Tradition comes to the forefront for many families at Christmas time. A learned, or borrowed tradition I hold dear is the Swedish Christmas Eve meal that we’ve made our own: Swedish Meatballs in a home made, nutmeg scented beefy béchamel sauce. Ladled over rich, mashed potato with a side of Lingonberry sauce and enjoyed around a Christmas tree or fireplace, this rates right up there with a hearthside fondue dinner for me! So much better than Ikea! I’m told that the Swedes prefer their meatballs unsauced. More calorie friendly, but where’s the fun in that?
SWEDISH MEATBALLS, SERVES 8
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, I prefer fresh crumbled white bread
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup cream
1 large egg
1/2 tsp salt and fresh black and white pepper to taste, a grating of nutmeg
1/2 of a large white onion, diced small
1-1/2 pounds of good, ground beef, local if possible
1//4 cup finely chopped parsley, no stems
A mixture of butter and avocado oil to fry, save your pan drippings
1/3 cup of butter
1/4 cup of flour
2 cup beef stock
1 cup heavy cream
A dash of soy sauce, Dijon mustard and season to taste
In a large bowl, mix all meatball ingredients, combining well.
Roll the meat into 24 or so uniform balls.
Heat the butter and oil over medium high heat, searing well. Remove to a warm plate and cover.
Add more butter to the drippings in the pan and whisk in the flour until it is browned, then add stock, mustard, cream and seasonings to make a rich Bechemel, simmer for ten minutes.
Add the meatballs and let the flavors marry over a low flame, while you’re mashing your potatoes and getting out the lignonberries.
I like to top mine with a dusting of fresh parsley. Bon Appetit!
Holidays were always fun in our household. They brought out the best cooking and baking from our two diverse Grandmothers-one a Bible beating Methodist and the other, Jewish from the old country. They both brought their “A” game in December with their own versions of holiday specialties.
Growing up, we loved everything about Christmas, but lined up for Grandmom Marad’s Potato Latkes, perfectly seasoned and crunchy, hot out of the oil. She preferred to really squeeze the liquid out of the shredded onion and potato (saving the liquid, naturally). This makes for unsurpassed crunch in the finished product. She also used matzo meal rather than bread crumbs. The other thing to know is that Russet potatoes are the best to use, being the starchiest. The oil should also on medium high heat and it’s always best to do an exploratory with one cake until you know the temperature is right, because fairly hot oil is key. Lastly, the won’t hold successfully in a 200 degree oven longer than 20 minutes or so. In our family, they didn’t stand a chance!
Hanukkah is December 10th this year. Let’s pray for light and love the world over! Share some joy around the dinner table with these delicious latkes, and think about giving this year to a family less fortunate.
Fanny’s Potato Latkes, serves four
2 1/2 lb. Russet potato, hand shredded
1 lg white onion, shredded
3/4 cup matzo meal
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tb potato starch (or a little more meal)
Salt and pepper to taste, Maldon salt to finish
Sunflower or Avocado oil to fry, add in 1/4 c schmaltz for flavor, or goose fat, if you have it.
Set up a wire rack near your frying station, with paper toweling.
Combine the shredded onion and potato in cheesecloth and squeeze as much liquid out as possible, save for soup.
In a bowl, combine the beaten eggs, potato, starch seasonings and matzo meal, mixing well. Let this rest ten minutes. Then form carefully into tight little cakes, using 3 tb per latke.
Heat your oil at a medium high temp and deploy your test “cake.” You don’t want smoking oil, nor can it be too slow. You’ll know by the “sound of applause,” as I call it. Don’t crowd the pan, fry perhaps four latkes at a time and drain immediately.
Sprinkle with a good, crunchy finishing salt like Maldon. Traditional garnishes are applesauce, sour cream, chives and smoked salmon.
Enjoy the Holidays and your families, stay safe and God Bless!
