Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pancakes.... any way you like them!

Ah, Saturday mornings!!  Leisurely, deliberate, lingering, delicious.... NOT!  I usually wake around 8am on any given day off, but quite frankly, I am a "coffee first thing" chick, the food can wait for hours.  My husband is a "food immediately" guy.  So, he usually makes and egg scramble with veg and cheese, less than 15 minutes after our feet hit the floor in the morning.  I of course make the very strong, very dark coffee.  Recently though, I have had a guilt thing going on, so I have made several bits and pieces myself.  I absolutely adore the Welsh rarebit muffins that I stole from Nigella (YUM vegetarian Worchestershire sauce...)  I also love the (completely vegetarian) biscuits and "sausage" gravy I made a few weeks ago for Tim's birthday breakfast.  Also the cheese scones with very, very sharp Red Leicester cheddar.  But my big fall back is a Ziplock bag of "homemade Bisquick" that I culled from several recipes over the last few years.  With which I make any number of types of pancakes!

About 2 Christmas' ago, this was the Mommy and Daddy gift I handed out to my brothers, sister and parents.  I have no idea if any of then replenished this after they used it and ran out, so I am giving this wonderful basics recipe to you.  Use it, experiment with it and make it your own.  Just remember, you can change out most of these ingredients, but you MUST have the baking soda, powder, salt ratio has to stay the same.  That's what gives these babies their heft.

Pancake Mix:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup self rising flour (you can use 4 cups of all purpose or replace the cup with whole wheat or any number of other flours)
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients together in tin, or jar.  Before you use the mix, you should shake the tin or bag, so that all the ingredients are thoroughly mised again.

Pancake recipe:
(makes 6 large or 12 small pancakes)
1 cup of mix
1 cup of milk (or buttermilk)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of melted butter
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients in the pancake vessel of your choice.  Don't mix too hard, leave a lump or two.  Drop by the spoonful onto a hot greased griddle.  Once you see bubbles on the top of the pancake, and it seems drier, flip it.

My very favorite version of this is the buckwheat version... so good and so high in fiber, it's ridiculous.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Homemade Preserved Cherries (for cocktails, or what you will!)

Are you as in love with cocktails as I am?  I love all the ritual, the flavors and all the care that goes into a truly good cocktail preparation.  I think it all stems back to when I was a very small girl, and my parents would go out for a rare evening in Manhattan.  They would come home, and my mother would come to check on us, after the babysitter left, and she would smell faintly of Manhattan's and smoke.  I loved that smell, because it meant she was home!  

As I may have mentioned before, Tim is a beer aficionado, and I don't mean he drinks tons of Bud.  So, I have been turning him on to wine and spirits.  I have yet to make him a gin lover, but that might happen one day!  So, we go out for a cocktail as a grown up night cap when we get the chance.  We have a new cocktail establishment in Funky Ferndale, MI called The Oakland Art Novelty Company and they make most of their own “stuff”, including their own preserved cherries.  We also have a local restaurant called The Atlas Bistro, and they make their own bitters and cherries too.  I have about 8 different types of bitters on my cocktail table, and I have found a way to use all of them, with the exception of the mint... I think I will save that for the Grasshoppers I have been dying to make!  All that being said, my beloved Manhattan wouldn’t be the same without a rosy cherry waiting for me in the bottom of the glass! 

I decided after having several cocktails with their house made cherries in them at Atlas that I really needed to learn to make my own.  So, when we were at a summer get together at Tim’s cousin Allison’s house, and there was a sour cherry tree in her yard just bursting with cherries, I picked many and took them home, determined that I would do it.  Here are two attempts in one recipe.  One is with honeyed bourbon, and the other is with the delicious, if a bit sweet to drink alone, maraschino liqueur.  I honestly liked the honey bourbon upon first blush, but I have to admit, the maraschino cherries really are my fave now.  I can’t explain it, since they are nothing like the jarred varieties we all grew up eating on ice cream sundaes…. they are just wonderful.  All will keep indefinitely in the fridge, as long as you make sure they’re covered well and covered with liquid at all times.  Good luck!  It also has to be mentioned that I am posting this at the behest of my friend Manny.

