Tag Archives: Cooks Illustrated

Sour Grapes.

Seriously Sour Grapes.

As ‘these can not possibly pass for table grapes’ sour.

Frans Snyders Grapes, Peaches and Quinces in a Niche 17th century

Frans Snyders Grapes, Peaches and Quinces in a Niche 17th century

What to do with grapes too  sour to eat????

Cook  them!

CIAug2015

Italian Sausage with Grapes – right on the cover. Issue  #135 August 2015

Cook the grapes with sausages. I’d actually made this recipe before….December? January? It was before the Big Snows of last winter.

I’ve been a sometimes tester of recipes for  Cook’s Illustrated  for the last few years…..I don’t remember how I got on the notice list, but every now and again I get an e-mail as a Friend of CI and then I have an assignment, should I so choose.

It’s a little exercise that make me read the recipe and

do exactly what it says to do.

And then fill out the questionnaire.

Hmmm – follow directions and THEN have opinions. Not my natural order of business….

I don’t test every recipe. Just the ones I think I’ll like, which is actually one of the ground rules. Don’t make things you don’t eat. Actually, a pretty good rule in general.

Soooo  – here’s my totally casual, breezey easy take of the recipe. If you want to fiddle with 1/4 teaspoon of some seasoning or another, go to Cook’s Illustrated.

SAUSAGE WITH GRAPES

oil for the bottom of the pan

1 package hot Italian sausage

1 large onion

seedless red grapes (1# or 3 cups or whatever uses them all up)

salt and pepper

1/4 cup dry white wine (since I had no wine in the house, I used an old 17th century trick of using 1/2 white wine vinegar + 1/2 water and a little sugar = wine (ish)): OR  2 Tablespoon water and 2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon sugar

a little oregano

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

perhaps another teaspoon or 2 of sugar

(a little chopped fresh mint)

12″ pan with a lid

  1. Cut the onion in half and slice thin.  Onion-Step-4-Version-4
  2. Cut the grapes in half lengthwise
  3. Heat a skim of oil in a 12 inch pan over medium heat. Sausages go in to brown, 2 stripes only, 5 minutes.
  4. Add all the sliced onions and all the halved grapes and 1/4 cup water to the pan with the sausages. PUT A LID ON IT.
  5. Let cook about 10 minutes at medium. Sausages should be 160° – 165° and grapes should have softened.
  6. Transfer the sausage out to a paper-towel lined plate – tent with foil  to keep warm.
  7. Turn the heat under the pan up to med-high. sat and pepper and spread the grape/onion mixture around the pan and cook without stirring until browned, 3-5 minutes.
  8. Start stirring about and continue cooking until the mixture browns and the grapes are definitely soft.
  9. Reduce heat to medium, add the water/wine vinegar mixture (or the wine, if you have it). Sprinkle in some oregano.Scrape any lingering goodness from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to meld into the sauce.
  10. Taste. Adjust. I had to add a little more sugar because the grapes were THAT sour.
  11. Take off the heat and add the balsamic vinegar.
  12. Put the sausages on a serving platter, top with the sauce. Optional: sprinkle with chopped mint.
  13. Good over polenta (Great over polenta!) or over pasta. I intend to eat a leftover sausage with onion/grapes in a roll for lunch this week, and the thought of that seems pretty good, too.
This is the photo from the Cook's Illustrated website of the nearly finished dish.

This is the photo from the Cook’s Illustrated website of the nearly finished dish.

Another grape was a topic of conversation this week, too.

Goofy Grape.

goofy grape

Goofy Grape was part of the Funny Face Gang – a whole family of cyclamate sweetened drink of my childhood. Once the cyclamates were banned, they had plain ole sugar. And some of the more racist flavors were re-worked .

Funny face gang

Goofy Grape. Rootin’ Tootin’ Raspberry. Jolly Olly Orange. Freckled Face Strawberry. With-it Watermelon.

My brother still has his With-It Watermelon cup.

