France is known for its superior pears – there is even a pear named after a place, Anjou (or is Anjou named after the pear?) Here, in the US, most of the pears are grown on the West coast but since I live in New York City, I get mine locally from the Hudson Valley. Mother Nature has a good method of bringing immaculate pears to you. Most of the pears are picked while still hard unlike most fruits and vegetables because when pears are ripe they bruise easily. Pears improve in texture and flavor after they have been in your fruit bowl at home for some days. They are ready to eat when perfumed and yield to the touch (it depends a little on the variety).
Shapely & Colorful Pears vary in color from celadon green to beautiful golden hued and some are deep tawny red or brown. Depending on the variety pears are soft and juicy and others are crunchy and fragrant. Pear season starts in July and ends in early Spring in my neck of the woods.
(mache salad with pickled Asian pear and pomegranate seeds)
Pear Line Up Supposedly there are about 5000 pears grown throughout the world. My favorite are Nashi pears also called Asian pears. They are Japanese varieties and are large compared to a usual pear. Nashi are crisp, drippingly juice and very apple-like. They are a lovely companion in salads for a crunchy element. I like to preserve this pear by pickling them; they hold up the sliced shape well and are easy to put into dishes such as grilled steak or fish for a finishing touch. (left: Asian pear) (middle: green Comice pear) (right: Bosc pear)
Comice pears are my most favorite pear for eating raw. Smooth fleshed and meltingly tender with an exquisite fruit-filled fragrance. If you see ‘em buy ‘em.
Bosc pears are all around good pears comparable to the russet Potato in savory recipes. They hold their natural shape when baked, roasted or poached (cooked slowly in liquid such as syrup). They are good but not delicious when eaten raw. I always felt this pear need help with flavoring e.g., red wine poached pears, maple caramelized pears for salads, etc. So if you feel like dressing up your pears Bosc is a good candidate. (left: Bosc pear butter with red wine - delicious with cheese) (right: Bartlett pear poached with vanilla and honey)
Bartlett pears are sweet, fragrant, plump and have a succulent yellow flesh. I think of them as avocado-like; they yield to the touch and have a creaminess to them. Bartlett’s have a gentle palatability when ripened to their fullest. (Seckel pears cooked Zip-Loc style)
You’ll meet Seckel pears at the local farmers market. They are petite cute pears about an inch in diameter and have a fruity flavor. They are my favorite pear for cooking in syrup or canning and are not really meant to be eaten raw.
Zip-Loc Pears Cooked in Red Wine (recipe for four pears, for dessert or in combination with roast meats such as pork, venison etc.)
1 cup red wine, your favorite or whatever you have left over (maybe your least favorite!) 4 pears such as Bartlett ½ vanilla pod 2 tablespoons honey, such as chestnut 2 pinches cayenne 1 stick cinnamon
1. Preheat a water bath to 180 degrees Fahrenheit (a pot filled with water on low heat setting - you might have to switch heat settings between off and on during cooking time depending on your stove – a kitchen instant thermometer comes in handy to check temperature). 2. In a 1-quart sized pot bring red wine to boil then put on the side of the stove to cool. 3. Peel pears then cut length-wise into four wedges. Remove pear core and seeds with a small knife. 4. Cut vanilla bean length-wise open then scrape with the back of a knife (this will scrape out black seedy part from vanilla bean). 5. Combine pears, scraped vanilla pulp, honey, cayenne and cinnamon with red wine then transfer into Zip-loc style bag. Press air out of bag then close and transfer to preheated water bath. Cook pear/red wine mixture (2-½ hours or until pears are soft when pierced with a small knife). 6. Cool cooked pears in the red wine mixture.
Chef’s Note: Once peeled, pears should be dipped in water and acidified with a squeeze of lemon juice so they don’t change their color. (Grilled Bartlett pear with venison and lavender)
Chef’s Tip: Serve cooked pears with vanilla ice cream or a savory dish such as roasted duck or pork roast.
So to solve the mystery how pears get into the small neck of some bottles, e.g., Poire Williams (a crystal clear pear distillate) ... the bottles are hung onto pear trees over the budding pear fruit which then grows then inside the bottle in its normal pear shape.
