Boozy Desserts: Glen Grant Five Decades + Whisky Bread Pudding

bread pudding whisky scotch single malt recipe Glen Grant

Part of my aim in writing this blog is to bring good food and whisky together. When asked to review a new expression from Glen Grant, I took it as an opportunity to engage in one of my favorite kitchen pastimes: boozy baking. And since I had most of an unwanted loaf of Italian bread going stale, I decided to whip up a whisky bread pudding. With whisky sauce. To enjoy with more whisky.

Now, I did NOT use the lovely Glen Grant sample in this recipe. I never use “real” whisky (e.g. a nice single malt) in cooking, Brenne-infused mulled wine notwithstanding. I used what I had on hand, which was Grants, but you can use any cheap blended whisky or, heck, any dark spirit you want. Bourbon, brandy, rum—go wild! But please, please don’t use your good stuff. Save that to enjoy with the food.

whisky whiskey bread pudding recipe

Bread pudding is ridiculously easy to make. Bread, sugar, eggs, cream. Throw in some vanilla, baking spices, nuts, raisins or other fruit, chocolate chips, whatever—you can’t mess it up. It’s a great dessert for company, too, because you can make a whole pan (or portion into little ramekins) and feed a crowd. Plus, you get to serve it with hard sauce, which is butter, sugar, and booze, and tastes like the topping at Cinnabon only way better, because booze.

Glen Grant’s new Five Decades expression pairs nicely with bread pudding, complementing it with a light creaminess, notes of nutmeg, and sweet raisiny undertones. In fact, next time I might add raisins or currants to further draw out the dried fruit in the malt.

Glen Grant V Decades - Image courtesy of Exposure

Glen Grant Five Decades
Nose: Sweet with strong vanilla and honey with icing sugar and an undertone of stone fruits, especially fresh cherries, and a hint of nutmeg.

Palate: Gentle at first, with a creamy sweetness that progressed to warm spiciness and finished with toasted, buttered nuts and lingering spice. As the dram opened up, I got notes of minerals, birch bark, and cherry syrup, plus some orange peel dipped in dark chocolate. It was very easy drinking, and more complex than the nose suggested.

Glen Grant just released this whisky as a celebration of their Master Distiller, Dennis Malcolm, who began his career at their cooperage in 1963. Malcolm selected casks from each of the last five decades to create the limited-edition expression priced around $250.

whisky whiskey bread pudding recipe

Whisky Bread Pudding
Ingredients:
– 1 loaf Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes and allowed to go stale
– 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
– 4 large eggs
– 1 cup white sugar
– 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
– 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
– 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
– 2 tsp. vanilla extract
– 3 Tbs. whisky (e.g. Grants)
– 1 cup heavy cream
– 3 cups half and half
– 1/2 cup raisins or currants (optional)

Directions: 
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (175° C). Grease a 9″x13″ glass baking dish. Melt the butter and toss with the bread, coating thoroughly.

2. Beat eggs and both sugars until well blended. Add spices, vanilla, and whisky. Blend in cream and half and half until thoroughly mixed. Gently mix in raisins, if using.

3. Toss bread chunks with cream mixture and pour into baking dish, ensuring each chunk is well saturated. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until liquid has set. (It will still be bubbling, though.) Serve warm with butterscotch or hard sauce.

Thanks to Nick at Exposure for the sample of Glen Grant Five Decades.

Umami-Packed Fried Green Tomatoes

green tomatoes tomato slices fried

While the warm weather is officially winding down, and I’ve already busted out the soup pot for a batch of this soul-warming goodness, there’s still one juicy way to hang on to summer a little longer. Sure, it’s a bit tart and perhaps not as versatile as its more mature brethren, but the green tomato makes a lip-smacking treat that rivals all other fried foods.

Seriously, have you tried them? You will not be able to stop eating them.

fried green tomatoes southern fried umami

Don’t resist.

A batter would be too heavy, but a nice triple-dip in dry-wet-dry ensures that every slice is well-crusted and remains so during the pan frying. I’ve seen recipes that call for just flour and others for just cornmeal, but here I combine them, with well-beaten egg, to achieve a satisfying chewy-crunchy ratio without overpowering the fruit.