My brother still has his With-It Watermelon cup.

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Filed under Recipe, The 1960"s

Meatless Monday in Hurry

Sometimes….

like when it’s near , say, a holiday that has a major food component, time seems scarce…..only because it’s being filled up with the Everyday as well as the Holiday….and you suddenly realize that although the food for a certain day that is not today is planned, shopped and prepped, today, TODAY is a meal short.

Right NOW.

Do not be drawn to the arches of gold.MacD archesYou will not be lovin’ it.

You will add guilt and indigestion to an already full week.

INSTEAD do a really jiffy quick trip to the store to pick up a few pantry staples. Staples that can also be on hand for the later then last minute eats to take or serve, will also serve you. Soon.

Nachos.

This is the sort of glop that often passes for nachos. Do not be fooled - this is not nachos.

This is the sort of glop that often passes for nachos. Do not be fooled – this is not nachos. These are not nachos? Ponder the singular/ pleural conundrum that is nachos. Or not.

Nachos Now with Beans

8 ounces tortilla chips (you could make your own, which are zippy fast and really good, but this is not the time for that. Somebody’s hungry!)

1 pound shredded cheddar cheese (4 cups)   (The bag sort is fine here because of everything else going on)

2 large jalapeño chiles (3/4 ounce each), sliced thin (about 1/4 cup) (or a can of chopped green chiles, with jarred jalapeño slices on the side)

Refried beans, a can

2 scallions, sliced thin

1/2 cup sour cream (4 ounces) and/or an avocado or packaged guacamole

Jar of Paul Newman Salsa ( my favorites are Pineapple and Tequila Lime)

1 lime cut into 6 wedges

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 400 °.
  2. Grate or shred the cheese if you bought a block and not a bag.
  3. Slice the jalapeno chiles and the scallions separately – tiny pieces!
  4. Spread half of chips in even layer in 13- by 9-inch baking dish
  5. Sprinkle evenly with 2 cups cheese and half of jalapeno slices.
  6. Drop about 6 oz of the re fried beans by spoonful across the cheesy landscape.
  7. Repeat with remaining chips, cheese, beans and jalapenos.
  8. Bake until cheese is melted, 7 to 10 minutes.
  9. Remove nachos from oven, cool 2 minutes, and then sprinkle with scallions.
  10. Along edge of nachos, drop scoops of sour cream, avocado, guacamole and salsa.
  11. Cut the lime into wedges.
  12. Serve immediately, passing lime wedges separately to squeeze on top.
  13. I have been know to make this in my little Pyrex baker for one…it breaks down. The trick is to not eat the chips alone. I look for unsalted chips or low salt. There’s plenty of taste in the cheese and the salsa and the jalapenos….

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated July 2002

CI ja02_nachos_article

Nacho done right Cook’s Illustrated style – they make their own guac and salsa, which can be done speedily IF you have a good avocado and good tomatoes – it’s the shopping time the prepared stuff saves you. Everyone should a 15 minute meal or 2 up their sleeve. One that isn’t a bowl of cereal, that is.

CI jul02

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Filed under Christmas, Recipe

Homemade Ricotta

This is seriously easy and exceptionally good.

For REAL, authentic in every detail ricotta, first you milk your cow…..

Woman milking a cow - Karel Dujardin - 1650 Dutch

Woman milking a cow – Karel Dujardin – 1650 Dutch

or your sheep or water buffalo OR you could got to your favorite market and pick up a gallon – whole milk, please, regardless of beast of origin.

Modern Day Milk Jug

Modern Day Milk Jug

What I’m going to suggest isn’t EXACTLY ricotta, but 1,000 times better then anything in a plastic carton

The particular brand is not important - if you ave a local dairy that is making fresh cheeses, you may stop here and then there. Otherwise, keep reading.

The particular brand is not important – if you have a local dairy that is making fresh cheeses, you may stop here and then go there. Otherwise, keep reading.