One -Pie squash or pumpkin puree was always my choice for pumpkin pie filling….long before I moved to Maine and subsequently to the town where it was actually canned. This was at at the Medomak Canning Company in Winslow’s Mills area of Waldoboro.
There was always something about the vintage inspired label, unchanged for decades, that attracted me. Seems nothing could surpass One-Pie for the satiny custard I craved. It’s New England’s unofficial brand, where taste meets tradition. It’s the can we reach for when the spice scented holidays arrive, just like our mothers and grandmothers did.
Doing a bit of research, I’ve found that the Medomak Canning Company was an offshoot of a Rockland canning company called the John Bird Company. It was he who build the Waldoboro canning facility that so many of us remember. Understanding the power of imagery and label recognition, it was also Mr. Bird who gave us that unforgettable label!
When I first moved to the coast of Maine in the 80’s, the canning factory was still intact, although closed for years. I was in the restaurant business then, and when the factory did finally get pieced out, a customer gifted me their iconic sign, which I still treasure. It hangs in my home kitchen to this day.
I’ve always been a loyal customer but realized that I didn’t know much about the brand. I did find, with a wave of relief, that it is still distributed in West Paris, Maine, although it’s now canned in the state of Illinois. Gone are the glory days of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s when One-Pie was one of hundreds of canning companies that processed the surplus of Maine farmers and fishermen. I recall one of my friends, Jane, a Morse of Waldoboro’s Sauerkraut farming fame, reminiscing about her childhood. She recalls picking pumpkins in her Grandmother Ethelyn’s field. These were earmarked for the One-Pie factory, which is where many farmers’ surplus crops landed. Local canning factories also processed beans, corn, peas, sardines and pumpkins or squash.
I for one, feel fortunate to have some of these One-Pie memories….and to live in Maine where it’s still on the shelf, like it always has been. I hear that one can on Amazon costs $10!
NEW ENGLAND PUMPKIN PIE
1 can ONE-PIE Pumpkin
1 tbsp Cornstarch
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Nutmeg, freshly ground
1/2 tsp Salt (scant)
1-1/2 tbsp Butter (melted)
1-1/2 cups Milk or one 12 oz can of Evaporated Milk
1 cup Sugar
1/8 cup Molasses
2 Eggs (beaten)
– Lemon Juice
Sift sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg together. Mix this with contents of one can ONE-PIE pumpkin. Add eggs, beaten, melted butter, molasses and milk. Add a dash of lemon juice (if desired). Line a 9 inch pie plate, pour in contents. Preheat over and bake at 450° for 15 minutes. Then reduce temperature to 350° and continue to bake for 50 minutes.
Sounds a little crazy, but this is one delicious dish! Sharp because of the Cheddar, creamy and umami packed, it’s a winner especially for the “hard to feed” at our Friendsgiving.
Easier than you’d think because butternut squash is easy to find peeled and cubed at the grocery….and…if you’re following along with me in preparing these seasonal recipes, you already have a big jar of homemade kimchi in your fridge! Ha ha , ok, not likely but you can find kimchi easily too.
Try a trial run for your family, then prepare with confidence for your Thanksgiving meal or Pot Luck!
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (1/2 in)
1 white onion, chopped finely
1 cup Napa cabbage kimchi, chopped with juice
2 tb extra virgin olive oil
1 lb elbow macaroni
1 quart Vegetable broth
1 tsp Salt, I like pink salt, freshly ground pepper
1 lb Sharp cheddar, grated
Heat the oil and add onion, sauté until soft.
Add kimchi and sauce a couple of minutes
Add cubed squash to the pot, reducing heat. Cover tightly and cook until squash is soft, about 5 minutes.
Remove lid and add pasta, stock and seasonings. Cover again and simmer until pasta has absorbed most of the stock
A bit of liquid left in pan is desirable.
Add the grated sharp cheese, stirring over reduced heat.
Serve while hot! You could also put this mixture into an oven safe casserole dish and top with buttered crumbs, reheating later. This recipe doubles well.
Happy Thanksgiving, so much to be grateful for, even in a difficult year!