The key to this recipe, however, is the first dip in Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. The punch of umami imparted by the sauce ensures that the finished tomatoes need no adornment (although if you’re partial to ranch dressing or perhaps remoulade, go for it). And if you have any sauce left after the initial dip, try blending it into the beaten egg for an extra-strong flavor.

If you have a low spice tolerance, adjust the Tabasco accordingly. And feel free to use any other brand of hot sauce you like. To make the recipe ovo-vegetarian, find a fish-free Worcestershire sauce or substitute dark soy sauce.

fried green tomatoes southern fried umami cast iron skillet

Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients: 
2 medium green (unripe) tomatoes
3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp – 1 Tbs. Tabasco (to taste)
1 large egg and 2 Tbs water, well beaten
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup medium or finely ground yellow cornmeal
corn or vegetable oil for frying

Directions:
1. Combine Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco in a shallow bowl. Combine flour and cornmeal in another shallow bowl. Add beaten egg to a third shallow bowl. Line them up in that order.

2. Slice tomatoes in ~1/4 inch slices and arrange in a single layer on a large tray or cookie sheet. Working one by one, dip each slice into the sauce mixture and make sure it is well coated. Then, dredge in the flour-cornmeal mixture and put back onto the tray. Repeat with all tomato slices until finished.

3. Again working one by one, dip each slice in the egg mixture until well coated. (For an extra-flavorful egg dip, mix in any sauce leftover after step 2.) Then, dredge once again in the flour-cornmeal mixture and put back onto the tray. (If you need to top up the flour-cornmeal mixture, make sure it is in a ~ 1:2 ratio.)

4. In a heavy cast iron skillet, heat 1/4″ oil over medium-high heat until it is smoking hot (about 330° F), then immediately turn the heat down to medium. Working in batches so as not to overcrowd, fry tomato slices, turning over, until dark brown on both sides. Add more oil between batches as necessary, allowing it to heat up before cooking tomatoes. Drain tomatoes in a single layer on several paper towels.

Serve hot. If there are any leftovers, keep them in a tightly-sealed container in the refrigerator with paper towels between each layer. Reheat in the oven or toaster oven, or just eat them cold. They make a great substitute for regular tomatoes in a BLT.

Peach-Pineapple Salsa

peaches pineapple salsa mint lime juice tortilla chips fruit recipe

With the arrival of Labor Day, summer is “offically” over. Kids are heading back to school (if they’re not there already), beach house rental prices have plummeted, and the pumpkin spice flavored goodies are out in full force.

I’m as excited about the start of fall as anyone—the first pumpkin beers of the season are chilling in my fridge right now—but with 80-degree days still forecast for at least a couple more weeks, I can’t switch off summer mode yet. Especially when it comes to making the most of summer fruit, still in full, bounteous swing.

Since just eating a piece of fruit gets a little boring, I decided to make a fruit salsa to jazz up my five-a-day. Fresh pineapple, now at the end of its season, mint and lime juice rounded out some just-ripe peaches to make a flavorful, refreshing treat. I call this a salsa but really, it’s a diced fruit salad, so feel free to eat it with a spoon, tortilla chips, on top of ice cream or yogurt, or however you like it.

peaches pineapple mint lime hot pepper fruit salsa recipe

Peach-Pineapple Salsa

Ingredients:
3 large or 4-5 small peaches, peeled, cut in 1/2″ dice (yields ~3 cups)
2 cups of fresh pineapple, cut in 1/4″ dice (if substituting canned pineapple, use the kind stored in its juices, not in syrup)
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
juice of two limes (about 1/3 cup)
2 green cayenne peppers, finely minced (can substitute other hot peppers to taste or eliminate entirely)

Directions:
Mix all ingredients well, cover tightly, and let sit in the refrigerator for several hours. (This step is important as it mellows the vegetal mint and allows all the flavors to blend.) Serve over ice cream, as a topping for tacos, with tortilla chips, or plain. Keeps up to three days in the fridge.

‘Cueing Up Summer

the difibulators, a bluegrass band from nyc

Is there anything better than barbecue, bluegrass, and good booze to get you excited about summertime? Maybe ice cream. And cornhole. And great company to share in these marvelous things.

bobwhite lunch and supper counter nyc fried chicken potato salad pimento cheese sandwich

What’s better than fried chicken? Cold fried chicken. (Seriously.)

