Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ropa Viejo Recipe, a food for the New Depression

Barbara in Wisconsin wrote me because she was getting bored with her leftover pork preparations. Whole pork legs are often on sale at her local market and her kids have begun to complain about the BBQ pork sandwiches that are inevitable after a Sunday roast.

Barbara, I have a way for you to use your leftovers that is so tasty you can invite company over to share them. We have a wine for the new depression to serve along with your Ropa Viejo.

Begin by shredding all the leftover pork, up to 4 cups, store until you are ready for the 'leftover' dinner. For those who have no leftovers this can also be made with beef or whatever you find on sale, just cook and shred.

2 cups strong stock (any kind)
2 carrots thinly sliced
11 garlic cloves sliced
3 onions thinly sliced
2 sweet peppers sliced
1 jalapeno chopped fine
4 Roma tomatoes chopped
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil
Limes for garnish cut into wedges
Sliced Ripe tomatoes
1 cup good pitted olives (not from a can) sliced
Fresh Cilantro if you have it.

Saute half the garlic with the carrots in olive oil, when they begin to brown throw in the stock and the tomatoes. Cook for about 20 minutes. Toss in your shredded meat and heat all the way through. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

In another pan Saute your onions and peppers in oil til they are soft and beginning to brown, throw in the garlic and cook for a few minutes more.

Warm your tortillas in the oven.

Remove your meat to a warm platter, cover with the onion mixture, surround with the fresh tomato, lime wedges and olives. Serve with the warm tortillas. Throw everything into a tortilla with the meat mixture, give squeeze of lime juice,top with chopped Cilantro and dive in.

Your barbecue fatigue will end immediately.

Since I am confident that you will enjoy this enough to serve guests I am including a wine for the New Depression. Falling Star Merlot/Malbec, another budget entry from Trapiche.

The double burst of fruity juice wins. This wine is refreshing enough to work with the garlic/salt flavors without overpowering the lime and tomato. Decant and your friends will never guess this wine can be had for under $5.00. An excellent entry in the Wines for the New Depression.

Tomato tip: purchase a few days before you plan to use and store on the counter, they will ripen further and have a better flavor.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wines for the New Depression: Trader Joe's Zinfandel

This is Tader Joe's house label Zinfandel. It is available for a limited time only. It is made wholly of organically grown grapes and quaffable in a very good way. I call it Zinfandel lite.

It does not have the heavy dense fruity head you might find in a Rosenblum but it does have a nice juicy taste and a bit of the spice one associates with these wines.

With a bit of Chinatown duck it was quite tasty, a bit of acid to cut through the fattiness and a nice finish on the palate.

Trader Joe's second entry in the Wines for the New Depression series is a nice Wednesday night wine.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Foods for the New Depression: Harriet Levy's Nut Goodies

I think I learned to make these when I was about 6 years old. They are so easy they have become a Christmas tradition in my house.

While they are way more expensive than store bought crap candy, they are also way more delicious. The New Depression is about entertaining at home and sharing your life and table with friends and family. What is more depressing than being with family?

That didn't come out right, but you know what I mean.

Gather round the table and get the pans out, this candy for the new depression will rock your socks off.

1 bag DARK chocolate chips
1 bag butterscotch chips
2 ounces of unsweetened baking chocolate
Melt over low heat stirring a lot

Stir in...
1/2 jar of Smuckers salted peanut butter
1/2 bag of mini marshmallows
3 cups of salted peanuts (shelled)

Stir until the marshmallow melts enough to be streaks and dump in a greased 9x13 pan. Spread til mostly even and chill. Cut into small squares and serve. Both kids and adults love them. I love them, my waist does not love them, but every once in a while...why not?

Just to answer some of the questions I am getting in e mail.

