Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish Recipe

Actually from a 1959 NYT recipe by Craig Clairborne (cf. comments at the article linked to the title of this post), this is a perennial favorite among the O’Cayce family, the (hyper-)extended in-laws, and friends & acquaintances near, dear, lost, and forgotten. The first time SWMBO heard it, she knew she would make it. She loves her some big, bold flavors. So, at long last, I’m stealing it for here.

N.b. that you have to make this at least a day ahead of time to allow for freezing thawing, which are crucial to the texture and the flavor blend.
  • 2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed
  • 1 small onion
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish from a jar (“red is a bit milder than white”)

  1. Grind the raw berries and onion together. (“I use an old-fashioned meat grinder,” says Stamberg. “I’m sure there's a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind — not a puree.”)

  2. Add everything else and mix.

  3. Put in a plastic container and freeze.

  4. Early Thanksgiving morning, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw. (“It should still have some little icy slivers left.”)

  5. The relish will be thick, creamy, and shocking pink. (“OK, Pepto Bismol pink. It has a tangy taste that cuts through and perks up the turkey and gravy. Its also good on next-day turkey sandwiches, and with roast beef.”)
Makes 1 ½ pints.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Basic Marinara

I admit that I am using the term incorrectly. Actual marinara is usually heavily seasoned, but this is just the basic tomato sauce to use as your palette. Also, you’ll note the non-Italian mixture of fresh basil and garlic (at least, I assume that it’s non-Italian since I never see these two wondrous flavors together over there).

For each person, have:
  • ½ onion (I prefer red onion in the sauce)
  • (optional) 2 stalks of celery
  • ¼ head of garlic
  • 1 medium large tomato
  • ¼ c. packed of fresh basil leaves
  • (optional) 1 T. fresh oregano
  • (optional) 1 T. fresh thyme (my usual rule of thumb when using all three spices is 3 parts basil, 1 part oregano, 1 part thyme)
Choose a good, thick-bottomed sauce pan, pour in some EVOO, and turn up to medium heat.

(Option: for an earthier flavor, heat the oil up a bit higher and sear the oregano and thyme before adding the onions. Be careful that these spices don’t burn before the tomatoes are added.)

Roughly chop the onion (and optional celery, cross cut so that the strings are short) & add to the pan. While performing other tasks, stir occasionally to keep any onion from sticking or burning.

Roughly chop the garlic. When the onions have almost clarified, add to the pan. Continue stirring occasionally until the onions have clarified and are on the verge of starting to brown.

Roughly cut the tomatoes. When the onion/garlic mixture is ready, add the tomatoes. Stir occasionally. Cover the pan between stirrings.

Roughly chop & add the basil (& oregano & thyme if you want them and haven’t already seared them). Guess what you should do from time to time.

That’s right. Stir occasionally until the tomatoes are completely tender. (N.b. that I use the whole tomato, including peel & seeds. Some people prefer to seed and or peel the tomatoes, but I have no problem with either.)

When the tomatoes are limp & tender, use an immersion blender to purée the sauce. Simmer down to desired consistency, with the lid askew.

When you start to simmer, this is the time to add anything you want in the sauce. Try to vary the textures for interest’s sake. A decent meal should include tactile pleasures as well as those of taste, smell, and sight.

A few recent variations:

The best sauce I have done recently (and I’ve done it a few times) has been a puttanesca arabiata (minus the anchovies, which SWMBO can not digest). Add pitted & halved kalamata olives, rinsed capers, and a healthy dose of red pepper flakes. Yummers.

Just last night, on a whim, I did the sauce with sundried tomatoes (julienne cut) and capers. It was a hit. I may go warm up the leftovers now.

I frequently use baby portabellas. When I do, I like to pull ut the stems and add them to the marinara with the garlic before I purée it, and then cut the caps into half-bite-sized pieces to add afterwards.

A lovely and simple sauce I had in Rome not long back was an arabiata with bacon. In fact, over Winterim 2011, I ran into this sauce twice. Tasty!

The point is, use the basic sauce as a starting point and play. It takes no time at all and is SO much tastier than anything from a jar.

Basic Salmon filet

I cook salmon with many different seasoning combinations. My favorite is plain served over low-country grits with some ginger, blueberry chutney on top. I’ve also done it with basil & mint (inspired by the Thai flavor palette and the need to clean out the fridge) and, for large groups, broil whole sides with Alton Brown’s citrus glaze. But for plain & simple, this is the ticket.

  • Preheat your convection (toaster) oven to 350°F.
  • Wash & pat dry the salmon filet(s). Set aside for a moment.
  • Put some EVOO into a shallow ceramic (glass, glazed Terra Cotta, porcelain) baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with dill & paprika. Feel free to add crushed garlic if the mood takes you.
  • Smear the fillet(s) around in the oil & spice to thoroughly coat the top(s), flip, and coat the bottom(s) as well.
  • Pop the dish into the middle of the oven.
  • Pull it out in 12 minutes. Let it stand for a few moments while you pour a glass of decent wine. It will flake all the way through but still be very moist. (I have no idea how many minutes to add if your oven is not convection.)
  • Enjoy with whatever sides you care for this evening.

Augustine on Learning a Foreign Language

Usually, when I quote Augustine, it is the simplified epistemological statement “credo ut intellegam” (I believe in order to understand; yes, while confessing that both faith and reason are necessary, I am, at heart, more of a mystic than a rationalist.) But in honor of the birth late last evening of Blaise’s younger brother Augustine Peter John Broadbent, the language teacher in me wants to post this.

What is the proper pædagogical model for second language acquisition?

“Nulla enim verba illa noveram, et saevis terroribus ac poenis, ut nossem, instabatur mihi vehementer.”

(For I understood not a single word [of Greek], and was vehemently threatened with cruel terrors and punishments so that I would learn.) Confessions 1.14/23