It has been cold in New York for the last month. One family of fruits stands out with this frigid temperature – Citrus. Citrus fruits come in handy with their leathery skin surrounding their fruit segments leaving a notable citrusy fragrant scent on your hands when peeling them. They are convenient and offer instant pleasure to pop the segments into your mouth. (buddah's hand holding a kaffir lime, from left to right blood orange, lime, lemon Meyer lemon, Cara Cara orange) Immunity Boostng Fruits Citrus fruits come in handy to boost the immune system during the long cold winter months stretching from now until the first warming sunrays meet us again. They are abundant in vitamin C and antioxidants which help with fatigue and fight the effects pollution has on nutrition. (Meyer lemon tart with candied buddha's hand, toasted Merningue and house-made M&M)
Citrus Plants Cultivated citrus plants grow in low trees and shrubs -- some with serious thorns such as Kaffir lime or Meyer lemons. Citrus plants are evergreens and grow well in the sun belt (37 & 38 latitude) with its warm temperate climate, mild long winters and extended summers. It’s not that some citrus plants can’t withstand cold temperatures as low as the teens, they just do best in tropical climates. Unlike other fruits the ripeness of citrus fruits can’t be determined by the color of the fruit -- the only way to find out is to eat them. But, generally citrus fruits ripen in fall and early winter months. (Cara Cara orange salad with endive, stilton and dried cranberries)
Bugs Citrus plants are very vulnerable to insect infestation, so they are treaded with insecticides. It is recommended to wash your fruits with hot water before peeling them to get rid of the chemical protectant.
The Other Parts of Citrus Citrus zest is prepared by scraping, peeling or cutting the colorful outer skin from a citrus fruit. A grater such as a zester comes in handy in a kitchen and works quite perfectly. Many recipes (especially baked goods) call for lemon, lime or orange zest.
Pith is the inner white portion of citrus fruit which is usually quite bitter.
Twist – a garnish for a cocktail such as a dry martini. Citrus skin with or without pith is cut in a long spiral and then run along the rim of a cocktail glass or simply used for garnishing the drink.
Some Citrus Standouts Meyer lemons are a hybrid of oranges and lemons. They are beautiful compared to an ordinary lemons and larger with saturated yellow color and a mild tangy flavor when eaten – even raw. I was wondering why they are not more widespread in the current market place. Further reading has unveiled that in the 1940’s they were grown plentiful in California. However it was discovered that the majority of Meyer lemon plants were carrying a virus which killed millions of citrus trees and they were symptomless so of course very hard to kill the virus. Needless to say they were chopped down. Plant scientists were able to plant and save virusless Meyer lemon plants eventually. Meyer lemons have had a little of a comeback since Martha Stewart has been incorporating them into many of her cookbook recipes. (Meyer lemon in gift box)
Another unique lemony fruit is the Buddha’s hand with its bizarre looks of a large squid and citrus fruit. It does not have much pulp, it’s not very bitter nor does it have any seeds. Buddha’s hand is often used as a room refresher in Japan and China with its mild citrus scent. Kaffir lime with its warty, fragrant green skin has many applications in cooking. The juice of kaffir lime is aggressively acidic. The leaves are double-leaf shaped and can be used dried or frozen. Sweet-Sour Memories When I was about six years old we visited Malta, an island in the Mediterranean. One of the memories that stuck was eating oranges and lemons with their peel intact and they were delicious.
Chef's Tip: The Best way to get the strong taste of garlic out of your mouth is to eat a slice of lemon. That taste always retruns after you brush your teeth but after a lemon it's mostly gone!
Beginning on Thursday, January 21, I'm presenting a very special 4-course menu of the rare Mangalitsa pork. To inaugurate this menu on Thursday, we will be joined by the Mangalitsa “crème de la crème” breeders from Austria, Seattle and New Jersey who collaborated with me to create this uniqe menu.
The 4-course menu and Mangalitsa a la carte items will be offered for as long as it lasts. To reserve please call Klee Brasserie directly at 212-633-8033 or reserve via www.opentable.com.
We look forward to seeing you!