Last week, I got all that and more at Tasting Table‘s ‘Cue Up Summer party. Yes, it’s already late July. But after an intensely oppressive heat wave, I think we all needed a reason to get excited about summer again. With great food by local purveyors, twangtastic bluegrass from the Difibulators, and unlimited booze, it perfectly renewed my love of the season’s simple pleasures. (And it didn’t hurt that the day itself was unseasonably cool!)

Delaney Barbecue, brisket and ribs.

Serving up brisket and two kinds of ribs, and you still want more.

It all went down in the Elizabeth Street Garden which, under normal circumstances, is lovely enough with its antique statuary and rampant greenery. This evening, marquees strung with fairy lights sheltered tables laden with picnic pleasures—cold fried chicken, potato salad, and pimento cheese sandwiches from Bobwhite Lunch & Supper Counter; brisket, pork AND beef ribs, and fixins from Delaney Barbecue; some guilt-free gazpacho and veggies topped with Tabasco Buffalo Sauce; and amazing desserts—cookies by Mah-ze-Dahr Bakery; Imperial Woodpecker sno-balls; and massive ice cream sandwiches by Melt Bakery.

Melt ice cream sandwich s'most

There’s a marshmallow hiding in that ice cream sandwich.

And what would an outdoor summer party be without bottomless booze? Guests had their choice of Santa Margherita wines, Goose Island beers, and cocktails made with Monkey Shoulder and Hendrick’s Gin. I’m a big fan of both of the latter and stuck to those. The Hendrick’s lemonade suited my unusual preference for having lemon with Hendrick’s (and only with Hendrick’s—with other gins, it’s always lime), and the Summer Jam, mixing Monkey Shoulder with strawberry jam and lemon juice, was everything a July whisky cocktail should be—cool, slightly sweet, and far too easy to drink. Check out the recipe below.

Joshua Feldman, the Coopered Tot and whisky aficionado

Josh fits right in with the mood lighting.

My buddy Josh, of the Coopered Tot and Morgan Library whisky fame, along with some new friends, ensured that the company was as good as the comestibles. Thanks to Nick of Exposure USA for hosting with aplomb and Freddy of William Grant & Sons for sharing his extensive boozey knowledge. Summer might be half-gone already, but I plan to carry on with the outdoor eating, drinking, and merry-making, getting all I can out of the few weeks we have left.

Summer Jam
1 1/4 parts Monkey Shoulder Whisky
1/2 part fresh lemon juice
1 dollop of strawberry jam
Dash of sugar to taste
Splash of seltzer

Add all ingredients except seltzer to a shaker. Shake well. Strain into a glass with ice and top with a splash of seltzer.

Sun Dried Tomato and Black Olive Tapenade

sun dried tomato tapenade black olive capers

I’ll admit it: I get lazy about cooking sometimes. There are nights that I get home from work and want nothing more than to change into sweatpants and crack open a beer. These are the times I turn to that old meal-substitute standby—crackers and some sort of topping (cheese, sausage, schmear, dip). As summer approaches, and the sweaty, smelly commutes increase, I’m having more and more of those nights.

Happily, crackers (or, if you have access to a good bakery, baguette) lend themselves to all sorts of low-key add-ons, from fresh sliced tomatoes with mozzarella and a basil leaf to sweet fruit compote with sharp cheddar. If you have hummus lying around, perfect. Greek yogurt, cucumbers, lemon juice, and dill make a quick and delicious tzatziki. All things that require minimal effort and no turning on the stove.

This tapenade makes another great ready-to-go spread, and keeps in the fridge for up to a week. Feel free to use green olives if you prefer them, and if you’re using oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, you may want to decrease the amount of olive oil added.

Black Olive Tapenade with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients:

1.5 cups black olives, preferably Kalamata, pitted
1 cup sun dried tomatoes, soaked 5 minutes and drained (no soaking necessary if using oil-packed tomatoes)
1 Tbs. capers, drained
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Pulse first three ingredients in food processor until roughly chopped.

2. With food processor going, add olive oil in a thin stream until well-blended.

Serve with crackers, sliced baguette, or crostini. Keeps up to one week in the refrigerator.

