small and get bigger until I don’t know how many people are actually coming. I alternate between panic that no one will show  (a scenario that has led to inviting random strangers while running errands) and dread that there is not enough food.  One of the best things about soup is that you can always round it out with bread, cheese, salad or in this case, meatballs.

A forecast of 81 degrees and a case of late summer tomatoes inspired double batches of gazpacho from the Bi-Rite cookbook, Eat Good Food and Joanne Weir‘s Smoked Ham, White Bean, and Tomato Soup from Soup’s On! and triple batches of each kind of meatball. 

Friends brought wine, cheese, and cookies for dessert.  As it turned out, about 25 people showed up and we had enough food (including a few bowls of soup and meatballs leftover for lunch the next day).

Below are the recipes as well as my basic big batch soup and meatball gathering strategy. Do you throw soup gatherings? We would love to hear from you.

What are your favorite “what a combos?!”

meatballsraw

Big Batch Soup and Meatball Party Strategy:

Sunday soup and meatball night:   A an early evening Sunday gathering is a lovely ritual and most importantly, gives you Saturday to prepare.

Soups for all: I recommend making double batches of 2 or 3 kinds of soup–one meaty stew, one vegetable minestrone (usually vegan) and one bean soup. If people offer to bring a soup, always say yes!

Gather your sous-chefs especially small children: It is so much more fun to throw a party with a team–People love to be a part of the action!

Organize your refrigerator: This may seem like a simple step, but clearing out space is essential when throwing any party, especially when making dishes ahead of time.

Shop ahead; make ahead: Chose recipes that can be made ahead of time. I recommend shopping the day before and cooking off at least one soup (preferably a stew that is better the next day). Again, make sure you organize your refrigerator so you have room to keep things overnight. Making food ahead of time leaves more time for worrying that there isn’t enough and gives you the opportunity to make more ;).

What else to serve: Hand held edibles and small bites that don’t don’t require big plates like empanadas,  crostini, polenta squares, flat breads and roasted vegetables.

How to serve: You’ll need bowls of course (mugs will help in a pinch!) and little bamboo/paper plates and stacks of napkins are ideal for small bites. You can set everything out on the table along with mason jars filled with silverware.

Invite your guests participate: I usually ask 2 to 3 people to bring cheese, bread, salumi, and olives and another 2 people to bring simple desserts like cookies (again, no plates!)

photo (7)

JOANNE WEIR’S SMOKED HAM, WHITE BEAN, AND TOMATO SOUP

Joanne’s Weir generously donated include this recipe for our book, Soup’s On! I doubled the amount of beans in her original recipe to make a version that is more like a stew. Deliciously smokey with the flavors of ham and bacon, this soup is an all season go-to!

Weir Smoked Ham Soup

Pick over the beans and discard any damaged beans or stones. Rinse. Put beans in a bowl, add plenty of water to cover, and refrigerate for about 3 hours. Drain the beans and place them in a saucepan with the parsley stems, thyme, bay leaves and cool water to cover by 2 inches. Simmer uncovered until tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Drain the beans, and discard the parsley and thyme stems and bay leaves.

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and onion, and cook until the onion is soft, 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue to cook 1 minute. Add the stock, ham hocks and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and cook until the ham just begins to fall from the bone, about 1 hour. Add the beans, and continue to simmer until the ham falls easily from the bone, about 1 hour more.

Remove the ham hocks and let them cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Discard the skin and bones, and cut the ham into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the ham and mint to the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve immediately.

photo (15)SERIO’S GAZPACHO

Luscious and flavorful,  this gazpacho from the Bi-Rite Cookbook  Eat Good Food, by Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough calls for whole tomatoes (no peeling or seeding!) which makes it faster and easier to make for a crowd.  While many gazpacho recipes rely on the addition of bread, this version uses olive oil instead, making it a good alternative for the gluten-free crowd. Use a light olive oil that is not too peppery and the season’s ripest and most flavorful tomatoes.