(Mangalitsa pork belly and croquette with house-made fig mustard)
What is Mangalitsa Pork …bred during the Austro-Hungarian Empire for its exquisite flavor only the Hapsburg royal family was allowed to eat Mangalitsa! Now you can enjoy it too…
FIRST Lardo & Testa & Sulz all house-made, fig mustard crosnes, black truffle vinaigrette
Gelber Muskateller, Neumeister Steiermark, Austria 2008
SECOND Unctuous Belly pomegranate, cipollini onion
THIRD 24-Hour Roast & Crackling squash puree, red cabbage pickle
Zweigelt, Anita and Hans Nittnaus Burgenland, Austria 2007
DESSERT Streusel & Manga Confetti pineapple, caramelized bacon
Zierfandler Auslese, Stadlmann Thermenregion, Austria 2006
4 courses 85 dollars (without wine), 30 dollars (three glass wine pairing) …AS LONG AS IT LASTS… (Mangalitsa loin roast with crispy skin)
Not only will cranberries make you feel good (esp in a Cosmopolitan cocktail) they also have anti-cancer agents and reverse formation of dental plaque, and your doctor will most likely recommend drinking cranberry juice for any kidney problems. In short, a terrific way to make it through the cold winter, adding some vibrancy and bright colors to the mix.
(Heirloom cranberries at the farmers market)
European-style Cranberries As a cook I favor one fruit or vegetable over the other and cranberries are totally MINE. It might have to do with the fact that one of my childhood favorite dishes (I grew up in Austria) was Viennese schnitzel served with stewed lingonberries which are European-style cranberries. Lingonberries are smaller, sweeter and a bit more flavorful when compared with American cranberries.
What’s in a Name Early American settlers named the berry after the crane bird which resembles cranberry flowers witch have a red color and a gooseneck shape. (Endive salad with dried cranberries, pears and maple syrup caramelized walnuts)
Cranberries & Co. Cranberries are widespread throughout the cool northern hemisphere often found in higher altitudes. They can’t be missed here in the US for a traditional Thanksgiving feast when cranberry jelly with its refreshing acidic flavor is an ideal match for rather lame tasting turkey birds. Other cranberry things can be found plentiful on supermarket shelves such as various juice concoctions, compotes, dried, and baked items such as muffins, scones and cranberry bread to name a few. (Pear strudel with Stilton cheese and candied cranberries and black truffle honey)
Cranberry Harvest Nowadays, cranberries are cultivated for commercial production. The majority of cranberries are most likely from highly irrigated and leveled cranberry shrub beds which are flooded with water in fall and harvested with heavy machinery. The floating berries are then pumped from the fields into containers and shipped for mass production for items such as cranberry jelly, juice and sauce. Hand-harvesting cranberries is another option, obviously more labor intensive. Berries get picked with man-operated motorized push-cart like vehicles and bagged into burlap sacks. Cranberries harvested like that are often sold at farmers markets and their quality compared to the flooded-style harvest is much better since they are not bruised.
Freeze It To Protect It. Cranberries are cold-resistant down to temperatures of 23 degree Fahrenheit in harvest season when frosty nights kick-in. If temperatures fall even lower, farmers have to “shower” cranberry shrubs with water. In this way a protective thin layer of ice freezes around the berries so they won’t be destroyed by the cold temperature. (left picture: stewed cranberries in a jar) (right picture: schnitzel with stewed then pureed cranberries)
Simple Delicious Recipe for Stewed Cranberries (recipe yields 2 cups)
4 cups fresh cranberries 3 tablespoons honey such as clover honey
In a pot (2-quart sized) combine cranberries, honey and sugar with water (2 table spoons) then cook on low heat setting (cook for 35-45 minutes covered with a lid). Stir cranberries with a kitchen spoon once in a while.
Keep stewed cranberries in a container such as a glass jar with a tigh fitting lid for refrigerated storage like this you can use them for up to one week.
Chef's Tip: Serve stewed cranberries warm or cold with fried chicken, roasted fish, blue cheese and such.
Red Head Facts A plant pigment called anthocyanins provide vegetables such as red cabbage and various fruits with blue, purple or red coloring. “Red heads” are high in fiber, vitamin C and are rich in potassium which your body needs for basic everyday maintenance such as muscle growth and nerve cell functions. Red cabbage is low in calories (+/- 20cal./cup). (red cabbage at the farmers market)
Cabbage Facts Red cabbage tends to be smaller then his relative green cabbage and takes barley any maintanance to grow it other thann good watering. Red Cabbage can be harvestested in all seasons but tastes best at the end of winter or early spring when temperatures are still cool. It has a groth cycle of about 70 days.