Collards Two Ways

Photo 12.1

It’s been a long winter here in New York, made longer by an incredibly snowy March. This month is always a question mark, and often a tease: a day or two of glorious sunshine puts everyone in a cheerful mood, only to be crushed by lingering, chilly, wet gloom for the next week. Sigh. At the beginning of winter, and even through January and February, I enjoy the thick, meaty stews and slow, warm braises that populate the seasonal menu. But after awhile, no matter how much iron I pack in with beans and lentils, I crave a big batch of greens. Their color acts as a visual cue that I’m doing right by my body, their taste reminds me of the bounty of warmer times, and, since they’re packed full of nutrients, I feel better—fresher, lighter—for hours after eating.

But in March—fickle, callous March—it’s still too early for young spring lettuces and even the most dedicated foragers will have trouble rustling up enough ramps or ferns to make more than a meal or two. So I turn to what’s available in my Washington Heights grocery: mustard greens, kale, or collards.

Collards are my go-to green. I was forced, as a child, to eat them on New Year’s Day for good luck. In the South, usually the collards are simmered with vinegar, salt, sugar, crushed red pepper, and something porky like a ham hock or ham bone. I didn’t care for the tart flavor and toothsome texture growing up, but now I can’t get enough. Besides this traditional preparation, I like collards in other forms, too.

Mature collards are massive things, with leaves six or more inches across and thick, tough stems. Before cooking them, always take the time to remove the stem. You can save it for other purposes, like chopping and adding to a stew or braise, but if you leave them on for these recipes, they’ll be inedible. Make two cuts down either side of the stem and pull away the leaves to remove (pictured).

Removing the collard stem

Removing the collard stem

Collards with Chipotle

Ingredients:
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, plus 1 Tbs. adobo sauce
1/2 lb collard greens, stems removed, roughly chopped (about 7 cups)
1/4 cup of water
salt and pepper to taste

Directions: 
1. In a large heavy pot over medium heat, combine all ingredients.

2. Heat until water is just boiling, and then simmer on low heat for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. As they soften, crush the peppers with the side of the spoon.

Sautéed collards with garlic

Sautéed collards with garlic

Sautéed Collard Greens with Garlic

Ingredients:
1/2 lb collards, stems removed, sliced into ribbons or roughly chopped (about 7 cups)
1/2 head of garlic, finely minced (about 2 Tbs or 30 grams)
2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 Tbs fresh lemon juice (optional)

Directions:
1. In a large sauté or frying pan, heat olive oil and garlic over medium-low, just until garlic is fragrant.
2. Add collards and sauté over medium low, stirring vigorously so garlic doesn’t rest on the bottom of the pan and burn.
3. Sauté just until collards are bright green and slightly wilted, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and a squeeze or two of lemon just before serving, if desired.

Three-Meat Meatballs in Red Sauce

Photo 23

What is it about Sundays that makes me want to eat a big, Italian, family meal? I didn’t grow up around extended family and I don’t have a drop of Italian ancestry. Yet Sunday afternoon rolls around and I dream of a kitchen full of chatty relatives, chopping, stirring, drinking wine, and good-naturedly yelling at each other. (In my fantasy, I’m mostly drinking wine and yelling. Or is that in real life?)

I can’t claim Italian blood and thus neither can I claim authenticity for these meatballs, but mamma mia, are they good. Yet another recipe from the paternal grandmother, this one was always reserved for special occasions. In fact, up until her death, only my grandmother was allowed to make them, which meant we couldn’t eat them unless we endured an arduous car trip from North Carolina to New Jersey. Hours spent bickering on the gridlocked Garden State Parkway were rewarded with tender meatballs and chewy Italian sausage swimming in red sauce. I still salivate when I see Exit 82.

I always make a huge batch of meatballs so I can eat them for lunch later in the week. If you double the meat, you’ll probably only need to increase the bread, onion, and grated Parmesan by 50-75%. If you can’t find ground veal (or don’t want to use it), just use pork and beef or all beef. To stretch the meal (and make less work for yourself), brown some fresh Italian sausage and simmer it alongside the meatballs.