Yes: I will have recipes coming up for Thanksgiving
Yes: I will have more foods next month
Yes: I will continue with the wines for the New Depression

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wines for the New Depression: Trellis Sonoma Cabernet

This one is an entry from Trader Joe's. A lot of wines at Trader Joe's are weak, watery and not worth the 5 dollar price tag. I have learned to track the code of the floor people. If they tell you a wine is 'popular' that means it is probably detestable and popular only for it's price tag.

Ask them for good solid old vine California wines and there are some good deals to be had.

Trellis Cab is everything one could ask for in a California Cab under 20.00, and it is under 6.00. It has a rich smoky flavor, nice extraction and solid but soft tannins.

It sent me right back to a Sonoma Barbecue where my friend Amanda (the BEST at finding good inexpensive wines) and her husband Tim did ribs, tamale stew and corn on the grill. A delicious afternoon topped with a lovely California red. If California Cabs are your favorite I encourage you to try this wine.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wines for the New Depression 3: Colombelle Cotes de Gascogne

This charming entry came from The Chelsea Wine Vault comprised of 60% Tannat with 20% each of Merlot and Cabernet. Much more than I expected from it's 5.99 price tag. It's the wine they would serve at lunch in Toulouse; the house wine you like well enough to learn the origin of; the wine your friends serve at a really good party.

Full and fruity on the palate, each sip is a delight. I paired it with a simple meal of bread, cheese, and olives, along with a little more of the garlicky eggplant. It's charms were consistent all the way through to the chocolate and fruit, by which time we had to move to port having emptied the bottle.

Ultimately, this is a romantic wine. Share with a friend and double your pleasure.

Just a note about wines...prices will vary depending on what part of the country you are in. I can't guarantee you will get the exact same price in Northfield Minnesota. Even in NY we have price variance. On the East Side everything is priced higher than on the West.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Foods for the New Depression: A chicken in every pot

When I first moved to San Francisco I had a sixteen dollar a week food budget. Rice, beans, lentils, eggs, vegetables and a chicken a week were most of my diet. Twice a week I would shop in Chinatown buying my essentials. If I had a dollar left over I would head to the Cala foods spice rack where they had an excellent selection of dried herbs and spices for 99 cents each. I would often manage one bottle of local wine that I would divide into 5 small glasses and have a glass with dinner many nights.

As difficult as it is to believe I ate well. I know at least 100 different things one can do to a chicken, all delicious and many that I return to on a regular basis.

While I entertain a lot I am still thrifty when it comes to food. I seek the sales and deals all over town while I am out and about. I buy from local farmers and try to eat organic whenever possible, but even within that framework I seek deals.

I would roast my chicken on Sunday nights and eat the wings and drumsticks with all the crispy skin and a big bowl of rice and vegetables. The breast meat would make 3 days of chicken sandwiches for lunch. The thighs were often Monday's dinner with noodles and vegetables, or on the rare occasions I could squeeze in some sour cream as a paprika laden stew with lots of onion and dumplings.

The bones went into the soup pot and two more meals would come from soup. In this new depression a chicken in every pot is not a bad idea. This preparation is well seasoned enough for a special meal and the bones and scraps retain some of that wonderful spiciness that will make the soup delicious.

The Marinade
Juice of 10 limes (10 for a dollar in my neighborhood)
1/8 cup salt
1 head of garlic
1/8 cup turmeric
1/8 cup cumin
1/8 cup coriander
1/2 small Spanish onion cut into chunks
Puree it all in a food processor or blender

Take your chicken and cut the backbone out (save for soup pot), set aside the liver in the frig covered. Snap the chicken open and flat and put into a shallow pan. Put on a glove and pour the marinade over the bird and rub it under the skin and into the flesh with your hands. Work it in there. Place skin side down overnight. In the morning place skin side up wiping away excess liquid and let the skin dry for added crispiness. Keep uncovered all day in the frig.

Pre-heat the oven to 450. Put on a rack with a couple cups of water underneath and put in the oven for 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 300 and roast an additional 45. Test it for doneness, skin should be crisp and juices clear.