Serio's Gazpacho

Put the oil, vinegar, and Tabasco in the bowl of a blender and blend briefly. Add the onions, cucumbers, parsley, basil, garlic, and 3 tsp. salt and blend until smooth. With the blender running, add the tomatoes a few at a time. When the blender is about 3/4 full, pour out half of the liquid into a medium bowl. Continue to puree and add the tomatoes a few at a time until all the tomatoes are incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Pour the blender contents into the bowl and stir to blend.

If you want a super-smooth texture, pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer.

Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Whisk to blend, then taste and add more salt or vinegar as needed.  Garnish each serving with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

TURKEY AND ZUCCHINI BURGERS WITH GREEN ONIONS AND CUMIN

These herb and spice-laden meatballs  from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi will change your life. They are easy to make in big quantities, just make sure you don’t crowd the pan when searing in batches.   To make a richer burger, use ground dark meat. If you do not have sumac to make the yogurt sauce, it is still delicious without.
Sumac Sauce

First make the sour cream sauce by placing all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well and set aside or chill until needed.

Turkey Zucchini Burgers

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F/220 degrees C. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients for the meatballs except the sunflower oil. Mix with your hands and then shape into about 18 burgers, each weighing 1 ½ ounces/45 grams.

Pour enough sunflower oil into a large frying pan to form a layer about 1/8 inch/2mm thick on the pan bottom.  Heat over medium heat until hot then sear the meatballs in batches on all sides. Cook each batch for about 4 minutes, adding oil as needed until golden brown.

Carefully transfer the seared meatballs to a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and place in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature.

photo (5)

TOMATOES AND MEATBALLS

This meatball recipe from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, is a great project to do with lots of people, especially with kids who enjoy (and are often quite skilled at) rolling the balls in the bread crumbs. 

Tomatoes and Meatballs

Trim away the bread crust, put the milk and bread in a small saucepan and turn on the heat to low.  When the bread has soaked up all the milk, mash it to a pulp with a fork.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Into a bowl put the chopped meat, onion, parsley, the egg, the tablespoon of olive oil, the grated Parmesan, a tiny grating of nutmeg – about 1/8 teaspoon – the bread and milk mush, salt, and several grindings of black pepper.  Gently knead the mixture with your hands without squeezing it.  When all the ingredients are evenly combined, shape it gently and without squeezing into balls about 1 inch in diameter.  Roll the balls lightly in the bread crumbs.

Choose a saute pan that can subsequently accommodate all the meatballs in a single layer.  (or cook them in two batches) Pour in enough vegetable oil to come 1/4 inch up the sides.  Turn on the heat to medium high and when the oil is hot, slip in the meatballs.  Sliding them in with a spatula will avoid splashing hot oil out of the pan.  Brown the meatballs on all sides, turning them carefully so they won’t break up.

Remove from heat, tip the pan slightly and with a spoon, remove as much of the fat as floats to the surface. Return the pan to the front burner over medium heat, add the chopped tomatoes with their juice, a pinch of salt, and turn the meatballs over the meatballs over once or twice to coat them well. Cover the pan and adjust the heat to cook a quiet but steady simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes until the oil floats free of the tomatoes. Taste, correct for salt, and serve.

davia
peeps

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Feeds & Feasts, Cooks, Chefs, and Kitchen Hacks, Recipes

Feast of the Momo—How to make Nepalese Dumplings for a Crowd

IMG_2736

momo and filling

The day we met Bini Prathan, owner of Bini’s Kitchen  at La Cocina, she had just finished making 15,000 momos (Nepalese dumplings) for the San Francisco Street Food Festival. Big batch cooking is in Bini’s blood. Born in Nepal, her mother cooked for the Nepalese royal family in the 1960s and big gatherings were the norm. “A typical party at my house was 160 to 180 people, it wasn’t unusual to have 35 people over for dinner.”

