I am a French fry aficionado. I admit it. It started when I was a little girl sitting at the Woolworth’s counter with these hot, crispy potatoes and a Coke on the side. Since then, it’s always been hard to pass up an order, or even a taste, of these hot potato sticks.
One of the currencies in my family is hot French fries. After zipping into a fast food drive-thru with the kids after a game, I honestly have no memory of making it home with a full bag of fries (my payment for sitting long hours in the bleachers). They automatically know to pass a couple up to the driver, me, or I will drive home very slow and the rest of their food will get cold. The next day, my car still smells like fries, but I’m okay with that.
Now you understand my quest to make the perfect French fries at home. And there is a secret, double-frying. So for those of you who need to understand just how things work, this lesson is simple. Frying is a dehydrating process that releases the moisture near the surface of the food. That’s why you see tiny bubbles kissing a potato when first dropped in hot oil. Once the food is cooled, then fried a second time, the moisture just under the surface vaporizes and turns the potato golden brown because there is less moisture in it. Try this technique for the best homemade French fries whenever you have a craving.
By the way, if you pass by my kitchen, it still smells like fries, but I’m okay with that.
French Fries that Surprise (because you made them yourself)
Once upon a time on the Oregon Coast, cranberry farming was just a piece of the livelihood puzzle. Families would share the work: While many men were off fishing for salmon, women who worked in the home would tend the cranberry crop. But just in time for harvest, salmon season would end and men and women would work on the harvest.
“If you aggregate all the labor that went into growing a pound of cranberries back in the 50s and 60s, most of the labor was done by the women, because they stayed at home. It was my grandmother that was doing the physical labor to make that happen,” says Tim Vincent, a third generation family member of Bandon, Oregon’s Vincent Family.
But as the 70s appeared on the horizon and Americans started drinking more juice, demand for the tart berries, grown largely on the east coast at the time, grew. And over the course of decades, the challenges facing cranberry farmers have changed too.
“The value of cranberries started to creep up and the opportunities for farmers increased,” Vincent said. “Farmers were able to make it a viable full time job, and in Oregon, it was partly driven because the salmon industry was becoming less of a way to make a living for a family.”
Vincent Family Cranberries started in 1957 when Vincent’s grandfa- ther, Elmer Robison, began farming. For decades, the farm was part of the Ocean Spray co-op. As the organization changed over the years and production increased at an explosive rate, the price of cranberries dropped by 80 percent from what farmers earned in the 1980s, Vincent said. Read Full Article Here.
The month of December is practically dedicated to cookies. You can't turn around without bumping into a tray full of frosted sugar cookies, chubby gingerbread men, or sugar-coated bourbon balls. And if you're a cookbook obsessive, you probably already have a good handful of cookie books that you turn to every December. Do you really need another one?
From time to time a cookbook comes out, and I know just by reading through it that the author is a kindred spirit. Cookie Love is one of those books. I’ve never met Mindy Segal, but I can tell just from reading her recipes that we would get along famously. Her recipes are playful, and the cookies they produce are nothing short of spectacular. My favorites are perhaps the ones that are the most unassuming. There’s a lot of perfectly-executed subtlety in this book.
For instance, one of the first recipes I tried from the book was Goat Butter Shortbread. It’s a pretty simple shortbread recipe, but the combination of flavorful goat butter with a touch of toasted wheat germ and whole wheat flour is just perfection. Another good example is the recipe for Dream Bars. It’s just a buttery vanilla cookie topped with a thin layer of dark chocolate and a layer of brown sugar meringue. It doesn’t look like much. But the flavor is beyond words. I would almost say they’re too delicious if that were a thing (it’s totally not).
I’m prepared to say that Mindy is the master of the cookie art form. I humbly bow.
There's even more to love about this book. For one, her recipes contain enough salt. One of the best things about a great dessert is the balance of salty and sweet. If something doesn’t contain enough salt, it lacks balance. I often increase the salt in baking recipes automatically to compensate for this, but Mindy’s recipes are well balanced right out of the gate.
Further, every recipe in this book is thoughtful. As the title suggests, it's clear that a lot of love went into this book. Every recipe I’ve tried from it has not only worked, but has worked perfectly with excellent (and even surprising) results. I have a baker’s dozen of recipes flagged that I intend to make this December—Lemon Goat Butter Tea Cakes, Smoked Chocolate Sablés, Fleur de Sel Shortbread with Vanilla Halvah, Peanut Butter Thumbprints with Strawberry Lambic Jam...they’ve got me hook, line, and sinker.
