Thanksgivingkkah Doughnuts

IMG_0600

I have never been that big a fan of Thanksgiving: lots of mediocre food, mediocre relatives, and hours and hours of boredom sitting around waiting to eat a not that amazing meal. Light glaring through the windows during the meal because you’re eating in the middle of the afternoon; then many more hours of boredom plus indigestion as you sit around some more waiting for the moment when you can make your exit. So maybe some people’s Thanksgivings aren’t like this. I’m sure your family is full of gourmet chefs, has fun Thanksgiving traditions and games involving jumping into piles of leaves, and playing cutthroat games of UNO. Maybe you even like football. But every year it’s my least looked forward to holiday. It’s the one to be gotten over with, not enjoyed.

But then it fell on Hanukkah. Which is a holiday I really love. Latkes and applesauce, presents and candles. There are songs and prayers that I actually know. It’s a holiday that, unlike Thanksgiving, my family actually knows how to do. So hopefully tonight Hanukkah will cancel out the Thanksgiving doldrums and we might all have a nice time.

My mother this year asked me to make dessert, and I went kind of crazy making the perfect Thanksgivingkkah sweets.

I’ve always thought that a big dinner should end with light, refreshing desserts, not heavy ones. So I skipped the pies and went for frozen sweets instead. I made one ice cream or sorbet for each of the traditional Thanksgiving dessert flavors: pumpkin ginger ice cream, Mexican chocolate pecan ice cream, and persimmon sorbet. And of course because I can’t help myself, and because it’s Thanksgivingkkah, I also made special Thanksgiving sufganiyot, or Hanukkah doughnuts. They’re apple cider flavored and caramel filled.

For this recipe you’ll need a pastry bag, a rolling pin, parchment paper, and a candy thermometer.

Thanksgivingkkah Sufganiyot

(Adapted from Chow.com)

 For Doughnuts:

2 ½ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

Pinch grated nutmeg

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 (¼ ounce) packed active dry yeast

¼ plus 1 teaspoon sugar

¾ cup apple cider

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon apple sauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 4 pieces.

For Caramel Filling:

1 cups sugar

¼ cup water

¼ teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt

1/3 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

For frying doughnuts:

2 quarts vegetable oil

½ cup sugar

To make the doughnuts:

1.)   Coat a large bowl with vegetable oil

2.)   Combine flour, cinnamon salt, and nutmeg in a large bowl and whisk.

3.)   Place yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in a medium bowl.

4.)   Heat ½ cup apple cider until warm (about 110 degrees) and add to yeast and sugar, stirring to combine. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes.

5.)   Add ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup apple cider, yolks, applesauce, and vanilla to yeast mixture and whisk together.

6.)   Add yeast mixture to flour mixture and stir until dough comes together into a ball.

7.)   Transfer dough to floured surface. Scatter butter pieces in dough and knead dough until butter is incorporated and dough is smooth (about 7 minutes)

8.)   Form dough into a ball, place in oiled bowl and roll it around until coated in oil. Cover and let sit 2 hours until doubled in size.

For Caramel:

1.)   Before the dough has risen, place sugar, water, and salt in a saucepan and boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

2.)   Boil, swirling (not stirring the pan until it turns dark amber (about 10 minutes)

3.)   Remove from heat and stir in cream and vanilla. The mixture will boil violently. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and allow the caramel to cool completely.

Rolling out and frying doughnuts:

1.)   Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.)   Punch down dough and roll out on a floured surface until ¼ inch thigh.

3.)   Using a 2-inch cookie cutter (or a wide rimmed wine glass) cut out dough rounds and place on parchment paper. Gather scraps and continue to roll up until all the dough is used.

4.)   Cover doughnuts with plastic wrap and allow to rise for half an hour more.

5.)   Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat until temperature reaches 365 degrees on your candy thermometer.

6.)   While oil is heating up, fill a pastry bag with a small round tip with the caramel sauce. Put sugar in a small bowl and set a cooling rack over a cookie sheet.

7.)   When oil is hot enough add 4 doughnuts and fry until golden brown, about one minute per side. The doughnuts should puff up in frying.

