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Winter’s Day BLT

A Winter’s Day BLT

My secret pleasure… I eat it whenever I can when the summer tomatoes are ripe … the bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich! This recipe uses the slow-roasted tomatoes I’ve been keeping in the freezer since summer, and spices it up with rocket–so wonderful in winter, and homemade mayonnaise. If you’ve taken one of my cooking classes, you know how I go on about making one’s own mayonnaise and vinaigrette! I love to make my own for three reasons… I can use the beautiful cold-pressed oils that I love (which never get ruined with the heat treatment of industrial processing), I get to use the gorgeous eggs from my chickens, and I get to keep the calories down, as my mayonnaise has a little less oil (and more egg). This mayonnaise uses grape seed oil. If you get the really high quality stuff that is still green, you’ll get an amazing flavor along with that lovely color. This is an indulgence, but if you want to be more virtuous, you can toast and cut a slice of bread into croutons, up the rocket to fill a bowl, and turn this into a BLT salad!

Recipe

4 slices bacon
1/4 cup slow-roasted tomatoes, chopped
a handful (or bowlful) of rocket (arugula), torn into bite-sized pieces
shallot mayonnaise (below)
toasted whole wheat bread

Fry the bacon in a skillet until it is crispy. Wipe out most of the oil with a paper towel, and add the tomatoes to the still heated pan. Cook just long enough to get them warm.

Spread the mayonnaise on the toast, add the rocket,tomatoes, and bacon.

Homemade Mayonnaise
1 room temperature egg yolk
1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
1/4 to 1/2 cup oil
1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

With a whisk (hopefully nylon or silicone coated) whisk the yolk and shallot into a bowl.) VERY slowly, incorporate the oil, at first just a drop at a time, into the bowl as you mix vigorously. Continue adding the oil, occasionally adding drops of lemon juice, until the mayonnaise becomes lighter and thick… like mayonnaise! Finish with salt and pepper.

Sipping Into Something More Comfortable

The heat wave is over! It suddenly feels like fall, and I’m thinking about apples… and apples, means Apple Jack Brandy! Laird’s Apple Jack is one of my favorite brandies. It’s been made here in New Jersey since before the Revolution. This recipe, which I served at a recent colonial-inspired cooking class, is adjustable for the tipping days between summer and fall. You know those days when you don’t know quite what to expect…

Ingredients:
8 oz peach brandy
4-6 oz Apple Jack
4 oz Jamaican rum
2 oz whiskey
2 quarts apple cider
juice of lemon or lime to taste

Directions for warmer days:
♨Combine ingredients and place 2 cups in a blender with frozen peaches and ½ lime cut into pieces. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Directions for colder days:
♨Place apple cider in a saucepan with cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg. Let steep for ½ hour. Add remaining ingredients and serve in mugs.

Cool Day with Food Friend Amy Brummer

It is not all cooking classes and team building here at Ezekiel’s Table. Sometimes, I entertain friends, like Amy. This is a cooking buddy everyone should have!

Local Princeton chef and personal culinary muse Amy Brummer emailed me recently:

(Amy:) Want to get together and make ice cream sometime?

(Me:) Totally! How weird to you want to get????

(Amy:) Maybe not too weird this time, but I have a couple of ideas regarding almond milk. Something that is good w/ peaches? Should we try spices or basil? Roses? How is Monday afternoon or weds morning of next week? I’ll bring some almond milk,and a couple of interesting things. Do you still have chickens, or should I pick up some eggs?

(Me:) 1pm on Monday then! And I have some stuff as well…and lots of eggs (or definitely 6 by then!)

Amy at Ezekiel’s Table, ready to experiment.