Whether for a party of for a mid-week dinner, friends and family would gather in the kitchen to cook together  “It’s how you catch up on the days events. It’s one of the things you love to do together.” When she was a child, she and her friends would run to her house from school because everyone knew there would always be good food. Nowadays, Bini counts on her assistant Sopa who is from Tibet as well as family members to help with big events. But she doesn’t have much trouble convincing people to help, even some of her clients have joined in the fun,  “They like to be a part of it.”

Big gatherings are typical in Nepal where it is said “the Nepalese people observe more festivals than there are days in a year. There are different festivals celebrated to honor Hindu and Buddhist gods and goddesses and others to recreate important events from ancient mythology and epic literature.”  Bini is looking forward to the Dashian, a religious festival that lasts for 15 days at the end of October.  For this festival, her family would cook a goat and buffalo and make curry with chicken and “whatever else was possible.” Usually 100 to 250 people would come to that event.

Bini went to culinary school in Mumbai before moving to San Francisco and joining La Cocina’s business incubation program nearly a year ago. Her menu includes sumptous curries, dahls, rotis and other Nepalese specialties including her beloved momos.

Also found in Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, and other parts of India, a momo is a type of steamed or fried dumpling that boast numerous variations of filling. Bini’s specialties include turkey, lamb, and cabbage (vegetarian).  She says the secret to her momos is her spice mixture that includes spices she brings back from Nepal.

Folding a momo is like making pleats for a fan. It takes a bit of practice and technique shown here by  Sopa.

sopa copy

happy bini

The little hole in the top is for putting in the sauce.

momo closeup

Bini says that when you eat a momo, it is important to grasp the top with all 5 fingers  and place the whole dumpling in your mouth. “God gave you 5 fingers. When you eat with your hands you are saying thank you to god; when you lick your fingers you are serene from the inside, and this means you are feeding your soul, not just your stomach.” 

Cooking  For  Crowd Strategy: As noted above, having lots of eager volunteers is the best way to make momos for a crowd. For steaming the dumplings, if you don’t have an industrial scale steamer (!!), Bini recommends the Asian stacked steamers in which you can steam 20 to 30 at a time. For big gatherings you will need a dedicated person to steam the dumplings in batches.

Serving a Crowd Strategy: At big events, Bini spoons about 8 momos per person into little paper boat bowls.  For the sauce, pour into plastic bottles with squirt tops for more fun and easier service.

Bini’s Turkey Momos

Bini recommends using a sturdy round dumpling wrapper.  She prefers Nasoya round wrappers which come in packs of 60.  For the filling,  you can add spices to taste; fry a little pinch to test the flavoring before you stuff the wrapper.

momo grid

*Note that the proportion of spices is to taste. To test your filling fry up a pinch and taste it before you stuff your dumplings. Also each pack of Nagoya round wrappers includes 60 wrappers, so count on 1 pack per batch.

 

 

1.  Combine the filling ingredients in a large bowl and mix gently until all the ingredients and spices are evenly disbursed. Try to handle as little as possible.

2. To fill each dumpling, place a table spoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and gather the edges together pasting with little water. Fold, wrap and pleat to make neat joint for each individual momo leaving a little “well” at the top.

 3.  Take a tray spray it with nonstick spray and place each wrapped momos in a row and put it in a freezer until ready to cook.

4.  To steam the momos,  fill the steamer to the half-point half  with water and boil. Place a colander (steamer) on top of the vessel and grease it with nonstick spray.

 5.  Lightly spray each momo with oil and place on the greased colander leaving inch between each momo .Cover the steamer with lid and steam for 15  minutes.

 6.  Serve steaming hot momos with spicy tomato cilantro sauce. Recipe follows:

Spicy Tomato Cilantro Sauce

This recipe calls for a Nepalese spice called timur which is available online. If you can’t find, it just leave it out.  If you are making a big batch, it is helpful to place sauce in bottles with a squirt top for easier serving.

momo sauce grid (1)

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. In a baking sheet,  roast the tomatoes for about 3-5 minutes.  Set aside to let cool.

3.  Place all of the ingredients in a blender or a food processor  (roasted tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, timur, asafetida powder, salt and oil). and process until the sauce is smooth and light orange in color.

