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Jim Dixon

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Everything posted by Jim Dixon

  1. I have an abundance of Meyer lemons right now, and decided to try making marmalade. I found a recipe in How to Be Domestic Goddess (my wife tells me I already know how, except when it comes to cleaning) for grapefruit marmalade, and figured it would work for lemons, too. It calls for cooking the whole fruit in water until they're tender (about an hour for lemons). I let them cool a bit, sliced off the stem end, split into quarters (and the central pithy part with most of the seeds lifts out fairly easily), then sliced thinly. Starting with 7 smallish lemons, I ended up with about 1 1/2 cups of peel and pulp. I added a cup of sugar and cooked again. Nigella says to cook until the sugar "reaches the setting point (about 15 minutes)." I appreciate that kind of direction, but forgot that most jams set up a bit as they cool, so overcooked this test batch just a bit. Still, even though the results are just a bit too stiff to spread easily, it tastes great. I'll be making more this weekend. Jim
  2. I finally finished making a batch of nocino this week. I had started back in the late spring of 2001 when, at the direction of a friend from Tuscany who's at grad school here, I picked a couple dozen hard green walnuts off the tree in our yard. I split these into quarters with a small hatchet, packed them in a one gallon glass jar, and covered with a half-gallon of grain alcohol. This sat in my garden (it needs to be the sun) all summer, then in October, just before we left for Italy, I strained it out and added a small amount of sugar syrup that just happened to be at hand. It looked like used motor oil, but I stuck it in the basement and sort of forgot about it. This summer I met Anna Tasca Lanza during a book tour (her family owns Regaleali Winery in Sicily, and she's written a couple of cookbooks). Her book had a recipe for nocino that included clove, cinammon, and lemon, so I decided to incorporate those flavors. It just took 6 months to get around to it. I heated some water and added a few cloves, 2 sticks of cinammon, and a Meyer lemon, halved and squeezed, peel and all. I let this steep for an hour, strained, and added sugar to make a simple syrup. I blended this 50:50 with the nocino base, and since, it already had a little syrup, it probably ended up at about 60 proof. It doesn't have quite the alcoholic bite as the limoncello I make, which is 85 proof. But it does taste good. I only used half of the base, so I may make the more traditional Tuscan version that renato told me his father makes...it's just walnuts, alcohol, and syrup. Since this is the time for good citrus, it's also a good time to start more limoncello. I think my recipe is on this board somewhere. Jim
  3. Amari

    I was introduced to the whole concept of amaro (Italian for bitter) in Italy, and I've come to really like the stuff. We usually have Averna, a Sicilian amaro, on hand, but Christopher at GT served us a digestivo of Amaro Nonino that was really nice. Nonino is a distiller in Friuli known for grappa and pure fruit distillates, but I'd never had the amaro (Oregon has liquor laws that harken back to Prohibition). I was able to track down a couple of bottles in Brooklyn just before our plane left. As the weather has warmed up, I've been drinking a cocktail of about 1/3 amaro and 2/3 fizzy mineral water over crushed ice. Very refreshing and tasting a little like cola, but without the sugar. Jim
  4. Lentils

    A few folks expressed their dislike for lentils over on the mystery basket thread, and mamster asked for "lentils that rock." I think these do, but they require the right ingredients. You must use either the small Italian lentils (often from Castellucio, but grown in other high elevation spots...esperya sells some) or the green lentils sold as French, du Puy, or sometimes "baby." These lentils don't mush up after cooking, so you get a much better texture. The other key ingredient is good olive oil. It has to have a strong flavor, and the more "peppery" flavor the better ("peppery" is a euphemism for bitter, which comes from the polyphenols in the oil...it's that slight burn, albeit pleasant, at the back of the throat). Enough already... lenticchie al Mauro I like to eat these as is, but they also rock if you serve them with sausage (cotechino especially). Sometimes I'll take the already cooked lentils, add a bit of tomato paste, and finish cooking some browned sausages in the lentils. You get a lot of tasty sausage juice (okay, fat). You can also just cook the lentils in water, drain when tender, and make a great salad by tossing with cubed roasted beets (preferably chioggia or golden), splash of vinegar, and good olive oil (Navarre makes this with walnut oil and it is incredible). Jim
  5. Rice

    This medium grain heirloom variety brown rice tastes great and has the texture of white rice. I cook it using the Italian 'cook like pasta' approach. Bring lots of salted water to a boil, add rice, boil for 35 minutes, drain, cover, and rest for a few minutes. Kokuho Rose Organic Brown Rice, available online here. Bittman mentioned this rice a few weeks ago. JIm
  6. Sodium quackery

