5.22.2005

Candied Rhubarb, take 1

In the midst of my all-rhubarb, all-the-time fest, Cindy at Food Migration mentioned some delicious and unique candied rhubarb she had at dinner recently. So of course I pounced. She helpfully found a recipe (see her comment section), and between a cursory glance at the recipe and her description of said candied rhubarb, I went for it.

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rhubarb slices on parchment, pre-cooking

Maybe I should have looked before I leapt.

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post cooking, pre trying to peel them off the parchment, thinking, "maybe I
should pop them back in the oven so they'll soften again" thus pre-browing.
Sticking them back in the oven did nothing to free them. It just hurt my cause.

All is not lost.

Positive lessons learned:
  1. Candied rhubarb is delicious. It is like those sour gummy candies, only not so sour, and tasting like something that actually exists in the world. This is a food-stuff worth working on. Some of my pieces were gummy (the thicker ones). Most were too crispy, though.
  2. It is not going to take 8 hours, despite what the recipe says. This trial run lasted 3 1/2, which was too long for the thickness of slices I made. If I retain the super-thin slices, maybe 2, if I go thicker, maybe 3.
  3. There is some potential to create a sort of rhubarb syrup and make hard candy, that would also be unbelievably delicious. As the sprinkled sugar melted and mixed with the rhubarb juices, there was opportunity for some finger-lickin' sampling. Huge untapped potential there.
Negative lessons learned:
  1. Parchment paper + too thin slices of rhubarb + melted then hardened sugar + too long cooking = parchment paper coated rhubarb. I lost a lot of the candy this way. Very sad.
  2. Not really a lesson learned, more a question for further experimentation. I'm not sure what texture I want the candy to be. Crispy is fun. Crispy is yum. Crispy is hard to achieve. I used a veggie peeler and made the thin strips, but this left the last pieces as thick - these ones came out well, but a bit chewy gummy stick to your teeth-y.
  3. Check the oven more often. Even though rhubarb is super watery, even though the oven was only 180F, it dried out quickly and started to brown. I don't want brown candy.

5.15.2005

Rhubarb Margaritas
. . . and other adventures with rhubarb juice

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yeah, that's chococat

I love rhubarb. Not just in pies, but in all manner of foods. After my great success with rhubarb salsa, I was inspired to think about canning it so I could eat more of it and more often. I was looking around for recipes on canning rhubarb and kept coming across recipes for canning the juice, especially in old-timey canning and recipe books. Most of these books said that while rhubarb is easy to can, it just isn't worth it. If you want to keep it, you should freeze it, said the most modern. I don't have the freezer space, but by then I was totally distracted by this idea of rhubarb juice.

What I love about rhubarb is the sour tartness. And since it is summer, tequila is on the brain. (I am particularly loving my Don Julio Anejo. It wasn't that expensive, but it wasn't cheap either. Good tequila is worth it, in my opinion.) Voila, rhubarb margaritas.

The basic premise is that you chop it up, boil it for a bit, then strain it. One recipe suggested letting it steep for a while, which I did. I have a chinois, which helps a lot (though mine isn't as pricey as the linked one). I also used a lot more water than most recipes out there, mostly for lack of actually reading the other recipes. I thought the rhubarb should be covered in water, so that's what I did.

I used: 3 lb of rhubarb, 8 tbl honey, and 8 cups water. After bringing it to a boil, I turned the heat way down and let it simmer for ten minutes. Then I turned the heat off and let it steep for 2 hours. The rhubarb totally broke down into a pulpy mass. I strained it through my chinois, mashing on the rhubarb to make it release the juice. I got 2 quarts and 16 oz out of the whole things, and the resulting rhubarb mush was only about a cup and a half's worth. Fun how that works.

For my margarita, I used good tequila, triple sec, rhubarb juice and half a lime. Absolutely wonderful. I had been worried that the tequila and lime would overpower the rhubarb, but not so. The rhubarb fit right in.

Some recipes mentioned food coloring to make it pinker. I'm ok with the peachy color, but if you wanted pink you could mash a strawberry through the chinois. Strawberries aren't in season yet here, and I don't buy strawberries at the supermarket except in extreme emergencies. But I think that would make it very pink.

This version came out very very sour. Most recipes call for a lot of sugar, but I want the sour, and I knew I could add more sugar later if needed. But now that it is sour, it is inspiring me to mix it up with all sorts of other fun things.

My next fun thing will be to mix it with some of that Choya Umeshu I got at the Red Ginger wine tasting. The plum liquor is super sweet and viscous, while the rhubarb is sour and thin, more refreshing. And then perhaps I'll break open a bottle of my precious Toad Hollow Risque, which is a sparkling wine from California, with a bit of sweetness. I suppose any sweet-ish sparkling wine will do, although if you can find it, Toad Hollow's is the greatest. On second thought, no, don't try to find it. It is terrible, you wouldn't like it. I will make the great sacrifice and drink it all.

All of these drinks speak of that perfect spring-time. When the sun is shining and warm, when the heat of summer is still a myth from last year, when the days are already long and everything is freshly green. It holds a certain decadence of fine cocktails mixed with the down-hominess of a beverage that comes out of your neighbor's back yard. As long as the rhubarb holds, through late June here in NH, I will be making rhubarb juice.