But I chose this recipe to share with you because it's subtle. Just when you thought nothing more could be done with the classic coconut macaroon, Mindy changes a couple little things and makes an extraordinary cookie. Instead of the usual sweetened condensed milk, she calls for cream of coconut, and she uses both shredded and flaked coconut for better texture. I don’t hesitate to say that these are the best coconut macaroons I’ve ever had, and the recipe is incredibly simple.
Mindy Segal's Coconut Macaroons
Makes 20 cookies
Reprinted with permission from Cookie Love by Mindy Segal (Ten Speed Press). Copyright © 2015.
Author’s headnote: When looking to create a macaroon that resembled a Mounds bar, I deviated from classic coconut macaroon recipes in a few significant ways. I used two kinds of unsweetened coconut—shredded and flaked—for textural variation. (You can find both kinds in the bulk bins at the grocery store.) Instead of condensed milk, I opted for cream of coconut for sweetness, which is pretty much the condensed milk version of coconut milk. Finally, to give the macaroons a cool shape, I chilled the batter and then packed it into rectangular cookie cutters. Once baked and cooled, I like to dip the bottoms of the macaroons in an array of chocolate, melting ½ cup each (in separate bowls) of bittersweet, milk, and caramelized white chocolate wafers for variety.
To make this cookie, you will need a 1 by 2-inch cookie cutter or a 2-inch square cookie cutter. (Full disclosure—I seem to have misplaced my collection of cookie cutters, so I made them in a traditional mounded macaroon shape, but if you have a square or rectangular cookie cutter, I would try Mindy’s method.)
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
1 ½ cups flaked unsweetened coconut
1 teaspoon salt
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup cream of coconut (such as Coco Lopez)
6 ounces chocolate of your choice, melted, for dipping
1. In a bowl, use your hands to mix the shredded and flaked coconut with the salt. Mix in the egg white, followed by the cream of coconut. Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, giving the coconut enough time to absorb some of the liquid, at least 2 hours.
2. Heat the oven to 350°F. Have a nonstick pan ready or line a half sheet (13 by 18-inch) pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
3. Put a 1 by 2-inch (or 2-inch square) cutter on the prepared pan. Spoon some of the macaroon batter into the cutter and pack down slightly to create a rectangle. Leave the top spiky. Repeat with the remaining batter, evenly spacing the cookies on the pan.
4. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for 5 to 7 minutes more, or until the tops are golden brown. Let the macaroons cool completely on the pan.
5. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Dip the bottoms of the cookies into the melted chocolate, shake off the excess, and place on the prepared pan. Refrigerate until set.
6. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
While these might resemble Oreo cookies, Ellen claims them to be better, smarter, and more likely to succeed than any boxed chocolate sandwich cookie you have ever tried. I can see why. Just looking at the ingredient list you notice the high proportion of cocoa powder relative to flour, the generous amount of butter, and the modest amount of sugar in the dough. That sounds like my kind of cookie—rich and dark, and not too sweet.
With the holidays just around the corner, this is an ideal book for gifting to those who love to bake. The chapters are arranged by technique—cookies you scoop, ones you slice and bake, those that get sandwiched, or rolled, or spread in a pan. The final chapter is cookies for the holidays such as pretty Peppermint Meringues, Laura’s Gingerbread People, or Hazelnut Tassies.
What give the classic cookies their twist are the inspired variations at the end of each recipe. For instance, traditional Almond—Olive Oil Biscotti flavored with aniseed, vanilla, and orange zest and textured with almonds are changed up to become Double Espresso-Hazelnut Biscotti or Cocoa-Cacao Nib Biscotti by varying the flavor and nut substitutions.
Ellen shares her grandmother’s recipe for Coconut-Lime Washboards. Oval-shaped and ridged, by imprinting the dough with the tines of a fork, they look old-fashioned and crispy delicious. The novel twist is Ellen’s substitution of coconut oil for shortening. And, as she suggests, not only are they better tasting, they are better for you—assuming you don’t eat the entire batch!