The sauce may or may not be the world’s most awesome invention. I’ve seen lots of variations around the interwebs so I can’t take credit, but I do think the red wine is crucial. You can add fresh or powdered garlic, double the onion, whatever. A lot of recipes call for using whole peeled tomatoes and crushing them after some cooking time, but if you’re adding meatballs this becomes rather difficult. Save yourself the trouble and just used the already-crushed tomatoes: taste-wise, it’s identical and although the texture is different it won’t be so obvious with the other stuff floating in it.

Photo 24

Three-Meat Meatballs

Ingredients:
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/4-1/3 lb. ground pork
1/4-1/3 lb. ground veal
1 large egg
1 tsp. each salt, pepper, garlic powder
2 Tbs. grated Parmesan cheese
4 slices of white bread or one large white roll, soaked in water
olive oil
1 lb. sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into 2-inch chunks (optional)

Directions: 
1. After soaking the bread, press out as much water as possible by squeezing, then tear into small pieces.

2. Combine all ingredients thoroughly: use your hands to really mix it all together. Form into 2-inch balls.

3. Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Brown meatballs in batches on all sides, turning gently. If you’re also cooking Italian sausage, brown it after the meatballs.

4. Add the meatballs and sausage to hot red sauce and simmer slowly for 1.5-2 hours. Serve over the pasta of your choice (I prefer rigatoni).

Awesome Sauce: World’s Easiest & Tastiest Pasta Sauce

Ingredients for ~1 lb. of meat and pasta; double for larger portions:
2 large (28 oz) cans of crushed tomatoes like Sclafani, Contadina or Cento
1 onion, peeled and cut in half but otherwise intact
4 Tbs. butter
4-6 Tbs. red wine

Directions: 
1. Empty the tomatoes into a heavy pot with lid. Add the onion, butter, and red wine and simmer 1.5-2 hours.

2. Just before serving, remove the onion and discard. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Spätzle with Beef Goulash

Goulash and spätzle

Last week in New York was bitterly cold, a genuine arctic chill descending on the city with scathing, raw cruelty. It gave new meaning to the familiar imagery of winter’s icy fingers stabbing through thick coats and beneath woolly hats. As dank and cold as Edinburgh was throughout last winter and well into spring and summer, its predictable and consistent chilliness felt like an unpleasant bruise. The teeth-chattering, breath-stealing freeze of lower Manhattan in January feels like a slap to the face—a series of them. Brrr.

When the weather forces me to hurry from place to place in an effort to lose as little body heat as possible, I like to use my time in the kitchen as a counterpoint and cook long, slow dishes full of flavor and warmth. I don’t mind standing over a hot stove when outside the wind is howling and the snow is swirling. In fact, the steam rising from a pot of boiling water creates a humidifier effect, killing two birds with one stone as my dry skin takes on much-needed moisture!

I’m not sure if this dish qualifies as a true goulash but it shares enough ingredients with more traditional versions that I think it’s okay to use the name. It is not a soup. It’s not even really a stew, as it uses very little liquid. It’s just a braised meat dish that goes perfectly with my homemade spätzle, which is why I came up with it. I need no excuse to make these noodle-dumplings because they’re chewy little addictions; however, they do taste best paired something rich and slightly stew-y. If you’re a vegetarian, they’d go great with spicy lentils or vinegary, warm red cabbage.

The spätzle (also spelled spaetzle) comes down from my grandmother, the progeny of a Bavarian mother and an Alsatian father. Her recipe has no exact proportions and each time I’ve made it, somehow the amounts of flour and water are always slightly different. The best guidance is to get the mixture to the consistency of waffle batter—thick but still pourable—knowing you can always adjust by adding more water or flour if the first couple rounds don’t turn out the way you like. I also recommend making the batter about 20 minutes before cooking, as it thickens slightly with the wait.

Beef Goulash with Mushrooms

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs sirloin tip or other stewing beef, cubed
1 med. onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. sweet paprika
1 tsp. tomato paste
1/4 c. red wine
1. c. beef broth
1 lb. button or cremini mushrooms, thick sliced
olive oil
4-6 Tbs. sour cream

Directions:
1. In a Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, heat olive oil on med-high and brown beef in batches, setting aside after each batch.