IMG_2733

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Feeds & Feasts, Cooks, Chefs, and Kitchen Hacks, Food Charities, Recipes

Focaccia di Recco or How to Attach Yourself to Someone Else’s Dinner Party and Bask in the Reflected Glory–Plus Bagna Cauda

table

My no-fail strategies for a throwing a big dinner party: 

1. Always invite people to your party who are better cooks than you.

2. Attach yourself to someone else’s dinner party (obviously a very good cook) to learn and capture reflected glory.

The key is cultivating a community of great cooks—an overall strategy that makes for a long and happy life.

Last week I volunteered to help in the kitchen at Belcampo Farm in Shasta valley where my amazing friend Anya Fernald  was hosting a dinner party for 20 people.

photo (22)

Prior to running Belcampo, Anya had worked for Slow Food Italy and her cooking reflects a strong Northern Italian influence. Cooking with us that day were two other amazing Belcampo cooks: Gavin Erezuma and Bronwen Hannah-Korpi.  While Gavin grilled top round and butterflied chickens, I helped Anya prepare the appetizers—bagna cauda (a rich dip made with anchovies, garlic and olive oil) and focaccia di Reccio (a crispy stuffed flat-bread from Liguria).

Well, the truth is that I  actually only peeled the garlic (10 heads!) while Anya, Bronwen, and Gavin skillfully put the meal together. I watched and took notes on how to properly de-bone an anchovy and stretch dough to paper-thin consistency.  My main helpfulness, however, was that I generously offered to serve the food (and thus, bask in the glow of it all).  Melted cheese oozed out of the focaccias as Anya placed, cut, and stacked them on a rustic wood platter.

As I expected, the guests had high praise for the food and thanked me profusely!  “You are so welcome!” I said, “It’s my pleasure!”

What are you serving at your next party? Need some help?

photo (24)

Now walk the party with tray in hand.
Everyone will say “Thank you!” Just smile and say, “You are so welcome!”

Focaccia di Recco

Stuffed with tangy cheese, Focaccia di Recco is a thin-crusted flat bread from Liguria near Genoa. It tastes nothing like the thick chewy bread we think of as focaccia (it is not made with yeast) and is instead crispy and rich with the flavors of olive oil, salt and melted cheese.

Gavin prepped the dough about an hour and a half before the party and  we (well, really Anya) assembled and baked the focaccias ahead of time, timing the last 2 or 3 to arrive hot out of the oven during the first hour of the party. Focaccia di Recco is usually made in round pans but we made our on a square baking sheet. Also, we had access to a wood burning stove but the instructions here provide for a conventional oven.  Also a high quality olive oil is a must. For the cheese, you can also use Fontina.

*Also, please note that we (well, Anya and Gavin really) used metric measurements. The conversions listed below are estimates.

focaccia grid (3)

Place the flour in a large bowl or a mixer with a dough hook.  Add a pinch of salt the cold water and extra virgin olive oil. Start mixing the dough (with a fork if by hand, incorporating the flour, little by little).  Once the dough has come together, start kneading it with your hands.

Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, until smooth and uniform. It should be pliant and soft. When the dough is ready, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for 1 hour at room temperature.

Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat  to 475 degrees F.

For the smaller batch (4 focaccias) divide the dough into 8 balls; for the the bigger batch (8 focaccias)  divide the the dough into 16 equal parts. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough and then shape with your hands trying to keep it round and gently stretching until the sheet is as thin as possible, almost transparent.  Once you have rolled out the pieces of dough, begin assembling the focaccia di Recco.

photo (12)

flyingdough

Grease a 10-in baking dish with extra virgin olive oil or line a baking sheet with tin foil (also greased with oil). Making one focaccia at a time, place one layer of dough on the bottom of the dish or baking sheet. Add the cheese in pieces using your hands or a spoon. Cover the cheese with the second sheet of dough. Party Strategy note here: We recommend assembling and baking off half of the focaccia before the party and finishing the rest just before/during the party. 

photo (26)Pinch the edges together to make a seal. Poke or pinch holes into the top layer of dough so that the steam can come out during cooking.  Brush with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt.