For our friends that know not what celeriac is, it is celery root. A bodaciously celery flavored ball of goodness at the base of fronds of celery leaves. Grown especially for this root ball, both the root and stems/leaves are all fair game if cream of celery soup IS the game. I pair these intense flavors with onion for mellowness, potato for body and Stilton cheese for fabulous umami.
This is a soup for your Thanksgiving or Holiday table, a fine pairing with rich roasts or poultry.
I need to give a shout out to the late, great Buddy….my ol’ friend at who’s table I first enjoyed this masterpiece.
CELERY STILTON SOUP, makes 3 quarts
1/4 cup butter, unsalted
1 large onion, diced
2 leeks, well cleaned and chopped, use greens too
1 large celery root (celeriac) a, peeled and chopped
1 bunch of celery, cleaned and chopped, use all the leaves too
2 large potatoes, peeled, chopped
6 cups rich chicken stock, degreased
1 pound Stilton cheese
1/2 cup cream
Salt and pepper, a bay leaf
Melt butter in a heavy bottomed pot. Add onion, leek and celery root, leaves et all, salt and stir. Add potato, bay leaf, then stock. Cover and let simmer. Use can immersion blender to puree, leaving some small chunks for texture. Season to taste and add cream and cheese. Correct seasonings and serve piping hot in a pretty tureen.
It’s the end of the growing season here in Maine. Along with the fields of pumpkins, there are fields of cabbages still awaiting harvest, often just made sweeter by a bit of frost. I’ve seen conical ones, the heavy “keeper” style, Napa and Chinese cabbages and their cute cousin, Bok Choy.
Waldoboro is Sauerkraut Country. Ask anyone who’s a fan of Morse’s Sauerkraut out on Rt. 220. Theirs is a 100 year old tradition of making Kraut the old fashioned way. But when someone gifts you an armload of Napa Cabbage it’s either endless stir fries or, cabbage preserved as….Kimchi, that fermented food of Korean fame, stinky, zesty and a powerhouse of probiotic goodness.
So, I found a couple of large vessels, glass is best, and gathered garlic, ginger,fish sauce, Korean red pepper flakes, which can be found in a health food market, sugar, salt and everything nice…and smelly.
Began to salt down the cabbages after quartering them. Once the salt softens the cabbages, you rinse off the salt, and spread the spice paste between the leaves, then cram it all artfully into the jars and let them stand at room temperature for a few days to ferment. There. You’ve made food, pickles and medicine…all at once. Congratulations, you now have a superfood, low in fat but high in vitamins A, B and C.
Here’s a simple recipe:
Trim and quarter your Napa or Chinese cabbages, I am using three large cabbages for this recipe. Thinly slice green onion, radish, turnip and or carrot. Add all to a large bowl and salt it taking care to get between the leaves. Let this stand two hours until limp, then rinse well to remove the salt and leave it to drain.
Using a food processor, make a paste of 2 TB sugar, a 1/2 cup of fish sauce (can be omitted for a Vegan take on this forgiving recipe), 1- 1/2 cups Korean chili flakes, 1 head of fresh garlic, 1 large fresh ginger root (peeled), and a small Turmeric root.
Slather each leaf with this spicy paste. Wearing gloves is a good idea. Roll each quartered, slathered cabbage up tightly and pack into glass jars. Plastic is ok in a pinch.
Leave your jars out at room temperature for a day or two to ferment, I like to invert the jars in the sink occasionally to distribute all the juices which will present during the fermentation process. I noticed that plastic jars do need to be opened and off gassed occasionally while they’re ferment.
There you have it! Pretty easy. In Korea, Kimchi is eaten as a digestive aid at every meal and is attributed to weight loss due to it’s umami filled, satisfying nature.
Weight loss, satisfaction and a boosted immune system? Anything is worth a try in these pandemic times!
I am lucky for many reasons. Adding to my bountiful homestead is a prolific ancient Seckel pear tree in my backyard. This was a windfall year. So the question of how to preserve them was easy…pickled pears.
