Achiote Oil

Annatto seed, or achiote as it's known in Spanish, is tiny seed that can make a big difference.

Achiote or annatto seeds

Achiote or annatto seeds

Annatto is used to color cheeses (Mimolette, Red Leicester), to color lipstick, and in many Latin cuisines. The flavor is subtle, warm and nutty. The deep red-orange color is essential to Arroz Amarillo (yellow rice), arroz con pollo (chicken rice) and more. Once you have it on hand you'll find yourself reaching for it whenever you want to add color and warmth to a dish. 

To make:

In a medium skillet, place 1 C of Extra Virgin olive oil, organic corn oil, or organic canola oil. Add 4 TBSP of achiote seeds. This is the brand I like. I like to add a bay leaf, a slightly crushed clove of garlic, and a dried chili pod. Simmer until the garlic just begins to color, the annatto seeds will darken a bit but don't let them blacken. Take off the heat and let the flavors infuse the oil for at least thirty minutes. Be sure to keep it at a low to medium simmer, too high heat will scorch the seeds and make the oil unusable. 

Strain and store in a jar or bottle with pouring spout. 

 

achiote oil

Uses:

  • For popping popcorn
  • Brush on cod filet, bake for fish tacos
  • When making sofrito 
  • Roasting a pork shoulder or starting barbecue sauce
  • Sauteeing empanada filling

 

 

Blackout Eclipse Muffins

I suddenly realized late last night that I had made NO plan for viewing the eclipse. No glasses, no research about time, viewing. No special meal or treat.

And, while rearranging the freezer to accommodate all our freshly roasted Hatch chiles, I found more than a couple brown, frozen bananas. Inspiration struck. It was 230 AM but you know, my muse does not play nice. 

My thoughts were: 

  • bananas - gotta use 'em
  • oats - protein, heart-healthy
  • soy yogurt - protein, should encourage a moist crumb
  • whole grain flour - delicious and tempered by the cocoa
  • Cocoa, super dark cocoa - rich, heart healthy, antioxidant cocoa is a relatively healthy way to satisfy a chocolate craving

Developing recipes just took another turn around here. We're dealing with dairy allergy, almond & hazelnut allergy, rising A1C and trying to eat heart-healthy and brain-healthy diets. It's a lot of accommodating and a lot of tinkering. With baking this can be disastrous. Change one variable and you can wreck a cake. 

I scoured the internet, all my cookbooks in a couple easy searches (thanks EatYourBooks!) I came up with exactly zero recipes that met our criteria. When has lack of resources, crazy work schedule, impending travel, and janky newsletter interface ever stopped me? NEVER. What was I gonna do - sleep? Pshaw. 

I tinkered in my head mulling over the risks of so many variables. Dutch vs Natural cocoa, white vs wheat flour, all wheat flour vs some oats, yogurt vs buttermilk, etc. Start with a banana base...

Chocolate + banana + yogurt + oats = equal rich, delicious and guilt-free indulgence

Chocolate + banana + yogurt + oats = equal rich, delicious and guilt-free indulgence

Happy to report these lovely muffins are so delicious that the husband refers to them as "cupcakes". That is the Doc Seal of Approval. 

Ingredients

  • 2 medium bananas, overripe (I toss bananas that are too ripe to enjoy eating into the freezer, as they thaw the skins peel off easily, perfect for quick bread and muffi-er, cupcakes)
  • 3/4 C plain Greek style yogurt (I used my homemade soy yogurt, strained)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 C Canola oil
  • 1/4 C canned coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 C coconut sugar or regular granulated
  • 1 TBSP packed, light brown sugar
  • 2 TBSP Hershey's Special Dark cocoa (an extra dark blend of natural and Dutched) or Hershey's Natural cocoa 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp Local Spicery "Dark" blend (optional) 
  • 1 2/3 C flour (I use 1/2 C whole wheat pastry, 1/2 C AP, 2/3 C oat flour - buzz your rolled oats in the blender until it's flour consistency*)
  • 1/4 C chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • Pearl sugar, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375, line standard muffin tin with paper liners
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, mash peeled bananas with a fork. Mash longer than I had patience for (see blob of banana in the crumb shot?) 
  3. To the finely mashed banana, add oil, coconut milk, yogurt, egg vanilla.
  4. In a separate medium bowl, add the dry ingredients, whisking until no lumps remain. Make a well and add the wet ingredients. 
  5. Mix just until wet and dry are combined, add chocolate chips or chunks. Over-mixing makes for heavy muffins. Light hands, light muffins.
  6. Fill muffin cups nearly to the top of standard paper liners. I use a small ladle. Sprinkle some pearl sugar, clear sprinkles, or sanding sugar on top. (Sanding sugar mixed with the dark blend would be excellent, I think.)
  7. Bake 20-25 minutes until pick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin at least ten minutes. Then ENJOY.