8.)   When first batch is done, set on a rack and put in the next batch. While next batch is frying using tongs, take the finished doughnuts and roll around in the bowl of sugar. Repeat process until all doughnuts are finished.

9.)   Once all the frying is completed and the doughnuts are cool enough to handle, cut a small hole in each of them with a paring knife. Then taking the pastry bag in two hands (one to hold it closed, the other to pipe the caramel) fill each doughnut with about a tablespoon’s worth of filling. Doughnuts are ideally consumed immediately, but can be kept overnight in an airtight container and reheated in a hot oven the following day.

IMG_0599

Palo Santo’s Bluefish with Plantain, Hot Slaw, and Salsa Verde

We’ve been going to Palo Santo in Park Slope since they first opened their doors years ago. I think it’s the best restaurant in the neighborhood, and that’s not just because of their hearty portions and the free glasses of Prosecco they give us every time we go. At Palo Santo, one is overwhelmed by the flavor of the food, and not by rococo cooking methods. The complexities in their dishes come from artful combinations: from dynamic relationships, and never from an abundance of sauces and seasonings. For these reasons and many more, Palo Santo is singular among Brooklyn locovore restaurants.

When I found this recipe for Palo Santo’s Bluefish with Plantain, Hot Slaw, and Salsa Verde in The New Brooklyn Cookbook, I got a little nervous. What if the sweet, succulent plantain that I so looked forward to was actually easy to make at home. If I could cook Palo Santo, then could I justify the expense of a full meal there, just to shoot the shit with Gonzalo as he brought us our free Proseccos?

This is by far the best blue fish recipe I’ve ever made. The sharpness of the hot slaw, and the sweetness of the plantain, rise up to meet the strong, oily flavor of the fish like no other bluefish recipe I know.

It was of course not as good as the Palo Santo dish. Apparently, you’re not supposed to cook plantains while they’re still green. Who knew? Anyway, I’ll still be going to the restaurant every few months. I still don’t know how to make their grilled steak and fried yucca.

Blue Fish with Plantain, Hot Slaw, and Salsa Verde

Adapted from The New Brooklyn Cookbook

Hot Slaw

½ head red cabbage, shredded

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Coarse salt and pepper to taste

1.)   Combine cabbage, jalapeno, garlic, vinegar, and oil in large bowl. Season to taste and set aside to marinate.

IMG_0472

Salsa Verde

10 ounces tomatillos

1/3 cup chives, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon olive oil

Coarse salt

1.)   On each of the tomatillos, make an x at the bottom with a paring knife. Bring a pot of water to boil and prepare an ice bath. Blanch tomatillos until skin splits. This could be a few seconds or a few minutes, depending on the tomatillos.

2.)   Remove from boiling water and plunge into ice bath when skin splits, then chop.

IMG_0475

3.)   Place in a small bowl with chives, jalapeno, limejuice, and oil. Season to taste.

IMG_0478

Plantains

3 ripe plantains (yellow, not green)

1 tablespoon butter

1.)   Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Roast plantains on rimmed baking sheet until they puff up and burst, about 20 minutes.

IMG_0470IMG_0484

2.)   Remove from oven and allow to cool. When you can touch them, slice them lengthways and brush cut side with butter.

3.)   Return to oven for another 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Bluefish

6 8-ounce bluefish fillets

Coarse salt and pepper.

2 tablespoons cooking fat

1.)   Heat ovenproof skillet with fat

2.)   Season fish with salt and pepper and sauté fish, skin side down 2 or 3 minutes, or until skin is golden.

3.)   Place pan in oven to finish cooking fish, about 5 minutes.

IMG_0480

To serve, place an unpeeled plantain half on each plate and a mound of slaw next to the plantain. Place fish on top of the slaw and garnish with salsa verde.

 IMG_0488

Peanut Butter

One summer at camp, a counselor who hailed from Sweden looked over at the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I’d made at lunchtime, and exclaimed, “What an interesting combination! How inventive you are.” At eight I was embarrassed by my avant garde PB and J and didn’t enlighten her.

It is of course a singular American invention, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Fat and sugar slathered in bright, chemical smears on factory-produced bread. It seems amazing that even in the eighties a teenage swede wasn’t culturally with it enough know about this most iconic American sandwich.

