Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mustard Greens in a Skillet

You'd never know this was once a very large amount of mustard greens!
They cook down even more than spinach does!

That's my Calphalon 12" - 5 quart sauté pan I found at a yard sale for $1.00!

Julie and I ventured up to the Greenfield Hill farmers' market in Fairfield, CT last Saturday. We tend to go there more than the markets closer to home as the vendors there have top-notch products, a pizza truck and usually a pasta truck are in attendance, and, to top things off, our good friend Jane works at the liquor store and they have a wine tasting of top-notch wines every Saturday afternoon. This time around, I came home with some of my favorite Italian flat beans, some beautiful fresh-from-the-hen eggs - brown, white and a beautiful blue one, a huge head of red leaf lettuce, and a lot of other veggies. I was getting ready to pay for some of the veggies when, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a big mess of mustard greens. I picked them up and asked the price. The two guys checking me out just looked at me and shrugged, which made no sense until a lady came over and informed me those greens were hers she'd gotten at another one of the stands. I quickly found out which stand and bee-lined over to get my own mess. There was one mess left and the guy said they'd been his most popular veggie this week and he'd only brought them on a whim because he wasn't sure anyone would know what to do with them. Being my mother's child, I did know what to do. And that was, pick up the phone and call mom to see how to best cook 'em up as greens are a regular on her dinner table. Alas, she wasn't home the night we had them, so Miss Lauren, who joined us for dinner that night, and I guessed what to do, based on how I'd watched mom do greens in the past. They were delicious! It was Lauren's idea to add the vinegar to cut the natural bitterness and that sent the whole dish to over-the-top yumminess! (We though of adding a can of cannellini beans - love beans and greens sautéed together - but decided not to this time as we were also having skillet corn with our meal.) Hope you try this! Mustard greens are quite mustardy-tart and flavorful - delicious!

The T'nG: 

1 - 2 bunches mustard greens (add any greens you like), washed thoroughly
garlic cloves or an onion, sliced
olive oil to coat bottom f skillet
black pepper, fresh ground
salt if desired
a splash of red wine vinegar 

I cannot stress enough the importance of washing the greens very very thoroughly. Just keep in mind as you're washing and looking at each leaf, front and back, that slugs love those leaves, too! Let rinse water remain on the leaves, don't spin or shake dry. After the leaves and flowers are washed, strip the leaves from the tough lower stems and cut the stems of the flowers where they begin to get tough - much like snapping an asparagus stem off at the tough spot. Gather all the leaves together length-wise and then ribbon cut them into 1/2" - 1" wide strips. Heat oil until just smoking, throw in the garlic (what we used) and sauté for a minute to release its flavor. Throw in the greens and sauté, stirring to get all of them evenly cooked. Take off the heat and season with pepper, salt and splashes of red wine. Taste and correct seasonings. Delicious served warm or at room temperature. 


Below is a photo (borrowed, source noted, as I totally forgot to take that shot myself) of what mustard greens look like before cooking. It was amazing how much they cooked down! That skillet was entirely covered before they wilted down to what you see there. After they were cooked, the greens fit perfectly in a cereal-sized bowl. Next time I'll know to get two!

mustard greens washed and ready to be chopped, flowers and all
photo source


till we feast again!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Annnnd We Have...Another Cake from the Non-Baker!

IMG_0001 by annbumbly
Sawdust Cake
Photo taken w/cake resting on the grass just before said cake and I got into the car to go to bridge night.
It's all Lauren's fault. Totally and completely. She knows I don't bake, but based on the fact I made that other cake that turned out to be a yummy success, she sent me the following email: "Hey Baker Lady. Bake this!" Never one to shy away from a challenge, and knowing bridge night was next evening and I'd have a captive audience of ladies that love their sweets, I told Miss LaLa her cake was forthcoming! Though I call this ~Sawdust Cake~, it's actually called Cornmeal Buttermilk Cake. Lauren found the recipe on the Tasty Kitchen website and the gal that posted it there got the recipe from Kelly's website. Whatever, it is one delicious cake!
Both the previous recipes called for it to be baked as a layer cake. Because I was taking it with me, I baked it in a 9 x 13 pan that had a handy dandy carrying cover (um...I also have no round cake pans). Don't think that made a bit of difference to the wonderful flavor! 
This is a very sturdy cake, quite different from the texture of most, but delicious none the less. Enjoy!

The Decidedly Not T'nG: (oh dear, this decidedly not T'nG cannot become a habit!!):

For the cake: 
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs at room temp.

Heat oven to 350º and spray a 9 x 13 pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and soda, salt, sugar and brown sugar. In a medium bowl whisk together the butter, buttermilk, vanilla and eggs until well combined. 
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until there are no large lumps of flour remaining. A few small lumps are fine. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the cake pulls away from the side of the pan and a stuck-in toothpick come out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack. (I waited till it was cool, covered it and refrigerated it overnight. It was iced the next afternoon.)