*You may swap out up to 1/3 of your AP flour for oat flour in your muffins, quick breads. Use rolled oats and buzz to a fine powdery consistency. Adds protein and moistness.

Chocolate banana eclipse muffins 

Chocolate banana eclipse muffins 

Crumb shot: mash those bananas well

Pro tip: keep muffin papers in a jar to protect them and keep them handy. Tulip papers are stored in a quart plastic tub.

Pro tip: keep muffin papers in a jar to protect them and keep them handy. Tulip papers are stored in a quart plastic tub.

Lacy Caramelly Raisin-free Oatmeal Cookies

I used to have a client who professed a weakness for oatmeal cookies. Each meeting thereafter, I made sure we had oatmeal cookies included in the refreshments. It's the little things. And speaking of little things, why avoid a delicious cookie because of the raisins?

I've never been a raisin super fan, (looking at you Chanie), but have fallen for goldenberries. These are sweet and tart and chewy. Not dark, hard, shriveled also-ran Halloween "treats" that could've been wine instead of blech. (I know, different grapes, but you get my point: raisins are just not a grape's best self!)

Goldenberries

Goldenberries, the sexy cousin in dried fruit family, are good for you. Bonus, they're easy to sub in for raisins or dried fruit in most any recipe; granola, muffins, carrot cake, sauteed with vegetables like spinach or chard in an agro-dolce preparation.

Goldenberries are one of the key ingredients in my lacy oatmeal cookies. These come together quickly and please everyone.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 C quick cooking rolled oats (thick cut would be nice, no instant, no steel-cut)
  • 3/4 C unbleached AP flour (sub half for white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour if you like)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (I love Ceylon/Sri Lanka cinnamon which has a more complex profile)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 8 TBSP (1 stick) unsalted butter @ room temp
  • 1/2 C (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/4 C vanilla sugar
  • 1/4 C palm sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp orange blossom water
  • 1/2 C chopped goldenberries
  • 1/4 C chopped toasted pecans

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, line two cookie sheets with parchment
  2. Place butter in stand mixer and set to low
  3. Toss oats in medium bowl, along with flours, cinnamon, baking soda
  4. Add sugars to butter, scrape down as needed to incorporate fully, creaming to light consistency. Add egg, vanilla, orange blossom water, goldenberries.
  5. Mix dry ingredients then add about 1/3 at a time, scraping down bowl as needed. Add nuts. Mix only until all ingredients are incorporated.
  6. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, two inches apart. (I use a small OXO cookie scoop and fill it half full.) Press gently with lightly wet bottom of a measuring cup.
  7. Bake five minutes, remove and rap sheets on counter to encourage spread, then reverse trays as you return to the oven (top to bottom, front to back). Bake another 5-7 minutes, watch at the end. (I turn my oven off for the last two minutes. 
  8. Remove promptly. Let cookies firm up on the sheets before moving them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

 

Favorite oatmeal cookies

Favorite oatmeal cookies

If you can't make it to a local farmers' market...

...hop on the T to the Boston Public Market

 

Either way, you're going to find great things to eat, drink, cook. Here's a video I hosted for FoodableTV introducing the newly opened Boston Public Market in 2015. 

If you're curious about what to do with the great fish, meat, fruits and vegetables you'll find at the BPM or Dewey Square leave me a comment or email me

It starts with a craving or a question...I'm here to help!