Nothing offsets a rich roast, creamy or Blue cheeses like the sweet/acid bite of a pickled pear. Pleasing in form and so pretty for presentation, this addition to your cheese or charcuterie board with have you entertaining like a pro! Start now and offer them as a holiday gift, perfect for this moment of curated shopping.
Makes 2 pints and this recipe easily doubles, have your pint jars hot and sterile, ready to go:
2 pounds Seckel pears, peeled, halved and seeded
1 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
12 cinnamon sticks, several cloves and a few Star Anise
Combine vinegar, sugar and salt with 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil. In a stainless kettle or pan.
Pack the prepared pears into your clean jars and divide the spices equally.
Pour hot brine over the pears, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Tapping the jars releases any trapped air bubbles.
Cap tightly and you can choose to can them traditionally in a hot water bath, or let cool and store in the refrigerator.
Best when left to sit for a month in order to fully develop flavors.
Summer is just about at it’s peak. There’s way too many zucchini and tomatoes. But, I’ve got a plan for your culinary herbs. Here’s what to do with that bounty of green herbs, like cilantro, chives, scapes or parsley…make a vibrant green sauce!
Almost every culture has one! From a global perspective, think about pesto, which most everyone knows…(Italy), green curry (India), chimichurri ( Argentina), zhoug (Yemen), or Mexico’s salsa verde.
One of my all time faves is Charmoula from Morocco. If you have lots of parsley and cilantro, love the flavors of lemon garlic, chile and cumin this North African sauce is for you. Great on grilled shrimp, grilled chops, or to bump up a vegetarian dish, try it…it doesn’t disappoint. It’s one of those great recipes that you can make ahead and it just improves, keeps for days, and freezes well.
The recipe is as follows:
Charmoula (Makes a pint, easy to double and freeze half)
1 cup stemmed, packed flat parsley
1 cup packed cilantro
2 scallions, trimmed and chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
1/4 tsp. roasted cumin seed
1 tsp. salt, fresh pepper to taste
A pinch of red pepper flakes or Aleppo pepper
1 tsp. of fresh lemon zest
3/4 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. red wine vinegar, of use the juice of the grated lemon
Combine all in a Cuisinart and pulse to consistency, correct seasonings, and add more oil or vinegar as you see fit. It should be a stunning bright green, and loose enough to drop from a spoon.
Absolutely divine on grilled meats, fish or shrimp….even tofu!
Enjoy the flavors of summer while we can still get out and grill!
What I know about Beth’s Farm Market is that they employ many Jamaican farm workers. Having spent ample time in Jamaica, I know that it’s a culture that eats well and their diet is very vegetable forward.
I was delighted to learn that the good people at Beth’s have begun to grow this delicious leafy green, a member of the Amaranth family. I look for it every July. The entire plant is good to eat, although the larger stems may need to be peeled and chopped smaller than the leaves. A high fiber vegetable, Callaloo helps to prevent obesity,control blood sugar and lower the risk of heart disease. Being high in vitamin C is another bonus and the reason it should be cooked lightly, until a jewel-like green.
Below is my favorite treatment for this nourishing vegetable, taught to me by an Ital chef, Dice:
Serves four, as a side dish. Prep time 30 minutes.
One large bunch callaloo, the larger stems peeled and chopped fine, leave chopped larger
Fresh thyme springs
One peeled chopped carrot and 1 chopped white onion
Four chopped Roma tomato, half a Scotch bonnet pepper
1 TB chopped garlic. Salt and peter to taste
Begin by heating 3 TB oil in a heavy bottom pot, add the onion,carrot, garlic, thyme,tomato, S and P. Cook until the carrot is tender.
Add the Callaloo stems first, salt lightly and toss to coat, when half cooked add the leaves and toss again, cover the pot, stir once or twice as it finishes cooking.
Take the dish off the flame while the colors are still vibrant, remove hot pepper and serve immediately.