Suzi’s Blog

TBT Recipe: Cucumber Sauce for Salmon and More

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It's Thursday and I've been doing TBT cookbook review for some time. Now, for Thursdays, I'm adding a TBT recipe, too. Suzi and I are digging back to find — out of over 2000 posts — the really scrumptous recipes we love and that we hope you'll. Here's one from just about a year ago.

This cucumber idea comes from Northwest Bounty published in 1988. It’s a lovely book, particularly for a guy like me who grew up in Oregon. Reading the book now is to have refreshed memories of the salmon and strawberries that were so central to my life.

Ah, salmon. We had it alder smoked year round. When I moved to the East and tried  NYC “smoked salmon” I was, and remained, totally confused. Alder is better. Different and much better.

Whether your salmon is alder altered or broiled or barbecued, this Cucumber Sauce is a delight. Happily, the sauce has life beyond salmon. Atop sliced tomatoes, it creates a lovely, lively salad.

The flavor of cucumber is deceptive. It’s not overpowering, yet it can slide in and rather prominently affect any dish it is a part of. Normally we dice or puree the cucumber to make it integral to the final dish. We get that cucumber in our mouth.

There are two exceptions to that rule. One is home-made cucumber vodka, which is the component for a perfect green martini:

http://www.cookingbythebook.com/dedicated-drinkers-diary/spring-green-cucumber-martini/

And the second exception is this sauce recipe. A water, vinegar, sugar and salt combination is put in the fridge with some cucumber slices. After an hour, or more, the cucumber is removed and the liquid is “thickened” by adding sour cream. You don’t eat cucumber but you are rewarded with its very delicate yet penetrating flavor.

The teaspoon of dill here is added atop the sauce for a little flavor and lots of color. If you want more flavor, then increase the dill and stir it into the sauce.


Cucumber Sauce

Yield: serves 8 for adornment of salmon

Ingredients:

  • 1 English or burpless cucumber, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill [or more!]

Preparation:

Remove seeds from cucumber, and cut across into thin slices. In a mixing bowl, combine water, salt, sugar, and vinegar. When sugar and salt are dissolved, add cucumber. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. When ready to serve, drain cucumber and fold into sour cream. Sprinkle with fresh dill.

Source: Northwest Bounty by Schuyler Ingle and Sharon Kramis [Simon and Schuster, 1988]

Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60mm Macro Lens, F/4.0 for 1/30th second at ISO‑200

 

 

TBT Cookbook Review: The World of Caffeine

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I’ll place a bet with you. Go to your smart phone or tablet and open up Google maps. Then search for “Starbucks.” How many Starbucks places are there within just one mile of where you live?

Is there one? Two, perhaps? Golly, you have five?

I live in Tribeca in Lower Manhattan and within one mile of me there are 33 Starbucks. More on the way I assume and there are at a dozen other coffee/tea places nestled here and there.

Caffeine it turns out really is the world’s most popular drug. Which is the subtitle of The World of Caffeine from Bennett Alan Weinberg and Bonnie K. Bealer. Published in 2001, this book has become ever more interesting and pertinent in our very coffee world. And hot chocolate, too, for caffeine is the driving chemical in that wonder as well. And tea, I know, although it’s something I am not fond of. [Suzi likes chai with Scotch – more on that in another blog].

Caffeine is divided in five parts:

  • Caffeine in History
  • Europe Wakes Up To Caffeine
  • The Culture of Caffeine
  • The Natural History of Caffeine
  • Caffeine and Health

You can read the whole book, from beginning to end, or just drift around, mixing and matching as your interest piques.

I happen to love the very last chapter: Caffeine Dependence, Intoxication and Toxicity. An 1893 study already focused on caffeine addiction. Take away the morning coffee and people experience: sleepiness, work difficulty, irritability [or is that IRRITABILITY], decreased sociability, and flulike symptoms. For well over a century, more and more research has gone into studies on these effects. In our modern world of science with all kinds of chemical analysis possible, we know the molecules that apply and how the pathways to our brains are affected. Yes, toxic, too. Drink too much caffeine and you die. Something to ponder during your next sips.

Yet we drink away.

The very word, caffeine, comes from the French café. And surprisingly, the word only appeared around 1850. Before that, we talked about coffee, the beverage. Now we are so much more scientific so we drink the coffee but we analyze the caffeine.