 

What you'll find now:

It's been a late, long, wet spring but we've got tender greens, asparagus, and some greenhouse favorites like Persian cucumbers. Make a nice grain salad and serve it alone or with some chicken or shrimp marinated in Schug or Shrug (see my "Cilantro Shrug" below). I think it would be great as a drizzle over scallops, too.

Sometimes you zig, sometimes you zag, sometimes you shrug

When you're teaching cooking classes your refrigerator can become a bizarre hoard of odd bits and bobs. What will keep til next week? What needs to be used up? What was forgotten in the back of the bin? (Don't ask.) This week I had bundles of herbs, cilantro, parsley, and thyme. 


Tip: I've found the best way to store most herbs is to wrap in paper towel and place in an open zip top bag. This helps regulate the moisture and humidity. If you can remember to, grab your kitchen Sharpie and mark those bags! This will save time opening and unwrapping. (I get them into the bags but seldom actually label them.)


Recipe testing for classes and clients, as well as planning dinner for us, I wind up with a constant internal dialog, something like air traffic control, but instead of planes crashing and fiery deaths, there's the possibility of food waste. In my family, these were disasters of nearly equal proportion. It's hard to shake. That cilantro needs to be used up. Should use that ground turkey up before the chicken breast which should be thawed by tomorrow. Too much parsley, how'd I end up with so much parsley? Those zested limes need to be squeezed into something.

A few days ago, this terrific sounding marinade called Schug that passed through my inbox and got the wheels turning. Then I came across this post about Zahav in Philadelphia which is apparently good enough to warrant a trip only for its food. (Noting this for Cody & Carlos.)

After two nights of Instant Pot pasta recipe testing (turkey fauxlognese", almost there), I'm ready for a switch. The basic idea was to take the pile of herbs and use them up. Yesterday I made baba ganoush with gifted eggplant from Sunday's North End tour. I made freekeh tabbouleh using up most of the parsley (or so I thought) and a good bit of the mint, the cilantro. I made hummus, too and enjoyed a proper, sloppy feast. 

Decided to make schug to marinate the chicken and serve with tabbouleh and fresh salad tonight. I'll have meal three of the baba ganoush (he won't touch it) and he'll have some chicken. We'll both share the freekeh tabbouleh. Sounded perfect. I reached in for that parsley. Oh. Mint. I reached in for the cilantro. Oops. TWO bags. 

This is where your kitchen improv skills come in handy. Altering the schug recipe, and borrowing from Zahav & Gayle, I made a pesto based on what I had to use, what was on hand, and what I know would go well together. While parsley loves lemon or orange, cilantro favors lime. Mint is pretty happy playing on both teams. When we're adding coriander and chiles, I reach for cumin. Bonus, I used up the last bit of gremolata, too. 

CILANTRO SHRUG

Because, why not?

  • 1 C cilantro
  • 1 C mint
  • 1 C chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 limes, juiced 
  • scant tablespoon each: ground coriander, ground cardamom, kosher salt
  • scant teaspoon ground cumin
  • 10 serrano chiles, stemmed removed (half seeded)
  • 4 garlic cloves

Processed in food processor, pouring canola oil in thin stream to achieve a loose pesto, probably 3/4 C.

(and because I had it to use, about 2 tablespoons of gremolata: orange zest, garlic, parsley.)

 

Cilantro Shrug
Lime Cilantro Shrug
marinade

If you're on team cilantro, here's a cilantro pesto recipe.

Craving Curry

Growing up "curry" meant the boxed bricks of rich S&B or Golden Curry. It was a comfort food for many Japanese households having been introduced to Japan by westerners after centuries of isolation. Karē Raisu or curry rice is as popular as ramen though many unfamiliar with Japanese food wouldn't know it. It's the other end of the culinary scale from sushi or shojin ryori (artistic Buddhist temple food), to be sure, but it's impossible to underestimate the comfort of a curry rice plate to a Japanese person. Proust had his Madeleines, I'll take curry. 