For the cookie monsters that can’t keep their hands out of the cookie jar, this is going to be a hard book to resist. For the bakers who love to putter in the kitchen on a rainy weekend afternoon, this book will inspire and delight.
Did I mention the Lemon Coconut Bars on page 117? Those are next on my list—bar cookies with a coconut crust, creamy lemon filling, and coconut on top. Hmmm, the directions indicate they need to cool before cutting—not sure I’ll be able to wait that long!
Courtesy of Aubrie LeGault and Portland Food Photographer
I am excited that I have the honor of being a sponsored blogger for the Portland Culinary Alliance (or PCA). If you haven’t heard of PCA yet, I encourage you to check out their website. If you’re involved in the culinary scene (in any way!) this would be a great organization to join. Or if you really just love food and different events/classes I would check out their events calendar. Anyone can attend the events. They have two exciting events coming up next week. This Sunday (12/6) is the Cookbook Social at Imperial. There will be over 20 local chefs, bartenders and writers and their cookbooks! Cookbooks make a great Christmas gift- and they are even better with an author signature. The event is from 1-3 PM.
The second event is all about the cookies! PCA is hosting a holiday cookie exchange on Thursday, December 10th at 7 PM. The event is at a local home, when you sign-up for the event you’ll receive the address. When I thought about this event I immediately contacted my mother back in Indiana for her Turtle Cake Brownies recipe. It’s a family favorite around the holidays. I will share the recipe and a few photos of those gooey chocolate bars.
I hope to see you at some PCA events this year. Enjoy the photos and the holiday season.
Turtle Cake Brownies
1 German chocolate cake mix
12 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Evaporated Milk
Mix this together. The batter will be stiff. Use about 1/2 of the batter and spread it on a greased 13 x 9 pan. Bake for 10 minutes at 350. It will not be cooked completely. Let it cool for about 5 minutes.
Part II (Have this part ready to go by the time the cake has cooled)
Melt 16 oz. Carmel bits with 1/3 cup evaporated milk using a double boiler. Spread the melted camels over the baked bottom layer. Sprinkle pieces of Pecans, and 6 0z of chocolate chips. Use the remaining 1/2 of the batter and place spoon sized dollops over the carmel/pecan layer. (You don’t need to spread the batter.) Bake the bars for 20 minutes at 350. Use a toothpick to check the top layer.
After cooling, cut into squares and enjoy with a cold glass of milk! Santa will love these treats.
I have long been a James Bond fan. I think my first crush was on Sean Connery when he saved the world while smiling with those big dimples and that lovely Scottish accent.
Since then as each new James Bond came to the big screen, I watched and measured him against my original favorite hero. And always, in the midst of the suspense and the thickening plot to defeat an enemy intent on world domination, there were always great scenes in the movies with tuxedos, champagne, beautiful women, and the best food, exquisitely prepared.
Recently while reading an article in “Food and Wine” about scrambled eggs ala James Bond, I had to check it out. It is a simple recipe that is “stirred not shaken” unlike James’ martinis. They are light, fluffy, creamy eggs for a Sunday brunch or a late night supper after an evening at the casino tables or completing a covert operation. Who could resist the food of 007, as I anticipate seeing the new James Bond movie Spectre and checking out Daniel Craig to see if he measures up to my original hero/crush.
Scrambled Eggs ‘James Bond’
For four individualists:
12 fresh eggs
Salt and pepper
5-6 ounces of fresh butter
Break the eggs into a bowl. Beat thoroughly with a fork and season well. In a small copper (or heavy-bottomed saucepan) melt four oz. of the butter. When melted, pour in the eggs and cook over a very low heat, whisking continuously with a small egg whisk.
While the eggs are slightly more moist than you would wish for eating, remove pan from heat, add rest of butter and continue whisking for half a minute, adding the while finely chopped chives or fine herbs. Serve on hot buttered toast in individual copper dishes (for appearance only) with pink champagne (Taittainger) and low music.
Beautiful pasta, formed with your own two hands, using simple, good ingredients is what Pasta by Hand by Portland-based chef/author Jenn Louis is all about.
In the introduction to her book, Jenn discusses the confusion of names and regional differences of what she refers to as Italian dumplings. We think of them as gnocchi but come to learn that while all gnocchi are dumplings, not all dumplings are gnocchi. These handcrafted nubs of dough, as she defines them, can be made from a variety of ingredients, such as, potato, cheese, greens or grains. And, they can be cooked by a variety of methods—poaching, simmering, baking, or sautéing. There might be a disagreement of names, but no one denies that these dumplings are treasured comfort food.