All-American Who knew cabbage could be that good. For a recent family (staff) meal in the restaurant one of my cooks in the restaurant “cooked” a delicous red cabbage slaw which he prepared with hot dogs ‘all-American’ style. It inspired a recent lunch menu addition for the recent few days -- warm proscuitto & duck confit sandwich with apple and red cabbage slaw spiced with cumin and star anis. Not only was it a logical combination since red cabbage is plenty available and the apples cut some of the richness of the duck confit – but also right now there is not much else around at the local farmers markets! (red cabbage slaw with duck confit sandwich and duck proscuitto)
Red Cabbage Slaw With Star Anis (recipe yields four portions)
½-head red cabbage (5-inch diameter) 1 tart apple such as a Granny Smith ¼-teaspoon fresh ground star anis ¼-teaspoon fresh ground cumin 1 tablespoon Dijon-style grain mustard 1 tablespoon honey such as clover honey 2 teaspoons Kosher-style salt 2 pinches cayenne 3 limes, juiced 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 10 grindings black pepper
1. Core red cabbage and apple then slice with a knife thinly (1/8-inch thick) or with a vegetable slicer such as a Mandolin (discard apple seeds then cut apple slices with a knife into 1/8-inch thick apple sticks). Put cut cabbage and apples in a large bowl then toss to mix. 2. Combine all other ingredients (spices, oil, lime juice) in a kitchen blender then process (one minute or so) and pour over sliced apple and red cabbage then toss mixture to combine. Let cabbage mixture sit for twenty minutes or so (this way the spice mixture will soften the red cabbage/apple mixture)
Old World Cooking I still remember growing up in a house where a pot of red cabbage was slowly simmering with the aroma of cinnamon, cloves, cranberries and red wine wafting through the air. Here is a recipe for fragrant old world cabbage. (red wine braised red cabbage with Mangalitsa pork belly and head croquette)
Red Cabbage Cooked With Red Wine (recipe yields 8 portions)
1 head red cabbage (5-inch diameter) 1 cup orange juice 1 cup Merlot-style red wine 1 cup balsamic vinegar 1 cup cranberries 1 bay leaf ½-teaspoon ground cinnamon ½-teaspoon ground cloves ½-teaspoon ground nutmeg ½-teaspoon cayenne ½-teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 2 tablespoons Kosher-style salt 2 tablespoons honey such as clover honey ½-cup vegetable oil such as canola or grape seed oil 2 tablespoons rice 1 onion (3-inch diameter) 4 cloves garlic
1. Core red cabbage then slice with a knife thinly (1/8-inch thick strips) or with a vegetable slicer such as a Mandolin and transfer into a large bowl. 2. Combine all other ingredients (except onion and garlic) with sliced cabbage then toss to combine and let sit for one hour or so (this way cabbage will turn bright red in color) 3. Peel onions and garlic then cut (1/8-inch thick strips). 4. Heat vegetable oil in a pot (1-gallon sized) on medium heat setting and cook cut onion and garlic (3-5 minutes) then add cabbage/spice mixture. Cook cabbage mixture on low heat setting (cook cabbage for 1 ½ hour or until tender, stirring every ten minutes or so, covered with a tight fitting lid). 5. Adjust seasoning with salt and fresh pepper as necessary. Cabbage Cooking Tips I have plentiful duck fat in my kitchen available at all times and use that instead of vegetable oil when searing the onions and garlic. Cooking red cabbage in a stainless steel or cast iron pot and adding acidicy such as vinegar will help it retain its bright color.
Recipe Cards I get dreamy eyes when a card with handwritten scribbles of a bread pudding recipe falls from a recipe collection passed down from my Grandmother. It reaches the soul of family. Yes, it’s text book nostalgia - it draws me to the kitchen and I want to make bread pudding. (Just baked - bread pudding with chocolate chips, lingonberry jam and whipped cream)
Creative Resolutions – No “re-heated” Leftovers At the end of our usual lavish holiday buffet or multi course dinner there are usually all sorts of baked goods such as challah, cinnamon rolls, panettone or simple rolls and baguette left over. I know from my family’s Christmas dinner this year there were several uneaten cakes, including a pannetone, chocolate chip cookies, butterscotch bars (which I wish I had for breakfast this morning) and a few baguettes. These bready goodiess are most likely stale the day after. Why waste them! Let’s pull out those hand scribbled bread pudding notes and get to work.