Years back my mother had a friend, now since passed, who was one of the many Japanese women transplanted here who found themselves enjoying the freedom of life in the US over the constrictions of Japan. I used to giggle over their names: Fumiko Church; Akiko Smith, etc. Unfortunately for Reiko, her marriage was not a happy one, but she managed. She and my mother enjoyed a friendship for years. I remember my mother remarking, quite astonished, that she discovered Reiko hardly knew how to feed herself after her husband left. She'd grown up in a fairly well-off family in Japan so the cooking was done for the family. Later as Reiko's health began to fail, my mother visited more often and brought her food or cooked for her. One day she made her Kare Raisu. Reiko swooned, overtaken with emotion at the comfort food from her childhood. My mother, ever the pragmatist, was shocked "it's just a boxed mix..."

My Madaleine

My Madaleine

As I grew up and learned about the dangers of saturated fat (the boxed bricks have built-in roux - flour+fat thickener) I ate it less and less. Our spring this year has been long and wet and cold and dreary. And wet. And unending. And rainy. And grey. So guess what I've been craving? I had my hand on the box in H Mart the other day, but the memory of that mouthfeel, that fat, swayed me. I put it back. 

But cravings never go away until they're sated. Cravings are like that. So I decided to make a Thai curry. It was delicious and I want to share the recipe and encourage you to make it at home. Still, I see a Kare Raisu in my future. 

A note about Thai ingredients:

  • I use Thai Kitchen curry paste. I've also found an authentic Thai brand in Chinatown to which I added the Thai Kitchen roasted chili paste.  At any rate if you're vegetarian, you might try to make your own curry paste. I have not tried this so I cannot compare the flavors. Since many readers would have a hard time finding some of the components (galangal, Makrut) I use what I think is largely accessible here.
  • I like to add fresh lemongrass. You can now find this at most Whole Foods. Of course, if you're near a Chinatown, you can always find it there, too. We got some beautiful fresh, organic lemongrass at WFM. Use your cleaver, the back/spine of the knife and bruise the lemongrass to release the flavor. It will simmer in your curry, simply pluck it out before serving. 
  • Makrut lime leaves are a wonderful addition if you can find them. They may still be labeled as "Kaffir" lime leaves (Kaffir is derogatory slang which is not something we want to be perpetuating. Easy enough to use the actual name of the ingredient, don't you agree?)
  • Frizzled shallots - really more Vietnamese ingredient but I had some to use. 
  • Fish sauce - I used to buy the Three Crab brand, widely available in most Asian markets. Andrea Nguyen turned me on to Red Boat and there's no going back. It's really superior and clean tasting. Love it. Fish sauce is pure umami and lends that savory note that is essential in so many things. Italians have colatura. Japanese, dashi. Umami is everywhere and a major reason why something like a fresh roll can be so very satisfying, fish sauce in the dipping sauce.

With deference to Thai cooks out there, here is a version I make at home, with ingredients most any of us could find in their local grocery store or on Amazon. 

 

Thai Red Curry

Choose your vegetables based on what's in season, or what's due to be used up in the fridge. Dice according to density so everything will cook evenly. I dice carrots or sweet potato or butternut squash in about 1/2" dice. 

Assemble your aromatics: lemongrass, makrut, ginger, garlic, shallot. 

Assemble your fish sauce, chili paste, curry paste, lime, sugar. You'll be balancing the flavors of savory, spicy, sour, sweet and smoothing it all out with coconut milk. 

I recommend starting with a 3:2:1 ratio: curry paste: roasted chili paste: fish sauce. Then adjust to your taste.

Add a couple glugs of neutral or peanut oil to a large hot skillet. Add your chili paste, and aromatics, cook for a few minutes, add harder vegetables like carrots now. Bruised lemongrass, makrut leaves, then add roasted chili, and fish sauce. I often add a bit of water to help release anything sticking in the pan. 

 

Red curry mise 

Red curry mise 

Add remaining vegetables. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Taste and adjust seasoning adding more fish sauce, lime or chili as desired. 

Serve with rice or rice noodles. 

 

Next up: Japanese Kare Raisu - Curry Rice!

R you crazy? Eat oysters in August? Yes, yes you can!