Besides that, I’ve really no other stories about peanut butter. I like it chunky and slathered liberally. This recipe gives you an excuse to eat quantities of it as an adult, guilt-free. An apple from my farmer’s market, accompanied by a jar of this peanut butter has been my much-looked-forward-to TV snack all week.

I used hazelnut oil for my peanut butter, as that’s what I had in the house, but feel free to use whichever kind of nut oil you fancy.

Peanut Butter

Adapted from the Food Network

1 lb roasted peanuts

1 tablespoon (and more to taste) kosher salt

2 teaspoons honey

2 tablespoons (or more for preferred texture) nut oil.

1.)   Put peanuts, salt, and honey in a food processor and process until smooth.

IMG_0492IMG_0494

2.)   Scrape down sides of bowl. Put lid back on and continue to process while drizzling in the oil. Continue drizzling until peanut butter is at the texture you like. It can be anywhere from silky to crumbly.

IMG_0496

3.)   Season to taste.

Paleo Ham Steak

The Saturday of Labor Day weekend, I decided to do some grilling, Sunday and Monday being taken up with other commitments. I have never entirely understood grilling in painfully hot weather. Sure, being outside is nice, eating grilled food outside even nicer. But charring meat while you are yourself being slowly charred by the sun has never appealed to me. That being said, grilling the ham steak Labor Day weekend gave me a sense of the masochistic pleasure to be taken in grilling on a hot day. You are the brave soul out in the noonday sun, haughtily defying the weather by standing next to an open flame.  It’s a nice feeling to remember as soon as you’re back inside where it’s cool.

The secret to a good glazed paleo ham steak is a small batch of peach compote. Combined with maple syrup, freshly squeezed orange juice and spices it makes the ham steak sweet and spicy and perfect for a really hot day. I served it with a light citrus potato salad slices of very fresh beefsteak tomato drizzled in vinaigrette.

Paleo Ham Steak

Adapted from The Food Network

One two-pound ham steak

¼ cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon chile powder

1 cup peach compote (recipe below)

1.)   Start your barbecue. Pile up a pyramid of coals to one side of your barbecue and light them. Wait a half hour for the coals to settle down and get very hot.

2.)   Stir together preserves, chile powder, syrup, and orange juice.

3.)   Grill ham steak first to one side of your pyramid of coals, coating each time you turn it with the peach maple glaze. This may take about ten minutes per side, depending on your barbecue and your ham steak. Use a meat thermometer. It’s cooked when the thermometer says it’s at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. When the steak is cooked, put it directly over the coals on either side for a couple of minutes to make it nice and crispy. It will be very gooey and make a complete mess of your barbecue. I assure you it’s delicious and worth the clean up.

IMG_0453

IMG_0457

IMG_0460

Peach Compote

4 peaches

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Juice of one lemon

Combine all ingredients until fruit is soft and starts to break down, about twenty minutes on low heat.

Root Beer Liqueur

IMG_0395

I’m always on the lookout for new liqueurs to make. This one stuck out for me because I’d been reading The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Elix Katz, and was intrigued by the section on making your own roots beers. I am far far too chicken to brave making carbonated beverages at home (explosions, broken glass, blindness, a lifetime in darkness, etc…) so I decided to make a liqueur instead.

It was actually pretty easy finding the ingredients. I just biked down to my local home brew shop, and they were there for sale by the ounce. Although I got some funny looks from the burly, bearded brewmeisters when I told them I was making a root beer flavored liqueur. I tucked my tail between my legs and scuttled out of there fast.

IMG_0375

It didn’t wind up tasting all that much like the root beer I drank as a kid, but if you like strong, complex, herbal liqueurs, I recommend this one.

Root Beer Liqueur

Adapted from Serious Eats

3 cups water

1-teaspoon sassafras root bark

1-teaspoon birch bark

1-teaspoon sarsaparilla root bark

1 star anise

1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger

1 sprig mint

Peel of 1 lemon (just the zest, not the pith)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

1-teaspoon molasses

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ cups vodka

1.)   Combine water, barks, anise, ginger, mint, and lemon peel in a pot and boil until water reduces by half. Remove from heat and let steep for 2 hours.