Serve with a wedge of fresh lime, some olives, rice and vegetables.

I recommend carving in the kitchen and saving those bones.

Take the neck and all the giblets except the liver and place in a pot of water along with the juice from under the rack (why do you think we put that water in there?) You should start with roughly two gallons of water a chopped onion, a chopped carrot and some garlic and salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer all night long. If you are afraid of stove top cooking while you sleep simmer in the oven or crock pot.

Before you leave the house strain the broth. It probably reduced by half, if not reduce it on purpose. Refrigerate.

When you come home the fat will have risen to the top. Skim it off and save it for fried potatoes or onions.

Take your gallon of stock and bring to a boil, reduce by half then simmer and throw in 3 cups of split lentils, and 4 chopped tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. The lentils will cook quickly. Taste and adjust your seasonings. Then go into your refrigerator and scrounge.

Ah...a little leftover rice from last night, brilliant.

A cup of peas from Friday, okay.

A little bit of spinach left in the bottom of the bag from the salad, it works.

Whatever you've got throw it in. If you have a good flavorful base it will all taste good.

You spotted that liver, take it out and lightly salt it. Your soup is simmering uncovered so you make a nice salad and take that liver and sear it in a pan with some oil, keep it rare and take off the heat. In the hot pan throw in some balsamic and olive oil, hit with a dollop of mustard. Take your hot dressing and toss your salad, reserving a bit of the dressing. Slice your liver and place on top of the salad and drizzle with that last bit of dressing.

Depression era foi gras, crisp greens, good bread, and a really good soup.

Serve with a bottle of Astica and toast the new depression.

Wines for the New Depression part two: Coastal Vines Pinot Noir

One sip of this wine and I was immediately sent back to the Paris of the 1980's when the franc was cheap. It was my first night in town and I was lost and it began to rain, soaked to the skin in a neighborhood I did not recognize I spied a cafe and went in. The waiter took one look at my soaked through clothes and took me to the back and made me remove them. He gave me some clean kitchen whites to wear sat me at a table and brought me a carafe of wine. It was thin and light but with all the flavor of something more substantial. The wine was like the ghost of a wine, I recognized everything one would in the living but it glided past my tongue like a spirit, yet somehow still warmed my body. Soon I was eating a boiled chicken in broth with wonderful bread and the wine was perfect, romantic even, as the tiny bits of acid washed down as easily as the chicken broth.

Soon I met the chef; who to this day is a dear friend. It was the start of something very good and substantial.

As is this wine.

White wine drinkers will love it Red wine drinkers will find nothing to object to. Rose drinkers will chill it and it is happy to be chilled. At $4.94 college students will pair it with Ramen noodles and romantic evenings.

Thusly it qualifies as a worthy choice for the new depression.

Last night I paired it with garlicky eggplant and pasta with mushrooms. We sat on the back steps of the house on pillows enjoying the Indian Summer.

Thanks to my friends at Acker Merral and Condit we have several more wines to introduce.

Politics are filthy and the markets are crashing, so what's important? Time in your life with the people whom you love is what we will all remember in twenty years. So have a glass of wine and see where it takes you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Astica, a wine for the New Depression

I love deep, rich, complex wines that reveal themselves in layers on the palate giving you new subtleties with each bite of food.

This is not one of those wines.

It is however perfectly delightful being exactly what it is. It is a burst of fruit and acid on the tongue, it doesn't linger and posses earthy qualities. It is what it is.

I always thought that wine snobs were being pretentious when the used the term 'drinkable', but some wines are just that...wonderfully drinkable and evocative in their own way.

This wine is a sunny day in Buenos Aires sitting in a cafe waiting for your significant other to return from a shopping trip. It is a house wine, a cafe wine, a dinner wine on a simple Tuesday.