We'll be gathering at favorite oyster bars around town this month to enjoy oysters without regard for the old "R Month Rule" you know, "never eat oysters in a month without an R". While oysters are at their plumpest in the fall and winter, we can enjoy them year round.

This month we're enjoying them without concern, know why?

  1. Oysters from reputable sources are taken from clean waters.
  2. They're transported safely (i.e. proper refrigeration).
  3. Many are triploids and don't spawn. "Triploid" may sound scary but it's an oyster bred to carry an extra gene, so it won't reproduce in the summer months, when the warming water temperatures make diploids spawn. (A spawny oyster won't hurt you, it's just milky instead of briney.)

In the past, each of these aspects could be problematic. Not so much now. If you love oysters as I do, no reason to deprive yourself just because it's summer!

  • By the way, have you liked our Oyster Century Club Facebook page yet? Check out my shucking video there. Tips for buying, storing, and shucking. 

     
  • JOIN US: Thursday Aug 4 @ The Merchant! Free admission to members (bring your card!), join us for specials and free admission to more events. We'll have 1/2 price oysters, gather entries for raffle of great swag. 

 

Oysters at the Old Port Sea Grille, Portland Me.

Oysters at the Old Port Sea Grille, Portland Me.

Love those shells! 

Love those shells! 

Here are some other great oyster shots from my weekend in Portland.
 

Eventide

Eventide

Eventide

Eventide

At our event at Merchant, we'll cover some tips for warm weather enjoyment. Here are some great resources for anyone tasting along in Brussels, San Fran, Seattle, Toronto...everywhere our OCC members are.
 

  • Pangea Shellfish has a great video course which is quick and fun. Warning: it will make you crave oysters! Check it out here.

 

Homemade Tonkatsu Sauce

Tonkatsu is a Japanese fried cutlet, usually made from pork, dredged in panko and deep fried, it gets served with a sauce that is widely called "bulldog sauce" after the popular brand of tonkatsu sauce. Bulldog sauce or tonkatsu sauce is drizzled over the cutlets and the shredded cabbage that typically accompanies katsu. Think of American fried chicken and coleslaw as a rough analog. 

It's the winter-without-end here in Boston this year and one of the best things about winter is cabbage. I'm sure you hear that all the time. Seriously though, this time of year you can get some of the tastiest, sweetest, crunchiest cabbages. I can't get enough. Purple, napa, green, savoy...bring on the brassicas! Cabbages are loaded with Vitamin C, they're probiotic (which means they help your gut generate the good bacteria that supports immune health) and they're satisfyingly crispy crunchy with a bittersweet flavor that is a perfect foil to many of our winter braises. 

Coming off the Seafood Expo I brought home a salmon skin from a whole side of salmon we were sampling. Today's lunch was rice, miso soup, roasted crispy salmon skin with grated daikon, shredded cabbage and homemade tonkatsu sauce. 

 

I developed this recipe for you to enjoy at home. Using ingredients that you'll either have on hand or be able to get at any grocery store, this sweet and savory Japanese condiment is now within reach. 

Cabbage

Bulldog Sauce - DIY style

tonkatsu sauce

This sweet and savory sauce is perfect for fried cutlets or something roasted or broiled. It would also be fantastic on a hamburger. Drizzle over cabbage and tomato slices for a Japanese "sarado" (salad). 

If A1 sauce and ketchup had a beautiful baby, it would be this sauce. With a tomato base, some fruit, some fish sauce, it's packed with umami. It's sometimes described as Japanese barbecue sauce but I've never seen it used that way here. Now that I think of it, though, could be great.

With any simple dish, the quality of the ingredients is paramount. Here I include the brands I like for reference. This has so much umami, I'm sure it would be great with regular supermarket brands, too. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C organic ketchup
  • 3 TBSP apple butter
  • 2 TBSP worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBSP Mirin (go with the best you can find)
  • 1 tsp Red Boat fish sauce
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (Kishibori is fantastic, check Dean & Deluca)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp horseradish (Bookbinders)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk to blend thoroughly. 
  2. Store in jar for a month or so, if it lasts that long.

Drizzle over cabbage, fried cutlets, serve on burgers. Maybe bake some chicken legs with this as a basting sauce.