Honey Bourbon or Actual Maraschino Cherries

Two cups of sour cherries, pitted
1 ½ cups of bourbon or maraschino liqueur (must be good quality)
½ cup of honey, or ½ cup sugar

In a heavy bottomed small pot off the heat, combine the sugar and maraschino liqueur, or the honey and bourbon and stir well until the honey or sugar is dissolved.  Place on a medium flame, being careful to stir gently, but not so vigorously as to splash and ignite the liquor.  Eventually the liquid will come to a boil, so let it biol for a minute or so, then turn off the flame, and remove the pot from the heat.  Carefully add the pitted cherries, and return to the heat, and cook over a medium flame for 10 minutes.  Since they’re pitted, the cherries won’t pop, but they should swell and start to bleed some of their color out.  Once they’ve cooked, take them off the heat and allow them to cool down enough so you can pour them safely into a container for storing.  At this point if you want to can them, you can.  If not just put them in your fridge and allow to cure at least overnight.  At the best, you want them to cure for three full days, then you can eat them, or use them in your fave drinks. 

It should be noted that you can use ANY kind of cherry here, no matter what the ratio is equal parts cherries, and alcohol (combined with sweetener if you're using it) ... I imagine yellow Rainier's would be really interesting!  But the sours are really the least sweet, and so they compliment the liquor.  If you do use black cherries, I would omit the sugar/honey completely. Also, if you come upon this new "craze" honey bourbon (I have seen a Jim Beam variety of this already) just omit the honey and use 2 cups of the bourbon.

Let me know how it goes, and what you use them for!

There's nothing like the deep summer to make and eat some soup!

I will be making up for my lack of blogging with two recipe’s this weekend.  A few weekends ago, were unintentionally productive (the preserved cherry recipe will be the next entry I do…)  I wanted to do lots outside, but this hellish heat-wave settled in on Friday, and after weeding the shade garden behind the house, outside was not an option.  So, I went grocery shopping.  I tried to reign in my prolific food spending, but managed to just buy less expensive things that I use in my store cupboard.  If anyone reading this has any idea of me, they know I am pleasurably obsessed with Nigella Lawson.  And from her, I got encouragement that yes, my very, very, VERY stocked pantry is entirely necessary! 

And so, I came up with a fabulastic garlic soup recipe, culled from previous tries, an encounter with the unfortunate Jeff Smith (AKA the Frugal Gourmet, who also introduced me to cheddar beer soup…) and a reminder that I hadn’t made this in a while from Mark Bittman.  Mr. B reminded me that sage is lovely here, and that I have a thriving sage patch in my container garden.  Also TONS of variegated lemon thyme that I brush up against every time I walk out my back door.  So here is my garlic soup, with a nod to the wonderful Mr. Bittman.  I'd like to add here that I had soup left over and made a wonderful dish of steamed new potatoes and this soup the following night and it was heavenly... Tim wanted seconds!

For the soup:
2 smashed and peeled garlic heads, sliced into thick slices/cut into manageable bits
¼ cup good olive oil
4 – 5 medium fresh sage leaves (don’t use dried, just don’t use anything if fresh isn’t available.)
6 cups of good low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock, or water (with a little soy sauce thrown in for taste, I also have been known to use water and some Vegeeta which gives it a lovely yellow color)
salt and pepper to taste

For the croutons:
4 thick slices of good Italian or French bread
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 sage leaf
1 garlic clove, cut in half

Heat the olive oil and the garlic slices over a low flame in a heavy bottomed soup pot. Sprinkle over a little salt to help the garlic release its juices.  When the oil starts to sizzle a little, toss in the sage leaves and allow them to fry for a bit.  What you’re going for here is cooked garlic that has not colored at all, just softened and cooked.  If you get browning on the garlic throw the whole lot out and start again.  If you go slowly and watch carefully it should take about 6 – 7 minutes on a low flame.  When the garlic mashes easily with the back of a spoon, add in the chicken stock and raise the heat up to medium and bring it to a boil.  One it comes to a boil, allow it to bubble for about 2 – 3 minutes, then lower the heat to a simmer and cover.  Simmer for 10 minutes watching carefully that the water doesn’t cook away, and stir occasionally.

After you have simmered for 10 minutes and are assured that the soup has good flavor (check and add salt and pepper as you feel it needs) take it off the heat and cool for about 10 minutes.  Add the cooled soup to a blender and puree, or use your immersion blender until the soup is completely pureed and milky looking.  Add it back to the pot, or just cover the pot you used the immersion blender in and set on the stove at a bare simmer.

Then make the croutons.  If you have a toaster oven, use that, otherwise heat your oven to 375.  Place the 4 pieces of bread onto a baking sheet and use the oil to drizzle over them.  Put into the oven to toast for 6 minutes, but keep an eye on them, don’t let them burn.  When they are toasted, you can toast the other side if you like, and then take them off the baking sheet and rub with the halved garlic cloves, and run the sage leaves lightly over them.  Place the croutons in large bowls and pour the soup over them, and eat right away.