5.07.2005

Pink Tacos with Rhubarb Salsa

No pics 'cuz it wasn't until halfway through the meal, when we took a moment to breath after devouring the goodness, that we realized dinner was blog-worthy. So no pics.

I hadn't even set out to make pink tacos, but when I laid the stuff out on the table, I realized how fun it was. Cute. Haven't used the word cute to describe food much, I have to admit, but cute it was.

Pink tacos consisted of:

  • flour tortillas, taco size. Normally I use corn, but I knew my fillings and knew corn would be too much for these babies.
  • turkey. I bought a couple already roasted slices of breast from my fancy-pants prepared food to go counter, then chopped them up. Favorite food cheat ever.
  • red cabbage, sliced fine like for coleslaw or fish tacos, about half of the smallest one I could find, tossed with 2 slim tbl of mayo and the juice of 1/2 lime. Heavily salted, and prepped first so the cabbage could soften and wilt a bit while the rest of dinner was made.
  • pink beans, the canned Goya variety, sauted with a white jalapeno and half a red onion, then smashed a bit to break them open, but not too much to turn them into canned refried texture.
  • rhubarb salsa. Slice five stalks of rhubarb down the center, then chop into half inch pieces. In a heavy saucepan over medium low heat, cook the rhubarb with 2 tbl of good honey, covered. It'll get soft in a few minutes, check it so it doesn't turn to mush. You want your salsa to have texture. Combine with the juice of 1/2 lime, 1 minced white jalapeno (or other favorite pepper, these just happen to be overwhelmingly present in our stores right now and have some good, but mild heat), and the other half of the minced red onion.
  • a couple grated radishes
  • a log o' chevre. I love a bit of cheese on tacos, and I love experimenting with the ingredients and carefully choosing an interesting cheese to match. While chevre is not that unique, it was perfect in combination.
I served slices of fresh pineapple and avocado alongside, and we made an impromptu sangria. If I had been planning the pink theme, a sangria made from rose would've been too cute.

Appearances aside, these tacos were totally delicious.

5.03.2005

Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl

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Just finished this delicious romp of a book - tore through it in a couple quick sittings.

Two fairly raw thoughts:

The book is fantastic. More than her others, it focuses on food and restaurants. There are delicious and inspiring descriptions of dishes eaten in the big restaurants of NYC, from her time at the New York Times food critic. There are the details of being a critic, the details of food writing ethics, the details of the tricks of the trade. There are the details of eating, of taking food in her mouth and being so amazed she stops breathing, and can only describe the experience afterward as psychedelic. I love details. Especially when these details are describing food.

She also describes some wretched meals, eaten with wretched people. Actually, there are a lot of wretched meals. And reprinted are many of her reviews from the New York Times, so that you have the whole experience of multiple visits to a restaurant, and then you get to see it boiled down.

The 2nd thought:

Ruth is a bit whacked. In order not to be recognized, she disguised herself. We're not talking simply a wig - we're talking full blown characters that she "became." I guess I appreciate that she recognizes that, after a while, this is a bit extreme. Her friend hates her as one person, her husband and son actually prefer her as another! I understand, because she explains it well, that it is critical for her not to be recognized. I really respect that. But dressing up as someone else and becoming that character in some weird little restaurant-dining drama are two different things. But I respect her for letting her freak-flag fly.

So, in a nutshell: her best book yet; really great foodie book, because of the focus on fancy-pants NYC restaurants; bit of weirdness with the disguises but this is more than made up for with great descriptions of food. Reminds you of why the pros get paid the big bucks.

5.02.2005

Sausage with peppers and onions, Southwest-style

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While eating a really great Philly cheesesteak at the Neptune Diner outside Oneonta, NY, B & I started thinking about how great it would be with mellow spicy peppers instead of bell peppers, then we went on to think about taking the Italian sausage sub and transforming it. So we did. And it was friggin' awesome.

For the two of us, one sub each, we used one very large poblano, two heirloom variety white jalepenos (milder than regular jalepenos, so 1 regular one), 2 fresh chorizo sausages, 2 yellow onions, and 2 sub rolls. B even found sub rolls that had pictures of philly cheese steaks on them and were labelled "steak" rolls. I had no idea such a thing existed.

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The whole meal was made in our cast iron pan - first we blacked the peppers, then set them aside while we cooked the onions. Peeled the peppers, removed the seeds and sliced them.

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Put the onions and peppers in a bowl on the side, and started cooking the sausage, at the end, added everything back together. We used vegetable oil as needed, mostly for the onions. Piled it all on the buns. Firey, but not too. Mostly roasty smoky and everything you want a good sausage sub to be.

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5.01.2005

Diana Kennedy's From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients


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I just got this book yesterday, having re-found an old gift certificate to Borders (thanks BJ and Kristen!)

Because my love affair with Mexican cuisine seems eternal, it is surprising to me I don't already own her books. But they are pricey, and I tend to check most things out of the library, anyway.

Despite the somewhat unappealing cover, the inside is gorgeous. It lies flat when open. This is so basic for cookbooks, but you don't often see it. The pictures illustrate techniques, tools, and most importantly to me, ingredients. I've seen epazote and culantro so often called for in recipes that I ordered seeds so I could grow them, that seeming to be the only way I was going to get my hands on them - now I see what they are supposed to look like for harvest. Good pictures of peppers, which I like because Shaw's throws them together in a basket labeled "hot peppers." And so on. I am very excited about this book.