    Full disclosure: I sell Necton sea salt from Portugal. There are a couple of reasons to use good sea salt instead of refined salts such as kosher salt. One is flavor. Nearly all of the salt produced world-wide, no matter the process, is destined for industrial use (paint, PVC, etc). Industrial users want it to be as close to 100% sodium chloride as possible. Larger salt producers, including industrial sea salt producers, try to meet this goal. Small producers of culinary salts don’t mind less than pure sodium chloride, and in fact embrace the trace elements in their salts. The salt I sell and use at home is 96-97% sodium chloride; that 3-4% consists of the other micronutrients in seawater, including magnesium and potassium. These trace elements buffer the bitter flavor of sodium chloride. While it is subtle, you can taste the difference. I tell my customers to poach or fry a couple of eggs, then eat one with ordinary table or kosher salt, the other with Necton or a comparable sea salt. One of my restaurant customers uses Necton salt in the kitchen because, as the chef/owner told me, “When we ran out once and switched back to kosher, the cooks complained that the food tasted like crap.” Flor de sal (flower of salt, fleur de sel in French) also has a textural advantage. The small, delicate crystals are the first to precipitate out of solution in the solar salt ponds, and no other salt has the same light crunch. The other reason is political. Diamond Crystal is part of Cargill, one of the bigger cogs in the industrial food system. Jim
  7. Ribs in the oven

    It ain't barbecue, but it's good... Liberally salt and pepper a rack of spareribs, cook at 200-250F for a few hours. Jim
  8. Different types of salt and their uses

    I agree, this is where you can taste the difference. Jim
  9. Different types of salt and their uses

    Most of the sodium chloride produced around the world os use for industrial purposes; culinary salt is a small fraction. Industrial users want more pure salt, and so the culinary salt also ends up about 99% sodium chloride. As slkinsey points out, even sea salt harvested using evaporation can be very pure since the producers remove the crystals when the sodium chloride fraction is at its peak, dumping any remaining brine. But small producers of culinary salt can let the evaporative process continue until the salt crystal begin to precipitate out of solution, and the resulting salt is usually only about 96% sodium chloride, the rest a mix of the trace elements found in sea water. While the difference in sodium chloride content is very small, it is perceptible. Disclosure: I import and sell flor de sal from Necton. Jim
  10. Koda's Kokuho Rose, cooked using their recommended soak, cook, rest, fluff, and rest again method, is the best I've had. The texture is like white rice, but with better flavor and the benefits of a whole grain. Certified Organic, limited production Kokuho Rose® Brand Rice is an Heirloom, Japanese style medium grain, grown by the Koda family since the 1950s in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Jim
  11. Salt Cod Diary

    Make your own salt cod: Homemade Salt Cod with Root Vegetables
  12. Chicken Liver Paté: The Topic

    from my site.... Cibreo Supposedly a favorite of Caterina de’ Medici, although hers was made with cockscombs, hearts, and assorted other gizzards. Even people who claim they don’t like liver eat this up. Finely chop an onion or a couple of shallots, and start cooking them in butter, extra virgin olive oil, or a little of both. After a few minutes, add about a half pound of the best chicken livers you can find. You could chop these up first, but raw liver is messy, so I chop them in the pan with a spatula and paring knife while they cook. When the livers are about half cooked, sprinkle a couple spoonfuls of flour over them. Stir well, and let the flour cook for a couple of minutes. Add more fat if it’s too thick. Pour in about a cup of water, and, if you feel like it, a splash of white wine. Stir and continue cooking, adding more water if the mixture gets too thick. You want a consistency thick enough to spread, but not pasty. After a few more minutes, remove from the heat and while the liver cools, separate 2 eggs (save the whites for a frittata) and mix the yolks with about a tablespoon of good wine vinegar (like Katz Orleans method Sparkling Wine). Stir the yolks into the liver, sprinkle in flor de sal to taste, and eat on cook crackers or bread.
  13. Best Use of Stale Bread

    Spanish style migas Cajun Migas Migas with Ham
  14. Savoy Cabbage

    Any of the things I mention in this article would be fine with Savoy as well as plain green cabbage. This bean, cabbage, and polenta combo is pretty good, too.
  15. Pumpkin

    I've come to the conclusion that what I call fritters are the highest use of any winter squash. One recipe here on my site, but the basic approach (egg and breadcrumbs) can be varied endlessly. I recently tweaked the mix and made winter squash pancakes that were pretty good. Jim
  16. Home grown piment d'espelette: http://www.viridianfarms.com/ Jim
  17. Making Breadcrumbs