Amy arrived at Ezekiel’s Table at 1pm sharp with her bag of experimentals. She brought some almond milk, and some freshly ground almond butter among other things. After some brain storming, we decided to go raw and almost vegan (we were determined to have some of those fresh eggs). As you know, I love making ice cream with real nuts these days. However, I was a bit worried about the ground almond butter she had brought, having read that nuts should not be overly ground when used for steeping in ice cream. We decided, in the end, that rules were meant to be broken sometimes, and moved on. Sometimes when you have fresh, top-grade ingredients, you let them write the recipe.

Out of my own stores, we took some Poire William pear liqueur, the fresh eggs from my chickens, of course, and some apple blossom honey from Paul Scutt’s Friendly Bees.

The eggs, liqueur, and honey would help to minimize crystalization of the low-fat almond milk. If we had made our own almond milk, we might have been able to create a more condensed creamier version, approximating cream. (Note to self–try that next time!) As it was, we decided to make a basic almond ice milk, and swirl in an almond butter syrup at the end of freezing. We might have cooked this into a basic custard, as we would have if we did not trust the eggs.

The result was lovely. The lack of dairy fat gave very refreshing results–clean and not tongue-coating in the least. The nut butter gave it some heft, and helped make it seem creamier. The salt, more than I usually use in ice creams, brought out the toasty nut flavor.

A great non-dairy dessert. I’ll definitely add this to the roster of recipes in Ezekiel’s Table cooking classes!

Thanks, Amy! Can’t wait to experiment some more!

Toasty Almond Swirl Ice Milk
A Non-Dairy Almond Milk Recipe

In the main body of the ice cream, combine:
3 cups almond milk
1/4 cup honey (or more to taste)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 Tablespoon Poire William

Whisk well. (If you don’t trust your eggs, this can be heated by stirring constantly over medium heat until it reaches 160 degrees F.) Pour through a strainer. (If you cooked the mixture, cool completely.) Pour into your ice cream maker. While this is freezing, make the almond swirl.

Almond Swirl
Whisk together thoroughly:
1/2 cup almond butter
2 teaspoons almond extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoon Poire William
1/4 cup honey

Add this to the frozen but still soft ice cream. You can mix this in completely, or if you want to see swirls of nutty goodness, fold in more gently. We put the syrup in a pastry bag and squeezed it around during the last two rotations of the blade in the ice cream maker.

Enjoy alone, or with your own cooking friend! Do you have a buddy you like to cook with? Please tell!

What To Do With Strange Vegetables from the Farmers Market

 

I was back at it again at the Z Food Farm. I bought some chard and garlic scapes, among other things. I love it when the scapes come in, as they go out pretty quickly. There aren’t many recipes for them, so they might be a stretch for some.  But for me, I love it. It gets me off the hook! Everyone is a little uncertain about them, so the simpler I prepare them, the better.

Today, I used the chard and garlic scapes to make spanakopita triangles, replacing the spinach and scallions for the chard and garlic scapes. Once it was sauteed and chopped, I tasted it and added ricotta salata cheese, a bit of white wine vinegar (a squeeze of lemon would have done), and a sprinkle of fresh herbs (lovage and lemon thyme).  It was a wonderful change from the same ol’ spinach version. It actually reminded me of the flavorful wild greens I used to gather and cook with in Crete– Oooooopa! That’s going way back!

Celebrating the Heat with Ice Cream!

My daughter’s best childhood friend just tied the knot with her beloved. I’m so happy they used our house for the event, and my contribution was to set up an ‘ice cream stand’ for the reception! I made the couple’s three favorite ice creams… vanilla, pistachio, and chocolate (OK, I upped the romance with a little rose to that last one… You know me, I just can’t help myself with those rose petals!)

I was recently given an ice cream cookbook–Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Kris Hogerhyde, Anne Walker and Dabney Gough, so I was armed with great recipes. (I had never made pistachio ice cream from scratch before!) Their recipe looked awesome, except I had made a change or two by switching a bit of the sugar with Lyle’s Golden Syrup (golden treacle to you Brits out there), and using whole eggs instead of all egg yolks, as I prefer the lighter touch in summer. Something else I’d like to try in the future, especially if I were serving this with Indian or Persian food, is to add a bit of saffron during the steeping stage.