Coffee was rapidly embraced in Western Europe, beginning in the late 1500’s. So rapidly that the coffee trade actually supplanted the spice trade. Many of us can go a whole day or two without some cinnamon or nutmeg, but take away our coffee and … Well, we become a tad unsocial.

And coffee had some immediate benefits. In the 1500’s and beyond, a lot of beer was consumed because it was a healthier alternative to raw water which was often heavily contaminated. Water could make you sick. Beer, with its alcohol, could make you happy. And eventually fat. Coffee was better alternative: no alcohol to slow you down, the stimulation of the caffeine, and no calories unless you poured on the sugar.

At 350 pages, Caffeine will take you a few cups to work your way through. It’s well written and dense with facts, figures, history, and entertainment. And perhaps more than any of the other coffee tomes out there, it does answer that basic question of life: why are there so many Starbucks out there?

Super Bowl Food: Burrata-Stuffed Meatballs with Pistachio Basil Pesto

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It's a week to Super Bowl Sunday. Time to plan.

How about a plate of meatballs. Meatballs are popular. They must always have been popular.

Actually, no. There is a tool from Google, the Ngram, where you put in a word and see how frequently is has been used in millions of books over the years. You can get that “usage” history going back to 1800.

What is the history for “meatballs?” Until about 1930, the word hardly appeared at all, then began to creep up, perhaps the result of Italian immigration. By 1960 “meatballs” began to skyrocket in usage. Today, we use the term almost ten times as often as we did back in 1960.

Ever popular, there is an endless supply of recipes. How do Suzi and I judge one of those recipes to see if we want to make it? The very first thing we look at is the meat: we look for a mix of at least two and ideally three meats. And here, in this lovely recipe, you do get the Meatball Trinity: pork, beef and veal.

There is a surprise, here, too. Each meatball is stuffed with Burrata cheese. That makes each and every meatball both rich and rewarding. There is a sauce, a Pistachio Basic Pesto, to accompany these meatballs. The combination of cheese inside and this different sauce outside makes this a meatball candidate. Where did we find this recipe? My Life on a Plate by Kelis, a book filled with flavor and, obviously, color.

Add a salad and the beverage of your choice, and you have a superb meal. It’s a great party food and the recipe can be easily scaled for your crowd size. For your Super Bowl Party, these will be remembered long the Seahawks win the game.

My daughter lives in Seattle. My wife loves Jimmy Graham. And I love to watch Russel Wilson dash around the field and then casually toss ball fifty yards.

Okay, I’m writing this seven weeks ahead of the actual Super Bowl. So, either I can going to seem like a football genius to you, or someone who should avoid fantasy football. We’ll see!


Burrata-Stuffed Meatballs with Pistachio Basil Pesto

Yield: 2 dozen meatballs, enough for 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground veal
  • ½ red onion, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 8 ounces Burrata
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 recipe Pistachio Basil Pesto [recipe follows]

Preparation:

In a large bowl, mix together the pork, beef, veal, red onion, garlic, oregano, salt, smoked paprika, basil, and pepper, massaging the mixture with your hands to incorporate the ingredients without smashing the meat too much. Put the breadcrumbs on a plate. To shape the meatballs, take 2 ½ ounces of the meat and gently form a patty. Scoop a scant teaspoon of Burrata into the center, fold up the edges, and gently roll the meat into a ball. Roll the balls in the breadcrumbs and put them on a baking sheet. For perfectly round meatballs, put the meatballs in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to overnight to chill; chilling helps them hold their shape when cooked.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan with a lid. Gently tap the excess breadcrumbs from the meatballs, put the meatballs in the oil, and brown them on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Cover the pan, turn off the heat, and let the meatballs cook all the way through from the residual heat in the pan, about 8 minutes. Remove the lid, pour the pesto over the meatballs, and turn them gently to coat with the pesto. Serve immediately.


Pistachio Basil Pesto

Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces fresh basil (about 8 packed cups)
  • 1 cup raw unsalted pistachios
  • 2 ¼ cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 to 8 garlic cloves, smashed and roughly chopped
  • 2 ounces spinach (about 2 packed cups)
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

Preparation:

Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, or the jar of a blender, and puree. Season with more salt to taste.


Source: My Life on a Plate by Kelis [Kyle 2015]