    When whatever loaf we’ve been eating gets down to its last few slices, I lay them out on a sheet pan or cutting board and let them dry out on the counter for a few days. If I’m in a hurry, I’ll put the slices in my old Wedgewood’s oven, where the pilot light keeps the temperature at about 100F. When the slices are really dry, I toss them in a bag, and when the bag starts taking up too much room in the bread drawer, I make crumbs. I’ll break up the dry slices a bit, then put them in the Cuisinart and process. The results are uneven, a mix of fine powdery crumbs, granular little nuggets, and chunks that look like rejects from the crouton factory. But they work perfectly for my ongoing fritter habit. And they last pretty much forever. Jim
  18. Darlene, I import extra virgin olive oil from small producers in Italy, and I also sell oil from a couple of California producers. Since I started the business to have plenty of good olive oil in my own kitchen, I don't need to use any of the brands available nationally. There are scale problems in making enough oil for a big market. It is difficult to produce well-made extra virgin olive oil, and only a few firms are able to do it in volume. National brands blend oil from many sources to get a consistent flavor, and it's very likely that the blend includes some refined oil. To ensure you're getting true extra virgin, you can buy from a trusted source (self promotion warning: like me) or look for the California Olive Oil Council seal that certifies the oil is truly extra virgin. The California oils I sell (Katz, the oil used at Chez Panisse, and COR, one of the successful high volume producers) carry this certification. Jim
  19. True extra virgin olive oil is fine for frying. The biggest problem is finding true extra virgin olive oil since the term isn't regulated here, so the majority of the oils sold as "extra virgin" are really refined-virgin blends. For a better understanding of "extra virgin" please take a look at my articles on Culinate: Extra virgin, extra confusing. Do you trust your olive oil? How to speak olive oil. What the labels really mean You might also want to look at the International Olive Oil Council's info. True, they're an industry group, but they also have some of the best current research about olive oil. And what it shows is that oils with higher levels of polyphenols are more stable for frying. Only well-made extra virgin olive oils have such levels. The whole "low smoke point" issue is bogus, too. Extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point well below the best temperature for frying. People in the olive belt around the Mediterranean have been frying in olive oil for centuries. Jim
  20. Cavolo Nero/Black Kale/Lacinato

    I'd always wondered where the name "lacinato" came from, and with a little digging on the internets discovered it's a mispelling of lacianato (lacy or frilled in Italian). I like it braised with onion and olive oil, natch. It's also good in inzimino, typically made with chard or spinach.... Calamari all’inzimino For one bunch of cavalo nero, use about a pound of cleaned squid, an even mix of tubes and tentacles. Leave the tentacles intact, but slice the tubes into rings about a half inch wide. Coarsely chop half an onion, a few garlic cloves, and a couple of celery stalks. Cook for a few minutes with a pinch of sea salt in olive oil, then add a bunch of cavalo nero that you cut in a chiffonade (trim the bottom inch off the bundle of leaves, then roll about half into a tight cylinder, top to bottom, and slice thinly, about a quarter inch). Add a healthy glug of red wine (roughly a cup), the squid, and about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste thinned with a half cup or so of water. A nice pinch of red pepper flakes is optional, but really good. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 40 minutes. Serve over toasted bread with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Jim
  21. Cooking Brisket quickly.

    Grind it and make burgers. Jim
  22. Viridian Farms here in Oregon grows the peppers and dries piment d'espelette. You can contact them here: http://www.viridianfarms.com/ They also grow padron peppers, toloso beans, and other amazing stuff, but you may need to wait for the next harvest. Warning...shameless self-promotion ahead! Over the past couple of years I've expanded my own olive oil and salt business to include a few beans and grains, mostly things I want to have in my own kitchen. They're not listed on my web site (woefully outdated anyway; upgrading to blogging software is a 2010 goal), so email me if you're interested. Here's what I've got: small red beans, a variety called chiquito rojo developed at the U of Washington for the state's dry east side and based on an heirloom variety from Mexico, grown by Haricot Farms near Yakima garbanzos, also from Haricot, incredibly flavorful on their own emmer farro (Triticum diconum), unpearled so it doesn't get mushy like a lot of perlato and semiperlato imported stuff, certified organic from Bluebird Grain Farms near Winthrop, Washington Kokuho Rose brown rice, an heirloom medium grain rice from California's San Joaquin Valley that requires a complex cooking regime (rinse, soak, cook, rest, fluff, and rest again) but is amazingly good Please email rather than PM: jdixon@realgoodfood.com thanks Jim
  23. Greens: Mostly Kale and Chard

    My go-to green (I rarely cook anything else these days) is cavolo nero, aka "lacinato" kale (it should be lacianato, Italian for frilly edged). I think it has a nice, umami quality, and it doesn't shrink as much as other greens. I've got a photo and "recipe" on my site (here), but here it is: Chop an onion, cook in good extra virgin for a few minutes, then add a bunch of cavolo nero cut in chiffonade. Add some water (half a wineglass, as the Italians might say), reduce heat to low, and braise for at least 30 minutes. I think it's even better cooked a little longer, but check for water every so often either way. Really good with beans, perhaps mounded together on toasted bread, drizzled with more oil, even topped with an egg. Jim
  24. I'm here fairly often but never really have much time. The Portland Farmers Market opens next Saturday, March 21, the earliest opening ever. I'll be there selling olive oil, salt, vinegar (maybe), olives, and, now, farro (from Bluebird Grain Farms in Winthrop, Washington). I'm also open every Tuesday at my "warehouse," a glorified garage in SE Portland (9th & Main), from 4:30 to 6:30 pm. Carlo...I missed the part about staying near the Lloyd Center. You can take the light rail (MAX) downtown from there for free. Unfortunately, there's not a lot within walking distance of Lloyd Center ( except Patisco, a new sandwich spot, on Broadway and NE 14th, or Foster & Dobbs, about 10 minutes walk farther north at NE 15th & Brazee). Email me from my webs site if you have any questions about food. Jim
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