Recipe: (makes about 1 quart)

  • 3/4 cup raw shelled pistachios (if your store doesn’t have them, try an Indian grocery)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or honey
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/4 cups low-fat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs

Directions: Roast the nuts in a 350 degree F oven for 15 minutes. Cool completely. Combine the cooled nuts and the 1/2 cup sugar in a food processor, pulsing until it has the texture of sand. Combine with the syrup, cream, milk, and salt in a medium saucepan. Heat just until little bubbles form around the edges. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes until you can definitely taste the pistachios infused in the mixture. Pour through a coarse strainer into a bowl and reserve. Temper the eggs into the strained cream, and pour the mixture back into the cleaned saucepan. Heat just until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F, and pour immediately through a fine-mesh strainer. (You may find it necessary to gently scrape the mesh so that the liquid drains through. The stuff left in the strainer this time? Throw it out, or eat it as is.

Back to the twice-strained cream… Cover with plastic wrap and let cool for a few hours or overnight. Freeze in the ice cream freezer. If you like a very smooth ice cream you can leave as is, or for a bit of texture, add half of the reserved nuts (from the first straining) just before the ice cream is done freezing.*

*Save the remaining nuts and add them to your next batch of cookies.

 

Nettling Again!

Nettling Again!

This global weirdness we are experiencing has an upside this month…the nettles are out early! If you have been reading my blog awhile, you already know how I love them. Once you learn their prickly ways, you can use them almost anywhere you might use cooked spinach. Be careful picking them, as they can sting. (I use my kitchen tongs and just get the very tops.) Once I’ve gathered enough, I bring the bowlful to my nose and take in their figgy aroma. Packed with nutrition, nettles have a bit stronger flavor (and better in my book) than spinach , so if you are shy, just mix a handful in with your trusted cooked greens wherever you use them.

I'd always kept the onions from turning the least bit brown.

In the very early spring, I love to serve sweet pea soup with nettles and mint.It is an easy enough recipe (hard to fumble, I thought!)  Just sauté diced onion in butter until translucent (so as not to get in the way of the bright green color and delicate flavor). Throw in the nettles, some mint, salt, and finally the peas, cooking just enough to take the sting out of the nettles and brighten up the green color of the peas, then blend. There you should have a bright, delicate, delicious soup. (I’d say even ‘intoxicating’, but nettles are said to have detoxifying properties!)

I used this recipe last week in one of my classes. One particularly adorable student, Aitor, got started on the onions, and when I came back to check on him, he was still stirring them faithfully into

All that brown brings in flavor!

a rich brown toastiness. I said to him, “Aitor, Darling! This will help bring up the flavor (all those brown bits of onion at the bottom of the pan), but sadly, we will probably not have a bright green gorgeous soup!” I threw in some dry white wine to deglaze the pan, and continued making the soup, hoping for the best.

Well, best it was! The soup still came out a gorgeous spring green, with even more layers of delicate flavor with the deglazing and the wine! Thanks, Aitor! This soup’s for you!

 

Aitor’s Sweet Pea and Nettle Soup serves 4

1 tablespoon butter

1 small onion

1 cup dry white wine

2 cups water

1 cup nettles

handful of mint

salt

2 cups frozen baby peas

Cooking the sting out of the nettles

Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add onions and sauté until onions are a deep golden color and the pan has a little browning on the bottom. Add the wine and cook until mostly evaporated. Add water, nettles, mint and salt and bring to a simmer for a minute or two, then add the peas. Keep cooking just until the peas are turning a lovely bright green.  Then place everything in a blender and blend until smooth.

Garnish with a paper-thin slice of lemon.