IMG_0371

2.)   Place a sieve lined with cheesecloth over a clean pot and strain liquid into it. Add sugars and molasses to pot and bring to boil.

3.)   Remove from heat, add vanilla and allow to cool completely before adding vodka.

4.)   Store in a cool dark place, allowing flavors to combine for one month.

IMG_0383

Peach Chutney

At Phillip’s Farms this week the trees available to the pick-your-own pickers were heavy with gorgeous peaches—almost none of them ripe, unfortunately. Not that that stopped us taking home a couple buckets full, cheap as they were. Having deposited a bucket’s worth with my parents, I decided to make chutney with what remained, and what a chutney it was.

My boyfriend was out at a poker game and I was planning a most depressing evening of takeout and The Gilmore Girls, when lo and behold, I remembered our underripe peaches. No need for takeout when you can have pork chops with peach chutney. So there was still Gilmore Girls involved in my evening, but all the novels I’m reading are too serious and the nip in the air makes me remember that I have to go back to teaching in a few weeks, so Lorelai and Rory’s antics are a blessed, rose-tinted necessity right now.

I ate my pork chops and peach chutney with sautéed kale and roast potatoes. It was a magical feast for one.

Peach Chutney

1.5 lbs peaches

1-tablespoon olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1-cup cider vinegar

¼ cup maple syrup or honey

½ cup raisins

Salt and pepper

1.)   Poach peaches in boiling water for ten minutes or until soft and fragrant. Cool by running under cold water and then remove the pits and chop.

IMG_0299 IMG_0303

2.)   Sautee onion and garlic until soft, ten minutes.

3.)   Add red pepper flakes and stir one minute, until fragrant.

IMG_0305

4.)   Add peaches, vinegar, maple syrup or honey, and raisins, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil, reduce heat and continue cooking on medium low until peaches soften, about twenty minutes. Add water if the liquid boils out before the peaches have fully cooked.

IMG_0308IMG_0315IMG_0324

Paleo Blackberry Jam

We went down to Phillip’s Farm in Milford, New Jersey a few days ago and went picking. I hadn’t been to a pick-your-own farm since childhood, and experiencing one of these places with the eyes of an adult, I learned a few things about agriculture. I was picking blueberries in the sun for half an hour and practically got sunstroke. We sat in the car for ten minutes afterwards with the air conditioning blasting, drinking down a gallon of water. The actual migrant workers picking in the next field must have thought we were pretty silly for doing this work for free. So there went my agrarian fantasy.

It wasn’t all sweaty and disillusioning, fortunately. The best picking of all was blackberry picking. They’re exactly in season right now and hung heavily off the vines, eager to be picked. They were big, juicy and sour and we filled our buckets in no time, walking up and down between the big, shady bushes. I could have picked blackberries all day.

IMG_0280

My boyfriend follows the paleo diet so the jam I made from our blackberries couldn’t have any sugar or store-bought pectin in it. I made skillet jam with honey and it took a long damn time but the end result is pretty damn perfect. It’s old school jam, perfect for biscuits or scones, and I imagine unearthly when combined with peanut butter and brown bread.

Blackberry Jam

2.5 pounds blackberries

1 scant cup of water

1 3/4ths cup honey

Juice of four lemons

1.) Heat together berries, lemon, juice and water in a skillet until comes to a boil. Then mash berries with a fork.

IMG_0283

2.) Add honey and boil hard for 15 minutes.

IMG_0289

3.) Continue to cook at a brisk simmer until jam has thickened to desired level. This can take over an hour.

IMG_0287

4.) While jam is cooking, put a plate in the freezer. When you think the jam is thickened, test it by dabbing a little on the plate and putting it in the freezer for a few minutes. If after a few minutes the jam doesn’t slide off the plate when you take it out and hold it vertically, it’s done. It should be at around 220 degrees Fahrenheit if you want to test it with a candy thermometer.

5.) Allow to cool completely then refrigerate. Refrigerated, it should keep for several months.

IMG_0291