2. Drain any excess fat, leaving 2 Tbs. Still on med-high, sauté onion and garlic for five minutes. When softened and onion is getting brown, add paprika and tomato paste and stir, 30 seconds.

3. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and cook down, 1 minute. Return the beef and stir to combine.

4. Add broth and mushrooms, salt and pepper to taste, stirring all to combine. Cover and cook on low 45-90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Just before serving, turn off heat and stir in sour cream to taste. Serve immediately over hot spätzle.

Photo 8

Spätzle

Ingredients: 
2 eggs
2 + cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Directions:
1. Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. While it’s heating, make the batter and let it sit for a few minutes.

2. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Whisk in eggs.

3. Starting with 1 cup, whisk in water, adding more gradually until the mixture has the consistency of waffle batter.

4. When the water is boiling, hold the bowl in one hand, tilting it over the pot, and use a dull knife to “cut” the batter into the rolling water. (See photo.) Cut 3-4 noodles at a time. Allow them to rise to the surface and boil a further 2-4 minutes. (As the water gets low, the spätzle may stick and you may need to “help” them up by gently loosening them from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.)

5. Remove the noodles using a slotted spoon or spider. Place in a hot casserole dish and rub with butter to keep from sticking together. Keep the dish in the oven to stay warm while you cook the remaining spätzle.

"Cutting" the batter off the edge of the bowl.

“Cutting” the batter off the edge of the bowl.

Caramelized Belgian Endives with Lemon and Wine

Raw endives

Don’t choose green-tipped endives like these;
go for those with pale yellow tips which have been shielded from light exposure.

Who doesn’t love the film Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (English title, Amélie)? I think it typifies “feel good movie” for me—plus it’s full of gorgeous shots of French food. (The crème brulée cracking scene, oh!) One of my favorite bits (and I’m not the only one, apparently) is when Lucien, the grocer’s assistant, holds up an endive to his ear. “He handles each endive like a precious object, to be treated with care.” His boss might scorn such foolish behavior, but I’m with Lucien. Endives are beautiful, poetic vegetables whose shape and form make them an absolute dream to handle and prepare. I too cannot resist treating them with reverence and a bit of awe.

While I’ve found Belgian endives a bit bitter on their own (though a suitable vinaigrette usually solves that), I most enjoy cooking them with just two main ingredients: wine and lemon. The wine helps soften their crunchy texture and, together with the lemon, adds sugars which enable caramelization. As an accompaniment to a main dish like roast chicken or beef, this preparation adds a marriage of sweet and tart flavors with a toothy tenderness and the added bonus of being good for you (they are a green, after all). Feel free to adjust the amount of lemon juice to taste: I like very lemony endives so I use a whole lemon.

Note that this recipe is for Belgian endives, which are bullet-shaped and mostly white (look for ones whose tips are pale yellow rather than green, like those in the photo, which indicates light exposure and deterioration of flavor). Chicory or frisée is another type of endive for which this preparation is less suited.

Braised Endives

Braised and Caramelized Belgian Endives 

Ingredients: 
4-6 Belgian endives, ends trimmed, sliced lengthwise in half
1/4 c. white wine
juice of 1 lemon
olive oil, salt, pepper

Directions: 
1. In a braising pan or skillet with lid, heat 1 Tbs. olive oil on medium-high. Place endives cut-side down and cook for three minutes.

2. Add wine, salt and pepper to taste and reduce heat to low. (Optional: Add half the lemon juice here for extra-lemony endives.) Cover and cook 3 minutes.

3. Returning heat to medium, turn endives over. (The cut side should be caramelized.) Cook 3 minutes, then add half the lemon juice.

4. Continue to cook on medium 6-8 minutes until all moisture has evaporated and endives are well caramelized on both sides. (If the cut side did not caramelize by step 3, turn once more to ensure caramelization.) Adjust seasoning and serve immediately.

Kapusta: Spicy Turkish Cabbage

image (1)

In my day job writing grants for a maritime non-profit, I sometimes get the chance to visit cargo ships calling on the Port of New York & New Jersey. Besides giving me first-hand experience of the services for which I’m raising money, these ship visits also provide a glimpse into the fascinating but rarely seen world of merchant mariners. Most of these men (and occasionally women) hail from the so-called global South, and when working on board vessels for six to nine months at a time, they maintain tenuous connections with their homelands.