For the Frosting:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted (follow box directions)
2 sticks butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 1/2 - 5 cups powdered sugar
1/3+ buttermilk

In a large bowl, cream together the melted chocolate and butter until smooth and creamy. Add in the vanilla, cocoa powder and powdered sugar (powdered sugar a bit at a time) and begin mixing. Slowly add in the buttermilk until the frosting reaches your desired spreading consistency. If the frosting is stiff (mine was), add a but more buttermilk until the right consistency is reached. Frost the cake. 
(Note: I knew this was going to be too much frosting for a sheet cake, but there really is no way to halve this recipe. So...I made the whole amount and told my hubs there were left-over and to enjoy. Let's just say, he took me at my word, (though I did throw some away. Not much, but some.)
A slice after the icing had melted in our 98º day, but you can see the denseness!
'till we feast again!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fresh ~Pickled~ Cucumbers

Fresh ~Pickled~ Cucumbers by annbumbly
Old Fashioned ~Pickled~ Fresh Cucumbers
This wonderful dish has been part of my families' heritage since, well, forever. I can't remember a time this wasn't part of our family summer gatherings, (I am now old enough that when I was young, we really did eat seasonally as out-of-season produce was awful and prohibitively expensive. When my mom was growing up, out-of-season produce was simply non-existent, so this was something her family enjoyed as long as the cucumbers were being gathered from the family garden) and it's a delicious addition to any summer gathering!
Now that we have the fancy-schmancy hydroponically-grown "English" cucumbers, this dish is possible all year round! A good thing, me thinks! (If you use regular cucumbers, do peel them - the skin can be tough, and the wax put on them is just yukky.) Make this tomorrow, folks! You'll be happy you did!

The T'nG:

English cucumbers, washed, peeled with skin stripes (see above) and sliced
cider vinegar
dill, fresh is best, chopped (dried can be substituted, but it's not as good)
fresh ground black pepper
ice cubes
kosher salt

Put the cucumber slices in a bowl and just cover with the cider vinegar. Sprinkle dill over all, along with fresh ground pepper. Stir well. Cover the top with ice cubes and then sprinkle kosher salt on the ice cubes. Refrigerate until ready to serve.   For serving, a slotted spoon works well. 


'till we feast again!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Auntie M's Chocolate Picnic Cake (certainly NOT a T'nG)

Chocolate "Picnic" Cake by annbumbly
Aunt Madeline and Cousin Louise surely knew what they were doing!
A small note....though I'm not a measuring kind of gal, I know enough about cooking to understand that when you bake, it's all about the measuring. The recipes below are ALL about measuring and NOTHING about throwing and going. I don't do the measuring kind of cooking/baking often because I'm not very good at it, but it was my turn to do dessert, so I figured, what the heck, let's try this for the very first time! Guess what? The ~measured~ results were quite tasty! Enjoy!

The hubs and I have been part of a Gourmet Group/Club for the last 11+ years. We've had the best time, and have established long-term friendships with all in the group. All of us are good (being a relative term) cooks, and have improved on that status over the years because of our cooking endeavors for the group. Sometimes we take it easy, as we did tonight with our summer barbecue theme, and other times we choose a cookbook like ~The One & Only Palmilla~ by Charlie Trotter to really push our limits.  
Our theme for tonight's Gourmet Group gathering was Summer Barbecue, and I was the dessert person - something I really don't relish. At all.
So I volunteered to do something I've never ever done before in my life. I volunteered to make a chocolate cake. From scratch. I am not a baker, and certainly not a cake baker! But old dogs can learn new tricks....yes??? 
Jane, the gal I work with and who I share all my woes with, immediately took sympathy on me and said she would dig up some of her old fail-proof (key words there) family chocolate cake recipes for me to choose from. Oh my! I'm so glad she did! The cake recipe is from either her or her mom's Aunt Madeline and the icing recipe is from her or her mom's cousin Louise. Obviously there's been a whole lotta good cookin' going on in Jane's family! 

The T'nG Recipe:

Aunt Madeline's Picnic Chocolate Cake

4 squares baking (bitter) chocolate (bitter chocolate - I didn't realize what that was and had bought semi-sweet chocolate squares. After a check on google, I found that if you mix 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Dutch cocoa powder) with 1 tablespoon canola oil, it's the same as 1 baking square, so I did that (x's 4), but still heated it over the hot water)
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 2/3 cup sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350º. Grease and flour a 13 x 9 x 2 pan. Melt chocolate over hot but not boiling water in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pot. Cream the butter and add sugar gradually; cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt together. Stir baking soda into the butter milk. Add cake flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to the creamed ingredients. Blend in the vanilla and melted chocolate and mix thoroughly. Pour into your prepared pan. Bake about 45 minutes, or until done. Check doneness with a toothpick - when the stuck-in toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done! Take out of the oven and set pan on a rack to cool.

Cousin Louise's Fluffy White Icing

Combine in a bowl/top of a double boiler: 
2 egg whites
3/4 cup white sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoons salt

Place over a pot of rapidly boiling water, and beat with your mixer until the mixture stand in peaks -  about 7 - 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 teaspoons vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture is thick enough to spread. Excess frosting (there wasn't any) can be stored in a jar in the refrigerator. 


'till we feast again!