With Jambalaya the burst of fruit contrasted beautifully with the spice. With chocolate it washed away the deep dark tones with it's bright flavors. At 4.32 a bottle (From Acker Merral and Condit) it was the perfect wine for the evening. And thus, my first wine for the New Depression entry, drinkable and under 5 bucks a bottle.

*Just a note for those of you who buy wine in NYC, you really should know this store. It may not always have the lowest possible price, but for service and knowledge they are head and shoulders above any other store in NY.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sugar Free Apple Crisp ala Lydia

My friend Lydia is supposed to be avoiding sugar, but it's apple season and at some point one must be spoiled with a good apple something.

Not be be discouraged I put aside my white flour and sugar and proceeded to play. The results were worth it. A friend picked the apples but I think they are an early version of Gravenstein. Any apple will work (except that noxious red delicious), so use what you have.

4 large apples peeled. cored and sliced.
1 teaspoon Stevia
2 tablespoon whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg or allspice

Toss together in a bowl and set aside.

The Topping
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup almonds
1 cup cold butter cut into chunks
1 teaspoon salt

Grind almonds in food processor and toss in the flour and butter and pulse.

Dot apples with pats of butter then sprinkle topping on apples and bake for one hour at 350 until apples are juice and bubbly and topping is brown. Serve warm with coffee or brandy.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Omaha Steaks...The Madonna of the Food World

In my business I get a lot of tastes and samples in the mail. From Omaha Steaks I received a big sampler with at least 4 of several items they sell. I got hot dogs, burgers, steaks, stuffed potatoes, stuffed sole, pork chops and one of the worst knife sets I have ever seen in my life.

What a huge dissapointment.

They make the claim that their grain fed beef is superior in taste to grass fed, this may give you the idea that the steak is on par with Morton's, or Ruth's Chris. The beef tastes like grade z grocery store meat, it is almost without flavor. Their pork so lean that 3 seconds overcooking will give you sawdust, their prepared items completely bland.

They have a flavorless product line at souped up prices packaged all nice.

Every year I hear from folk who want mail order food as a gift item. I will keep looking because Omaha Steaks gets an F in flavor. They do get an A in marketing, they have great ads, brochures, website etc. I guess this makes them the Madonna of the food world.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Incredibly Versatile Pesto

I like to have a taste of Summer all year long. I am fortunate enough to live in a house with a garden so I have the ability to pick fresh peaches off the tree every August, eat tomatoes off the vine and have fresh herbs from Spring to late Fall.

I can and freeze in order to preserve those brilliant tastes into the bleak winter months. Pesto can be a brilliant burst of flavor that can push even a cold February night away.

There is no one pesto, there are as many recipes as there are Italian women. All of them are good.

Some favor the burst of basil, others are heavy on the garlic, some much more cheesier. There is nothing wrong with any of them. Play, taste, and adjust until it is perfect for you.

In various combinations
Olive Oil

Pine nuts are traditional, but almonds can be delicious as can walnuts. You can add sun dried tomato, a splash of lemon juice, a hot pepper to give it a boost, but always use a good quality olive oil. Flat olive oil can bring down even the best ingredients.

You can even leave out the basil and make a pesto with Tarragon or Sage. Sage Pesto is great for pastas like gnocchi, and Pumpkin or Mushroom Ravioli. For those of you who have never made a Sage Pesto I include the recipe, but feel free to change it. Play with your food.

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 2 cups fresh sage leaves, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves (or Tarragon, or basil, they both blend well)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic peeled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of one lime
Put it in the food processor or blender until it is creamy. Freezes beautifully and in addition to working wonderfully with pasta it is also a great rub for Poultry or Pork. Try rubbing under the skin of a chicken, salt the skin and let rest in the refrigerator on a rack for 24 hours. Rub the skin with olive oil and roast.

If you do not have a garden of your own hit the Farmer's market this weekend. They still have herbs along with the last of the summer vegetables and the first apples of the season.