Place in hot oven and bake on a pizza stone until dark golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes or more depending on your oven.

outofoven

Remove it from the oven and let cool slightly. Cut it into squares and serve warm.

Bagna Cauda

Bagna Cauda literally translates to “hot bath” or “hot dip.”  Made with olive oil, garlic and anchovies, it is so good you might want to bathe in it! When eaten as a meal, it is served in individual portions in special bowls equipped with heating candles.  When making it for this crowd however, we (well, Anya really) served it as a dip with plenty of fresh fennel, carrots, and other fall roots. Unlike a green salad, these sturdy vegetables won’t wilt. Anya recommends using salt packed anchovies and a very high quality olive oil. If you don’t want to use butter, you can substitute an additional 2 cups of olive oil instead.

bagacauda

In a bowl, soak the salted anchovies in water for 30 minutes. Remove the anchovies from the water, mince and grind with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor.

Meanwhile place the garlic in a saucepan and cover with the milk and simmer over medium low heat until the garlic is soft, about 10 minutes.  Strain the garlic and rinse in cold water. Set aside.

Place the garlic, anchovies, olive oil, and butter in a medium saucepan and cook over very low heat for 1 hour. Do not boil.

Remove from heat and run the mixture through a food mill on the widest mesh or press it through a sieve with a spatula. Pour into a serving bowl and place among a bounty of fresh vegetables.

photo (13)

1 Comment

Filed under Big Feeds & Feasts, Cooks, Chefs, and Kitchen Hacks, Recipes

Feast of a French Childhood–Le Grand Aioli

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 5.17.59 PM

A photo of Sara Remington in the book Paris to Provence

When I was 10 my family spent a year in Paris. We lived in an apartment in the 13th arrondissement and I went to a French school.  As a family, we explored the city visiting historical monuments, museums, churches and luxurious palaces.

But it was really the small details of everyday life that I remember with the most pleasure; the warmth of roasted chestnuts on a cold winter day; the red flare of tulips in the Jardins des Luxembourg, the swirl of traffic around the Arc de Triomphe; and the crushed violet flavor of a sorbet de cassis from Bertillion. When you are small, you notice the small things. Even now as an adult, I am enchanted with those same small observations of childhood; the odd and unusual moments that make Paris so compelling.

The pleasures of a French childhood are many because the small sensual experiences of France abound.  From the bakeries to the parks to odd little museums, Paris offers some of the most beautiful, quirky, and delicious things to see, do, smell and of course, eat.

Screen Shot 2013-08-12 at 5.20.06 PM

Paris to Provence, a new cookbook beautifully written by Ethel Brennan and Sara Remington, is a beautiful paen to the intimate wonders that make France a magical place for children and adults alike.  Filled with poetic, luscious images and delicious recipes, the book includes moving stories of childhood and of the sensual pleasures of growing up in France.  In Ethel’s recipe for Le Grand Aioli, she includes a marvelous description of summer celebration in her tiny French village—“a party that lasts for days culminating on the last days with the feast and petanque (French bocce ball) The feast itself consisted of platters of boiled vegetables, salted cod, and bowls of homemade aioli cooked by the men and women of the town.”

My favorite memory of Le Grand Aioli actually took place with Ethel at her mother Georgeanne Brennan’s, house in Winters California. Great cooking and writing and generosity run in their family and Georgeanne and her husband Jim invited my parents, brother, sister-in-law and nieces up to join their family feast.  Ethel’s boys and my nieces ran around under the walnut trees while we drank rose in the shade.  Luckily Ethel  included this recipe in the book so now it is my turn to cook this feast. Petanque, anyone?