Aitor's Sweet Pea and Nettle Soup

 

 

 

Tamales My Way…

The final chapter of my nixtamal adventure begins with my family’s favorite pulled pork recipe, and I’ll tell you the story because this is how a favorite recipe morphs into a family tradition. It’s also a story about how a series of little discoveries become favorites, and fixtures in your kitchen. Before you know it, you’ve put together what looks to others, like a very complicated recipe. But you know, it’s not complicated at all. It’s just a string of treasures.

The sauce was found many years ago from a Gourmet Magazine recipe called Johnson’s Spare Ribs, which I tweaked a bit by adding some dried guajillo and negra chilies (lending a wild fruity electricity). This sauce was so incredible I would make extra to use on burgers, hot dogs, anything we could think of. There’s usually a jar of it in my refrigerator.

The sauce often graces our table with the pulled whey-fed pork I get from the nearby Cherry Grove Farm. Much like the spare rib recipe, I coat pork shoulder with Cajun spices (Yeah, you can buy the spice mix in bulk at Costco, but I have a favorite homemade blendalways on hand…) I slow-roast the pork until it falls off the bone. Roasting the meat leaves me

Cajun spice coats pork

with a flavorful gelatinous broth topped by a layer of spicy lard which, to be honest, is too darned expensive for me to want to throw out. (Whey-fed pork is a smart buy for a lot of reasons. But those prices really encourage one to use every bit of what is bought!) I usually freeze the lard-broth, maybe make some smokey beans or something with it.

Back to the pork…it gets shredded and stir-fried with some of the sauce until it becomes caramelized and sticky–like some kind of saucy pork candy, then served with soft buns or biscuits. This is where my son stops. He couldn’t imagine life getting any better.  But I can never let things be…Why not use the meat in tamales????

Back before I learned how to make my own fresh masa. It was the instant masa harina I was using when I needed some lard and broth to work into the dough. And there it was, my spicy lard-pork broth just calling out to me! (Actually it had nothing to do with me–that lard-broth was calling out to the masa and I was just in the way.) I obeyed and used that in my tamale dough. There’s been no other way since. I’m using every bit of that amazing pork, and making something my family can’t get anywhere else.

And then…I learned how to make fresh masa! My husband’s birthday was the day I first used the nixtamal method to get some first-class fresh-ground masa, which I mixed with the spicy lard-pork broth. I spread a rectangle of that masa on banana leaves (or soaked corn husks, which are easier to find in stores), topped it with a portion of my sauced-up shredded pork, wrapped it into bundles, then steamed it off.  Unbelievable stuff.

My friend who joined us for dinner took a bite, closed her eyes and said quietly, “Marcia, these are going to make you famous.”

But I don’t really need them to make me famous, do I? I just want them to make me a tradition.

Do you have recipes that are a family tradition? I’d love to know about them and how they started. Remember, any comments on my posts put you in the running for an apron at the end of February.

This recipe is one of the newest additions to the roster of offerings in my cooking-class dinner parties.

 

Remember Corn Nuts?

Corn Nuts--both yellow and white kernels. (I definitely like the yellows better here!)

So, today is my beloved’s birthday and I’m going to make him some of those tamales (made from our very best family recipe also used on ribs). So, I nixtamalized some more corn (this time, both white and yellow) to make the masa (remember my last post?). On the way, however, just before grinding the stuff, I tried taking some of the soaked and processed kernels, patting them dry, tossing them with a little sunflower oil and throwing them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. A little salt, and Voila! those fantastic teeth-breakingly crunchy corn nuts of my youth! (I’d always wondered how they made those things!) Definitely, the yellow corn worked best for these, I’ll reserve the white corn for fresh masa.

Hold on…the tamales are coming!

Fresh Masa — The Real Thing!

Last night I finally did it. I set out to make the masa of which I had once thought could only be found in obscure villages of the old grandmothers. Using instructions from Rick Bayless, I put two quarts of water to boil with 2 tablespoons of pickling lime. Next, I pulled down my jar of white corn, then washed and added one quart of the kernels to the hot water.