I’ve noticed, however, that they tend to eat  as they would at home. This can be challenging when one cook and an assistant or two is serving meals to a 22 person crew representing India, the Philippines, Tanzania, Turkey, Indonesia, and Singapore. Usually the largest segment’s cuisine dominates, with separate meals for officers if they hail from Japan, the US, or Scandinavian countries (as they often do). Other times, the crew might all come from the same country, if not the same region; when that happens, the meals will feature the native cuisine almost exclusively.

If I’m ship-visiting around midday, as often happens, the crew will usually invite me to share their lunch. It’s an honor to receive such hospitality, and a privilege to share what is usually a delicious, well-prepared meal. The recipe below represents my efforts to recreate one such meal that I ate on board a ship with an all-Turkish crew — a dish I now know is called kapuska or kapusta. The version I had did not include meat, and was served with hot barley and thick plain yogurt as well as chili flakes on the side for those who wanted a spicier version. I remember exactly how it tasted — comforting yet simple, rich with flavor but light on the stomach. I regret not asking the cook for the recipe, but some googling has revealed different versions made with the identifiable ingredients of cabbage, tomato products, and pepper-based spices). I’ve tried and tasted and retried and continued testing various combinations of these ingredients over the years. Although this recipe surely isn’t exactly what I had on board that ship, it is delicious. And on a cold winter’s night, it’s comforting, nourishing, and extremely warming. (For those with delicate taste buds, go easy on the spices, especially the hot paprika!)

By the way, if you’re nervous about the cabbage giving off a nasty sulfur smell during cooking, don’t be. I couldn’t tell you why, but I’ve never experienced that phenomenon when making this dish. Maybe the rich spices and onions mask any malodorous emissions, or perhaps the acid content in the tomatoes balances them out. In any case, your kitchen will smell of delicious paprika and tomatoes while this dish is simmering away.

image

Spicy Turkish Cabbage (Kapusta)

Ingredients:
1-2 lbs. stewing beef, cubed (optional)
2 large yellow onions, very thinly sliced
1 3-lb green or white cabbage, cored and thinly shredded (yields about 12-14 cups) Note that green cabbage is tougher than white, and will require a longer cooking time.
2-3 cups tomato purée
2-3 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. crushed red pepper
1 Tbs. or more sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4-1/2 tsp. hot Hungarian paprika
olive oil, salt, 1-2 cups water

Note: The spices in this dish can be adjusted to taste–there’s no need to make it as hot as I have it here. I will emphasize, however, that good quality spices are key. Many versions of kapusta use pepper paste which I haven’t been able to find. For this recipe, good sweet paprika (preferably Hungarian) is crucial. If you can’t find hot paprika,which is harder to track down, substitute cayenne pepper (you may need to increase the amount) or a high quality Indian chili powder made of pure chilies (not the melange of spices labeled “chili powder” in many American grocery stores).

Directions:
(If not using beef, skip step 1 and proceed to step 2, substituting olive oil for beef fat.)

1. In a large, heavy pot or braising pan with lid, heat olive oil over high and brown beef in batches, setting aside. Drain all but 2 Tbs. fat.

2. Sauté onions in beef fat, adding olive oil if necessary, until soft, about five minutes.

3. Add crushed red pepper and stir constantly, one minute. Add both types of paprika and stir constantly, 30 seconds.

4. Add tomato paste and stir to combine; then add 1 cup tomato purée and stir to combine, 30 seconds.

5. Add half the cabbage and another cup of tomato purée, stirring to combine. Add 1 cup water and return beef (if using). Cover the pot and lower heat to medium for ten minutes.

6. After 10 minutes, add the remaining cabbage and tomato purée and a bit of salt. (Your tomato products may already contain a fair amount of salt, so add sparingly and taste often.) Turn heat to low and simmer at least 45 minutes and up to two hours–the longer the better. Check every 20-30 minutes, stirring and adding more water when necessary.

The dish is ready when the cabbage and onions are soft and indistinguishable from each other. Serve with cooked barley, Ebly, orzo, or rice and Greek yogurt or sour cream, which helps dampen the heat from the spices while retaining the rich flavor.