Tips for making big quantities:  The aioli recipe can be doubled but is best not made in big batches as it can be tricky. When cooking for a crowd, Ethel recommends prepping multiple batches of aioli in advance. Aioli will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  

p176Aioli (1)

Photo credit: Sara Remington

Le Grand Aioli with Vegetables and Salt Cod

Every Summer, for the fifteenth of August, Fox Amphoux where my bother and I grew up, hosts a village feast, a Grand Aioli, a party that lasts for days, culminating on the last day with the feast and petanque (French bocce ball) tournament. The feast itself consists of platters of boiled vegetables, refreshed salted cod, and bowls of homemade aioli, all cooked by the women and the men of the village. The days preceeding are filled with the first rounds of the petanque competition, lots and lost of pastis and rose wine, and in the evenings very eclectic, if not somewhat embarrassing, DJs or rock bands. As kids we would dress up a bit in party clothes. I remember sporting my skinny-leg Gloria Vanderbilt yellow cords, wedge espadrilles, and possibly a side ponytail, then dancing away with all of my girl friends to Abba, the Bee Gees, and Donna Summer. Too young for drinking or boys, the evening fun usually included spying on Aileen’s older brother and his friends, strange and curious teenagers; the girls all smoked and wore lightweight cotton scarves, a look I still find undeniably French.–Ethel

6 pieces salted cod, 4 to 5 ounces each

3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 egg yolks

1 ½ cups extra-virgin olive oil

12 boiling potatoes, such as White Rose or Yellow Finn, peels intact

12 medium sized carrots, peeled

1 pound haricots verts or other small green beans stem ends removed

6 eggs

To refresh the cod, rinse it well in water, then place it in a large bowl, cover with water, and let it soak for 6 to 8 hours, changing the water every two hours. To test, bring a small pan of water to a simmer over low heat, drop in a 1-inch pice of the rinsed fish, cook for 3 to 4 minutes, remove and taste. It should be pleasantly salted and edible. If still too salty, continue soaking for several more hours.

In a small bowl, crush together the garlic and salt using a wooden spoon. In a larger bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks. Very slowly drizzle in the olive oil, a teaspoon at a time, into the yolks, whisking constantly. Continue this slow process until all of the oil is incorporated and an emulsion has formed. Aioli is finicky and sometimes just doesn’t set; if this happens, try again (with all new ingredients?) Once the mayonnaise has formed, stir in the garlic mixture and the black pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add potatoes and cook until easily pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the water and set aside on a platter.

Using the same water, cook the carrots until they are tender but still firm, about 15 minutes. They too should be easily pierced with a fork. Using the slotted spoon, remove from the water and set aside on the platter.

Continue the process for cooking the green beans, but just cook for 5 minutes. Drain the beans and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking process. Pat dry and transfer to the platter of vegetables.

Place the eggs in a pot of water, bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat, and let the eggs sit in the hot water for 10 minutes. Drain the water from the pot and run cold water over the eggs for about 3 minutes. Remove the eggs, let cool, and peel. Cut the eggs in half length-wise and arrange of the platter.

To cook the fish, bring a large skillet of water to a simmer. Poach the cod fillets until they gently break apart, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the skillet and pat dry.

To serve, arrange all the vegetables, eggs, and fish on a large platter and put the aioli in several bowls on the table.

Photos and recipe from Paris to Provence: Childhood Memories of Food and France by Ethel Brennan and Sara Remington/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC 2013″

1 Comment

Filed under Big Feeds & Feasts, Recipes

Crazy for Paella

photo (15)

I feel like Bill Cunningham when I say “paella is the feast food of the summer”  but it is showing up everywhere—at farmer’s markets, food truck events, community gatherings, and on restaurant menus. This traditional food from Valencia Spain is infinitely versatile. It can be humble or elegant and made with meat, fish or whatever is available. It is also infinitely expandable: In 1992 the city of Valencia prepared a paella for 100,000 people! Paella is the ultimate big batch dish.

As longtime Barcelona resident,  Spanish food expert (and dear friend) Jeff Koehler notes in his wonderful book, La Paella, the origins of the word “paella” which translates to “pan” in Catalan. The pan itself is wide and shallow with sloping sides and two handles. The size of the pan is crucial in that it must be big enough so that the rice cooks in a thin layer (1/2 to ¾ inch thick). “The more rice, the wider the pan.” When everything is in the pan, the liquid should ideally reach the pan’s handles.