At first, the kernels turned bright yellow, and the water too, became milky yellow even though the corn was white. Suddenly the most amazing thing happened! The kernels became striped into a deep golden brown, yellow, orange and white…”So THAT’S how candy corn got its name!” I thought. It looked exactly like that. Then the aroma hit my nostrils. It was the most ramped-up toasty corn aroma ever to hit my nose. Real corn as I’d never known it.

For tortillas, Rick says to simmer the kernels about two minutes, then cover and steep overnight. For tamale masa, cook the kernels for 15 minutes, and steep one hour only. So, I split the kernels into two pots, one for tamale masa, and the other for tortillas. After an hour, I rinsed the tamale kernels, rubbing the outer skin, which by now was more like a slippery coating. I rubbed and rinsed the kernels until they were white, then put them through the grinder–first the coarse, then the fine setting. Rick says a food processor will do.

Finally, I kneaded in enough water to create a stiff dough. I plan to mix this with salt and fat and do a more traditional tamale thing a little later, but right now I did what any self-respecting kitchen geek would do at 3am, I made a little tortilla and crisped it off in lard. It was life-changing. A Frito-like toastiness that I had only known in junk food, but there was a realness too. Complex nuttiness, a deep crunch, warm and salty…

Later, I told my son, ” Think of it this way… It was like, if all you had known your whole life about women were Barbie dolls, and then you woke up with your arms around Scarlett Johannson…Fresh masa is like that!

So, back to that  corn-fritter recipe I mentioned on the last email newsletter— I just tried it with the tamale masa. It changed that friendly little party appetizer to something you could talk to all night.

Next post: My favorite (non-traditional) tamale recipe…hint, it uses banana leaves!

 

Nixtamal

A quick read into any serious Mexican cookbook will no doubt bring you to a phrase like, “You can’t easily find fresh masa for making tortillas or tamales north of the border, but instant masa harina will do.” After reading it a few times, one begins to wonder, ‘What is fresh masa, and why can’t I find it here??’  This question took me to several Latin grocery stores and restaurants to find an answer. I got so many wistful looks, “No, I have never seen it here'”… or, “My grandmother knows how to do it”  A very helpful guy named Jose in the Whole Earth Center enlightened me by giving me the key word–and here you are getting that magic word with no trouble at all.

Nixtamal.

Jose gave me a link which helped to illuminate both the process and a recipe for making tortillas with the fresh masa. Thank you, Jose! Also, by googling the word, I learned from Mother Earth News that the process increases the bio availability of niacin and proteins, and removes some toxins from corn mold. How cool is that? I also came across a restaurant in Queens NY that specializes in making fresh tortillas and tamales each day using this ancient Aztec procedure. It was only ten minutes away from my son’s girlfriend’s house so we made the trip. The restaurant Tortilleria Nixtamal is committed to reviving the healthy traditions of Mexican cooking, especially through their freshly made tortillas and tamales, their use of fresh, organic produce and “sustainable lifestyle ” sized servings. What you won’t find there are the typical bottomless basket of chips and salsa, the gooey cheese toppings, greasy deep-fried chimichangas that have fattened up modern consumers of Mexican cuisine. What do they say about the instant masa harina that everyone is stuck using to make their tortillas at home? “It’s like using boxed mashed potatoes!”

My son and his sweetheart Catalina at Nixtamal.

The food was fantastic, and amazingly filling for the reasonably sized servings. An added plus, was that they sent me off with a big bag of non-GMO corn (and the name of the supplier Rovey Seed Co. mentioned in my last post). I am dying to go there again.

If you ever want a taste of the real tortilla, go to Tortilleria Nixtamal.

Then, go home and try doing it yourself! And that is just what I’m going to do on my next post…


Hi, I'm Marcia Willsie, owner of Ezekiel's Table and a shameless food-adventuress. Join me here, as I talk about my latest kitchen experiments and culinary wanderings. Learn more.

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