Learn the geography of Italy as you cook your way through this book. Jenn begins with the dumplings of Sardinia, the island off the west coast of Italy. From there she heads to the southern part of Italy with dumplings made from semolina flour. Up through the center of the country, with its rich pastures and farmland, we see the ingredients change with dumplings made from potato and cheese, such as ricotta. Head north where wheat is grown and the dumplings are likely to include breadcrumbs.
Along with stories of regional cooks and mouth-watering recipes, the book is rich with photography, specifically, technique shots to teach the step-by-step process of creating these shapes. This is truly where a picture is worth a thousand words. See exactly how one angles their thumb to press on a nub of dough before gently pushing it against a gnocchi board.
I could begin by making the basic gnocchi recipe, but my mouth waters at the thought of Chicche Verdi del Nonno. Gnocchi made with potatoes, spinach, semolina flour, and eggs. These beautiful, tender green pillows are sautéed in butter and then drizzled with brown butter and sage.
Or, for sheer comfort on a cold rainy night, Royale Bolognese would warm the bones. Dumplings made from eggs, butter, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and flour are simmered in a meaty broth. Jenn learned this recipe from Luisa, her mentor, in Bologna. That page is dog-eared in my copy of the book. So is the Buckwheat and Ricotta Gnocchi on page 158. This dumpling is from the alpine region of Trentino-Alto Adige. The suggestion of pairing it with a rabbit or lamb ragu sounds perfect.
I’m ready to cook some potatoes, push them through my ricer, and use my hands to press together dough, and then roll it out on a flour-dusted counter and form it into ridged curled shape. With this book I can play in my kitchen making handmade dumplings and dream about my next trip to Italy.
We have a jam problem. It's an easy problem to have if you do any preserving at all. Jams and preserves are the gateway to canning. They're easy and delicious, and as the seasons roll by you catch yourself saying, "Well, we're going to need to make a batch of strawberry jam" or "We can't go through blackberry season without putting up some preserves." This, my friends, is how it all begins. Innocently enough, and then you blink and your pantry is overflowing with jam.
We joined a canning club. Every month, we trade 5 jars of something we made for 5 different jars of things other people made. This has evened out our jam-to-pickle ratio a bit, but we're still at critical mass considering there are only two of us, and one of us doesn't even like sweet things at breakfast (traitor).
And we've maxxed out our contingent of friends who we can donate preserves to. In effect, we've not only filled up our own pantries with jam, but also those of most of our friends. Maybe I'm just imagining things, but when we go to a friend's house for dinner with a jar of something in hand, I think I can see a glint of dread in their eyes. It's like getting four sticks of lip balm every Christmas (and if you're a woman, you will probably get at least that many)--I love lip balm. It's really great. But I still have three from last time, and I'm just one person!
Thankfully, jam bars are a thing. And they work perfectly with almost any jam or preserve. I imagine they would work with jelly as well, but I haven't tried it yet. These apple pie bars are simple to make, and they have the buttery goodness of a pie but without all the rolling and crimping. I used half rye flour for my crust for a bit of nutty flavor (and because I can't leave well enough alone), but using just all-purpose works just as well. This would also be an excellent gluten free recipe since it involves a press-in crust and a streusel topping. Just use your favorite gluten free flour blend.
Apple Pie Bars
Makes twenty bars
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan. Whisk together in a bowl or pulse together in a food processor:
2 cups all purpose flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup spelt, rye, or buckwheat flour)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Cut in or pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add:
3 tablespoons cold water or milk
Knead or pulse until the dough begins to hold together. Press the dough into the baking pan and bake until barely firm in the center, 12 to 15 minutes. Spread over the hot crust:
1 1/2 cups apple butter
Whisk together in a bowl or pulse together in a food processor:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup all-purpose flour and 3/4 cup spelt, rye, or buckwheat flour)
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Cut in or pulse until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in:
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
Beat together lightly:
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk or water
Stir into the flour mixture until the streusel is moistened and forms small clumps. Sprinkle the streusel over the apple butter. Bake until the streusel is nicely browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack.