1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream or crème fraîche (see November 12, below)
1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon bourbon
Mix the milk, sugar, and eggs well together, then heat them in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they are slightly thick, about 10 minutes. Place the custard in the refrigerator until you are ready to churn the ice cream.
Add the cream or crème fraîche to the custard, then mix in the pumpkin, the spices, and the bourbon. Chill according to the manufacturer’s directions on your ice cream churn.
Makes 1 quart, about 6 servings.
Chow Chow from Hoppin’ John’s Lowcountry Cooking
Chow Chow is such a culinary oddity — a British interpretation of an Indian relish that appears in all Southern states in various forms, but more often than not including cabbages and green tomatoes boiled in a pickle thickened with flour. Recipes invariably call for salting the vegetables “overnight,” but I prefer to begin the process in the morning before work, then do the canning at night before I go to bed. This recipe makes exactly 7 pints, which fill a small canning kettle. I count off the pings of the lids sealing as I fall off to sleep.
1 small, firm head of cabbage, chopped fine (1 quart)
2 quarts chopped green tomatoes (about 8 average sized)
4 large green bell peppers (1 quart)
1 quart chopped onions
3 quarts boiling water
1 cup pure salt
Put the vegetables in a large nonreactive bowl or pot. Dissolve the salt in the water and pour it boiling over the vegetables. Allow them to sit for 12 hours. Line a large colander with a double thickness of cheesecloth or muslin and dump the vegetables into it to drain, squeezing as much of the liquid out of the vegetables as possible.
For the pickle:
1/2 cup prepared, or 3 tablespoons dried, mustard
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 quart vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons celery seed
“butter the size of an egg” (3 tablespoons)
Mix the mustard, flour, and turmeric into a paste in a little of the vinegar, then add to the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables and boil for 10 minutes, stirring so that it does not scorch. Pour into sterilized jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Yield: 7 pints.
Grilled Dolphin and Green Tomatoes
If you can’t find dolphin or mahimahi, use another firm, white-fleshed fish. This recipe is simplicity itself.
2 pounds firm green tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup, or more, olive oil
6 dolphin fillets, about 1 inch thick (about 1/2 pound each)
Build a charcoal fire or set a gas grill to medium to preheat. Slice the tomatoes, discarding the stem end, and place the slices in a shallow container such as a rectangular glass casserole dish. Season them with salt and pepper, then drizzle the olive oil over them until they are lightly coated.
When the fire is ready, pick up each slice of tomato with tongs, allowing any excess oil to drip back into the container. Place the slices on the grill and cook until black grill marks appear and the slices are thoroughly warmed through, about 4 minutes on each side. In the meantime, place the fish down in the oil and turn, making sure each piece is well coated. Add more oil, salt, and pepper, if needed. Remove the tomato slices to a serving platter, then place the fish on the grill. Cover the grill and place the serving platter of tomatoes on top to stay warm. Cook the fish for 5 mintues on the first side, uncover the grill, turn the fish, and cook uncovered until the flesh just flakes when pried with a fork, about another 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
This brightly flavored salsa will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator, but is best when made at the last moment. It takes just a few minutes to make it.
2 mangoes, peeled, pitted, and diced
1 orange, peeled, seeded, sectioned, and cut up
1 cup chopped scallions, whites and some of the green
1 fresh hot pepper such as a jalapeño, seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Combine the mangoes, orange, scallions, peppers, and lime juice and toss well. Season to taste with salt. Toss in the cilantro just before serving.
November 12, 2008
Tom Sietsema at the Washington Post
I am not a restaurant critic, but I have had that thankless job before. I’ve met my share of jaded and/or pompous food writers (not just restaurant reviewers), but the Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema is not one of them. He is the most passionate, hard-working person I know in the field of culinary letters, and I know many of the biggest names in our bloated profession. He gives 200% to the Post, writing columns that his job description does not include and spending much of his own money going again and again to restaurants around the globe before he puts his pen to paper to describe his meals there. I’ve eaten with him many times, not just out on “review dinners,” but also in his home, and at mine. The man is a joy to be around. ”Integrity” could be his middle name.
It was with shock, then, that I read the following in the Post:
Critic Tom Sietsema should have recused himself from reviewing the Commissary, a restaurant featured in the Oct. 29 Food section. He and one of the restaurant’s owners had earlier had a personal relationship. The Washington Post regrets that he reviewed this restaurant, and will remove the review from its online archive.
Because I write for the Post occasionally they probably won’t run my letter, but I sent the following email to the Editors today [November 3, 2008]:
To the Editors:
Why should Tom Sietsema ”recuse himself” from reviewing a restaurant because he had a personal relationship with one of its owners? The Dining section of the Post is not a court of law.
Everyone who knows Sietsema also knows that he is unflinchingly fair. To my mind, he’s generous in his reviews. I have been out with him on several “review dinners” and I know from personal experience that he would never write anything that would jeopardize his integrity. His personal relationships have nothing to do with his role as a restaurant critic. Restaurateurs shouldn’t get mad about his constructive criticism: they should welcome it. I’ve seen many restaurants improve both the quality of their food and their service because of Sietsema’s written insights. He eats out a lot more than they do. He knows not only what the competition is like, but what his readers expect as well.
I have had the thankless job as restaurant critic. It’s not the party that folks think it is. But Sietsema goes at like no other, with passion and joy, and a genuine desire to serve the public. He is highly revered among his peers. He has never been known to put a single word to the page without carefully weighing it, as though he were baking a cake for a loved one’s 100th birthday. He would never let his own personal tastes bias his reviews any more than he would change that centenarian’s favorite recipe.
John Martin Taylor
I find it amusing that the Post mentions the restaurant in question in their “regret,” since word on the net is that the restaurant owners insisted that their properties never again be reviewed by the Post. Hmmmm…
As I have maintained many times on my blog, I will not rant herein, nor will I post rants from readers (I purposely make it impossible for others to post here without first making an effort to write me something civil.) Nevertheless, I find this situation ludicrous. Tom had a few dates with a relative of the principal owner over three years ago. He has been in a committed relationship for over a year. His affair three years ago has NOTHING to do with what he writes. You can Google Tom’s name and find out more about this over-reaction to a mini-review which the owners could have used to their advantage to tweak their problems. Instead, they declared war on Sietsema, and the Post gave in.
Let’s just imagine that the person who reviews automobiles for the paper had had four dates three years ago with the niece of one of the biggest automobile dealers in the area. And he gets to drive one of the newly released cars. And it sucks. And he says so. Would the car dealership raise hell (and pull their substantial advertising dollars)?
The Letters Editor at the Post had already asked Tom if he and I are friends. Of course, he told them: I say as much in my letter. Then the Post called me and asked me if I had any financial interest in any restaurants reviewed in the paper. Uh, I sell some of them my stone-ground grits, I said, but I have never invested one dime in any restaurant anywhere. I also told him that I was surprised that he was considering running my letter since I occasionally write for the Post.
What if the music critic went to hear a band at the 9:30 Club and the band’s performance was great? Let’s say that he had four dates with one of the band members three years ago, but the affair, if you can call it that, didn’t last. Never mind that he’s now engaged to the Love of His Life. Do you really think he would trash the band, even if she had broken his heart?
Sweet Potato Ravioli with Roasted Garlic Crème Fraîche
Though much of my cooking, as you can tell from this blog, is either Italian or southern American, this recipe is neither, though it is not unlike similar pumpkin-filled pasta dishes found throughout Italy, where fresh sage is often the herb of choice. I usually make my version in the dead of winter, when sweet potatoes are widely available and even outdoor chive plants thrive.
If you are going to make your own pasta, you’ll need to begin this recipe an hour or so before you plan to eat: the pasta dough should rest before you roll it out. If you have a source for fresh pasta in sheets, of course, you needn’t make your own. You will need about 8 ounces of flat pasta sheets. You can also use wonton wrappers, though they do taste a little different. It will take about 24 wontons wrappers (1/2 pound). Instructions for filling the wonton wrappers follow those for the homemade pasta. I’ve made this recipe alone — including rolling out the dough — in a 3- by 4-foot kitchen. If you’ve got the time and inclination, go ahead and make your own pasta. It’s fun.
If you don’t have a source for crème fraîche, you can make a good substitute by following the recipe below, but you’ll need to make it a day in advance.
For the pasta and roasted garlic:
1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (Do not use a soft southern flour because it doesn’t have
enough gluten to make pasta.)
pinch of salt
1 whole head of garlic
Preheat the oven to 375o. Place the flour and salt in the work bowl of a food processor and process briefly to combine. Beat the eggs lightly in a separate small bowl or cup and, with the processor running, add them in a stream. Continue processing until the dough forms a ball.
Remove the dough from the processor and knead until fairly smooth, about 5 or 10 minutes. The dough will be stiff, but will start to show some signs of elasticity after you’ve kneaded it for ahile. Wrap well in plastic and refrigerate for about an hour. In the meantime, place the garlic heads in ramekins or custard cups, drizzle with olive oil, and bake until they give to the touch, 45 minutes to an hour. You can bake a sweet potato at the same time. You’ll need a cup of cooked, mashed pulp (see below).
Just before removing the dough from the refrigerator, prepare the filling.
For the filling:
1 cup boiled or baked sweet potates, peeled and mashed
1 egg, beaten
1/4 pound grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh chives, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Mix all of the ingredients well together. Set aside while you prepare the dough. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil while you prepare the ravioli. Try to work quickly, but carefully: you don’t want the dough to dry out or to absorb the filling.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and run it through a pasta machine or roll it out by hand until it is as thin as it can be and still hold the filling. You should have about 12 feet of pasta about 4 inches wide. I hang four 3-foot lengths of dough over a broom handle across the backs of two chairs and cover them with damp tea towels.
Dust a large surface lightly with flour; dust your hands as well. You will also need to have another surface covered with another kitchen towel lightly dusted with flour. Remove one of the 3-foot long sheets of dough from where it hangs and cut it in half, placing the two sheets on the dusted counter. Place heaping teaspoons (2 to 3 teaspoons) of the filling in the middle of one of the sheets at 3-inch intervals. Cover with the second sheet of pasta and, working from the far side toward you, gently press the top sheet onto the bottom, pressing out any air bubbles before completely sealing the spoonfuls in. Cut all along the outer edges and between the fillings with a ravioli crimper to seal the edges, then place the ravioli on the floured towel, not touching, and cover them while you continue making the rest of the ravioli.
If you are using wonton wrappers, you will also need a dusted countertop and towel. Spread the wonton wrappers out on the surface, put a heaping teaspoon of filling on each wrapper, and moisten the left and bottom edge of each sheet with water, painting an L-shape. Fold the wonton over, bringing the far right corner diagonally across the filling to meet the near left corner. Press the edges together, pushing out any air bubbles as you do, then bring the folded corners together to form traditional wonton shapes. Place on a clean kitchen towel dusted with a little flour, not touching, until all of the wontons are filled. Immediately prepare the sauce and cook the pasta.
To assemble the dish:
1 cup crème fraiche (see below)
1 head of roasted garlic (see above)
salt and freshly ground white pepper
Cook the ravioli in a large pot of boiling water for 2 to 5 minutes while you prepare the sauce.
Put the crème fraîche in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Cut the bases off the heads of garlic and remove any of the loose papery covering. Squeeze the roasted garlic into the crème fraiche and whisk it in well. Heat until just warmed through, season to taste with the salt and white pepper, and serve immediately over the ravioli.
To drink: Go buy a nice botle of the 2005 Beaune Blanc such as Louis Latour’s. You want a Chardonnay without much oak and not too much alcohol.
Crème Fraîche (substitute)
The day before you want to use it, mix together two parts cream to one part sour cream in a nonreactive container. Allow to sit at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours. Place the mixture in a funnel lined with a coffee filter or something similiar and set aside to drain for 2 or 3 hours, until thick.
Mix in a teaspoon of lemon juice for each cup of crème fraîche. It will last about a week when well-capped in the refrigerator.