You can find these pans online (just Google “giant Paella pan”) though for smaller batches you can use a cast-iron pan.

Screen Shot 2013-08-10 at 7.10.11 AM (1)

The traditional and most festive method of preparing paella is outside over an open fire. According to Jeff, in Spain this ritual remains in the domain of men, “who savor their moment of epicurean glory. Dishes of marcona almond are set out as groups hover about. They might be talking passionately of politics and futbal (soccer) but are keenly following the progress of the paella.”

I recently cooked paella at my house for 10 people and it was surprisingly easy and delicious. And because I started the prep late and my guests arrived early, we all cooked together as a group. My friend Dahlia was an especially good sport and cleaned all the squid! We added chorizo and drank wine and talked and tasted and marveled when all the broth evaporated and we were left with a savory dish and a reason to celebrate!

To find more of Jeff’s amazing recipes:

la paella

Tips for making big quantities: Jeff says the following recipe can be easily doubled but you must use the right-sized pan (see chart above). For a doubled batch you can use less oil.

Paella a la Marinara

 By Jeff Koehler (from La Paella)

This paella celebrates the flavors of Spain’s coasts, mixing both shellfish and fish. Monkfish, with its sublime flavor and firm flesh, is ideal, though any other firm-fleshed white fish will work well. Use what looks best and freshest at the market.

 Yield : Serves 6

 8 1/3 cups water

½ pound small clams, purged of sand (see Notes)

Salt

½ pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded

1 pound monkfish steaks, or 10 ounces grouper fillets, or another firm-fleshed white fish steak or fillet, deboned and broken into pieces

Freshly ground pepper

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Flour for dredging

1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch-square pieces

1 pound cuttlefish or squid, cleaned and cut into 2-by-½-inch pieces (see Notes)

18 large raw head-on shrimp with shells

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

4 ripe medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped or coarsely grated (see Notes)

½ teaspoon sweet pimento

2 pinches saffron threads (about 20 total), lightly toasted and ground (see Notes)

3 cups short or medium grain rice

1. In a medium saucepan, bring 5 cups of the water to a boil and add the clams and a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat and simmer, partly covered, for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered, leaving the clams in the water. (Discard any that do not open.)

2. Put the mussels in a small sauté pan, add 1/3 cup of the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until all of the mussels have opened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered. Do not drain. (Discard any that do not open.)

3. Season the fish generously with salt and pepper. In a 16- to 18-inch paella pan, heat the oil over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, dredge the fish, piece by piece, in flour and then cook in batches, turning just once, until golden on the outside and just cooked through in the middle. Transfer to a platter.

4. Remove any solids left in the oil with a skimmer or slotted spoon and then prepare the sofrito in the same pan. Add the bell pepper, and cook, over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown and become fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Add the cuttlefish and cook until its moisture has been expelled, about another 5 minutes, stirring constantly and scraping anything that sticks to the pan.

5. Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 2 minutes on each side. Lower the heat to medium-low, add the garlic, tomatoes, and 2 pinches of salt, and cook, stirring from time to time, until the tomato has darkened to a deeper shade of red and the sofrito is pasty, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, strain the broth from the clams and reserve it. Discard one shell (the empty one) from each clam, and set aside the rest.

6. When the sofrito is ready, sprinkle in the pimentón and saffron, letting the flavors meld for a few seconds while stirring constantly.

7. Add 4 cups of the reserved clam broth plus the remaining 3 cups of water, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Taste for salt and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Sprinkle in the rice. With a wooden spoon, probe the pan to make sure the rice is evenly distributed. Do not stir again. Lay the pieces of fish on top and then the shrimp. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes over high heat.

8. Reduce the heat to low and cook for an additional 8 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al punto, with just a bite to it.

Remove the paella from the heat, cover with paper towels, and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

photo (2) (1)

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Feeds & Feasts, Recipes