I bet you look for something simple when you find yourself once again behind the stove after cooking your holiday meals -- good thing bread pudding is simple to make and a productive use for some of those bread leftovers. (Brioche bread pudding with fresh berries and brandy spiked chocolate sauce)
Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding (recipe yields four portions)
6 cups leftover sweet bread cubes such as challah or panettone (1-inch dice) 2 large eggs 2 cups whole milk 2 tablespoons honey such as clover ¼-teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon 2 tablespoons semi-sweet chocolate chips 1 tablespoon butter for greasing pan 1-3 tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness of the bread)
1. Combine eggs, milk, honey and cinnamon in a bowl then mix throughout with a wire whisk, and add chocolate chips. 2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 3. Place cubed sweet bread into a second bowl then add egg mixture and toss to combine. Let mixture stand for ten minutes (in this way the sweet bread will soak up the egg mixture). 4. Grease a baking pan (7 x 9-inch, or large enough to fit egg/bread mixture) with butter then add egg/bread mixture. 5. Sprinkle egg/bread mixture with sugar (taste a little of the mixture to gauge how much sugar to add as it depends on the bread used). 6. Bake egg/bread mixture in pre-heated oven (18 minutes or until top is golden in color). Chef’s tip: serve bread pudding with vanilla cream or chocolate sauce spiked with rum.
Bread Pudding…The Savory Side Just as sweet bread puddings work well for your leftover sweeter yeasty goods, a savory bread pudding works just as well for your not so sweet ones. (left picture: seared musrhoom bread pudding with scrambled eggs) (right picture: finally a dish for all those leftover truffle pieces - shave freely over scrambled eggs and savory bread pudding) Steamed Mushroom Bread Pudding (recipe yields plenty for four portions when served with a main dish such as beef stew)
3 cups mixed mushrooms such as shiitake, white button and chanterelle mushrooms 6 cups cubed leftover rolls or baguette (crust cut off, 1-inch sized dice) 3 tablespoons oil such as canola or grape seed 1 onion (3-inch diameter) 2 cloves garlic ¼-teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg 2 teaspoons Kosher-style salt 10 gratings fresh black pepper 3 pinches cayenne 2 cups whole milk 2 large eggs 1-2 tablespoons melted butter
4 sheets of aluminum foil (12x12-inch) Plastic wrap
1. Put mushrooms in a large bowl filled with luke-warm water (swoosh mushrooms around in water with your hands to remove dirt) then cut mushrooms into small pieces (1/2-inch pieces). 2. Peel onion and garlic skins, then cut in small pieces (1/8-inch dice). 3. Heat vegetable oil in a pot (1-gallon sized) on high heat setting then cook onions and garlic (1-2 minutes or until browned). Season onion mixture with nutmeg, salt, pepper and cayenne then add mushrooms and continue to cook (10 minutes or until browned), stirring often with a wooden spoon. 4. Combine milk with onion/mushroom mixture then bring to a boil. Move pot on the side of stove then add eggs and whisk with a wire whisk to combine. 5. Combine bread cubes with milk/mushroom mixture in a large bowl then let sit for ten minute (mix/combine mixture with wooden spoon). 6. Bring a pot of water (1-gallon sized) filled with water to boil. 7. Brush a sheet of aluminum foil with melted butter then roll half of the bread/mushroom mixture into a sausage like roll (approximately 9 inches long), then roll bread “sausage” into the aluminum and twist each end of aluminum tightly together like a candy wrapper. Wrap a second sheet of aluminum foil around the same/first bread “sausage” so that it is double-wrapped, then wrap whole bread “sausage” with plastic wrap, including the ends on all sides (this will take several layers of plastic around roll). 8. Repeat with second half of bread/mushroom mixture. 9. Place both bread “sausages” in a large pot boiling water and simmer for 45 minutes. Transfer cooked rolls to a plate lined with kitchen paper towels, then let cool for 10 minutes or until cool enough to handle. 10. Unwrap cooled bread “sausages” then slice in pieces (3/4-inch thick).
Chef’s tip: These bread “sausage” slices are terrific when browned in a skillet and served with scrambled eggs as brunchy dish.