Spiced Cherries

Piquant and sweet spiced cherries, usually called pickled cherries, are a specialty of southwest France where they make a perfect accompaniment to the

Pickled cherries with a sprig of Greek bay leaves from our backyard. Photo © by Rick Wise. To see the picture full screen left click on the image.

Pickled cherries with a sprig of Greek bay leaves from our backyard.
Photo © by Rick Wise. To see the picture full screen left click on the image.

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Charcuterie-Style Potato Salad

Charcuterie-style potato salad features “new” potatoes with cold cuts and no mayo. It’s perfect picnic fare, outside in warm weather, indoors by the fire when it’s cold.

Charcuterie-style potato salad with country pate, soppressata, and English peas. Photo © by Rick Wise. Left click on the image to see it full screen.

Charcuterie-style potato salad with country paté, soppressata, and English peas.
Photo © by Rick Wise. Left click on the image to see it full screen.

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Avgolemeno Sauce

Following the theme in my previous post of the chicken and the egg together in a pot, here’s a similar savory, warm, and beguiling herald to Spring. Called avgolemeno, meaning literally egg and lemon, it’s a classic of Greek cooking that can be either a sauce or a soup.

Ingredients for avgolemeno sauce or soup:chicken broth, eggs, and lemon. Photos © by Rick Wise. To see a photo full screen, left click on the image.

Ingredients for avgolemeno sauce or soup:chicken broth, eggs, and lemon.
Photos © by Rick Wise.
To see a photo full screen, left click on the image.

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Stracciatella: Italian Egg Drop Soup for Easter and Spring Colds

Stracciatella gussied up with shredded dandelion. greens.Photos © by Rick Wise

Stracciatella gussied up with shredded young dandelion greens. See the ingredient list for more spring greens variations. Photos © by Rick Wise

Piping warm homemade chicken broth afloat with egg curds is a quintessential Spring soup–simple, pure, uncomplicated, refreshing, soothing. The nutritious chicken broth is the main point. Together with the egg, it’s a paen to new beginnings and a celebration of health in an elegant opening for a Spring party or a delicate-yet-filling bowl of protein for an invalid in need of bolstering  The egg curds, or drops, offer a subtle bit of “chew,” like tiny gluten-free dumplings.

Ingredients for stracciatella. For best results, the broth should be homemade, the eggs newly laid from pasteured chickens, and the cheese genuine parmigiano reggiano or another of the noble hard grating cheeses of Italy.

Ingredients for stracciatella. For best results, the broth should be homemade, the eggs fresh from an organic farmer, and the cheese genuine parmigiano reggiano or another of the noble hard grating cheeses of Italy.

Makes  2 to 3 servings

4 cups chicken broth

1 packed cup thinly shredded spring greens, such as dandelion, spinach, nettles, watercress, fava bean leaves, baby turnip greens (optional)

2 large eggs

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano or other Italian hard grating cheese, such as aged Asiago or Romano

2 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Freshly grated nutmeg

Kosher or fine sea salt, to taste

1. Heat the broth in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until beginning to boil. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer. If using greens, add them now and cook until wilted, abut 2 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs until blended. Add the cheese and parsley and whisk to mix. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the hot broth. Let rest without stirring for a few seconds while egg curds form, then gently swirl the curds into the broth. Season with a few grates of nutmeg and salt to taste and serve.

Peanuts and Chiles in an Asian Sauce

Asian peanut chili sauce is a marvel of global cookery: two New World staples, peanuts and chilies, combined with lime juice and ancient nam pla (fish sauce) in an energetic sauce for dipping or dressing.

Chili peppers and peanuts from the farmers' market, last July. Here put to good use in an Asian chile/peanut sauce for all seasons. Photos © by Rick Wise.

Chili peppers and peanuts from the farmers’ market, last July. Here put to good use in an Asian chile/peanut sauce for all seasons. Photos © by Rick Wise.

Peanuts, the main ingredient, are a New World ground nut that wended its way from South America to Africa to Asia and across the Pacific Ocean to North America, embedding itself along the way into the cuisines of all those places. Chilies, also a New World native, had a similar tour around the world, and when it got to Asia and the Pacific Islands, married peanuts in many delicious ways: sometimes with hoisin sauce; sometimes with soy sauce; sometimes with Asian fish sauce. Sometimes the sauce is thin and liquid, with the peanuts coarsely chopped and floating; sometimes it’s a thick puree, more dip like. Almost always some sugar is called for.

A frolicking celery heart taking a dunk in peanut chili sauce.

A frolicking celery heart taking a dip in peanut chili sauce. Photo © by Rick Wise

The rendition I settled on is akin to a Filipino sauce used for lumpia, a sort of egg roll wrap. I add no sugar to the sauce; the peanuts are naturally sweet enough for my taste. As either dipping sauce or side garnish, peanut chili sauce can dress up beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, vegetables, spring or summer rolls, lumpia, and various other wrapped delights. If you prefer to keep the sauce vegetarian, substitute Tamari soy sauce for the fish sauce.

Makes 2/3 cup

1/3 cup chunky, unsweetened peanut butter

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce, preferably 3 Crabs brand

1/8 cup water

1 clove garlic minced or pressed

2 small dried red chile peppers, crumbled (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk until thoroughly blended. Use right away or store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Homemade Chicken Broth the “Easy” Way

Stockpot with awaiting elements for making chicken broth: chicken parts, onion, ginger, garlic, and thyme.  Photo © by Rick Wise. Left click on the image to see it full screen.

Stockpot with awaiting elements for making chicken broth: chicken parts, onion, ginger, garlic, and thyme.
Photo © by Rick Wise. Left click on the image to see it full screen.

As a matter of routine, I periodically devote stove time and frig and freezer space to making and having on hand homemade chicken broth. It’s one of a cook’s best friends.

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Beef and Black Bean Chili

February 2, 2014, Big Game Day.  Or for any game day, chili con carne, chilied beans with meat, fills the bill, whether for a few or many.

Photo © by Rick Wise. Left click on the image to see it full screen.

Photos © by Rick Wise. Left click on any image to see it full screen.

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