I’ve been working a lot with curds and whey lately, partly as part of my job and partly because it’s the fresh dairy time of year.

A small time out before I go any further.

RICOTTA MEANS ‘RE-COOKED’

IT IS A CHEESE MADE FROM WHEY LEFT OVER FROM CHEESE-MAKING.

First you have milk, then you add rennet,then you have curds and whey, then you take the whey and with THAT you make ricotta (at last!)

Like other whey cheeses, it is made by coagulating the keratin proteins that remain after the casein has been used to make cheese, notably albumin and globulin. Thus, ricotta can be eaten by persons with casein intolerance.

Thus speaketh Wikipedia, the most complete and least technical explanation I could find. In English. True ricotta is more complicated and involved than what I’m about to suggest.

Two simple truths:

  1. It is easy to curdle milk.
  2. Fresh is better then packaged, especially for dairy products.

Cook’s Illustrated to the rescue.

Because I keep back issues, and because I’ve been reviewing them, I rediscovered  simple, easy homemade ricotta.

Cook's Illustrated September 2009. Influencer

Cook’s Illustrated September 2009. Influencer

The reason I LOVE Cook’s Illustrated  and consider them an Influencer?

Things like this:

This technique will yield 3 1/2 cups of a superior-tasting ricotta facsimile (true ricotta is made from whey created as a by product  of cheese-making) that can be used in recipes from lasagna to manicotti to cheesecake and ricotta pie.

And if this isn’t a lasagna/manicotti/ricotta pie time of year, when is?

Homemade Ricotta

1 gallon whole milk

1 tsp salt

2 lemons, juiced,  for 1/3 cup lemon juice plus another tablespoon (1/3 c lemon juice = 5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon. 2 lemons = approximately  6 T)  OR 1/3 cup white vinegar

2 lemons should give you enough juice for this ricotta - wash them first so you can use the zest after. Warm them for 10-20 seconds in the microwave before squeezing and you'll get more juice out.

2 lemons should give you enough juice for this ricotta – wash them first so you can use the zest after for something else. Warm them for 10-20 seconds in the microwave before squeezing and you’ll get more juice out.

thermometer (or trust your impeccably clean fingers )

cheesecloth (flour sack towels work even better, cost less and wash up more easily, if you’ve got them. If you’re going to be making cheeses at home, you’ll want some of these. K-Mart, Vermont Country Store – they’re everywhere)

Flour-sack towels - evidently they're quite the thing with the cloth baby diaper crowd...You can also use them to boil up a Christmas Pudding or two.....or dry a dish.

Flour-sack towels – evidently they’re quite the thing with the cloth baby diaper crowd…You can also use them to boil up a Christmas Pudding or two…..or dry a dish.

 

  1. Juice the lemons and put the juice aside.
  2. Heat the milk and salt to 185° over medium high heat in a heavy bottomed pan. If you’re doing this  Old-School and not using a thermometer, the milk should be at a simmer, not a boil and not still still. Use your impeccably clean finger, dip it in and the milk should be hot  – not warm, hot, but not boiling. Heating helps, boiling hinders.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Add the lemon juice, stir it in.
  5. Allow it to stand, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.
  6. Solid white curds should now be visible above  liquid translucent whey.
    Curds and whey - where's Miss Muffet?

    Curds and whey – where’s Miss Muffet?

     

  7.  IF it is not setting up, add another tablespoon of lemon juice, stirring gently and let stand for another 5 minutes.
  8. Once there are curds,gently scoop them up with a slotted spoon and place them in a cheesecloth lined colander (over a pot or a bowl or in the sink; there will be more whey dripping).

    If it's very drippy, hang it over the sink till it slows...but get it into the fridge before to very long long. This is food prep, not science experiment.

    If it’s very drippy, hang it over the sink till it slows…but get it into the fridge before to very long . This is food prep, not science experiment.

  9. DO NOT try to speed things up by dumping the whole pot of curds into the colander – the weight of the whey will destroy the beautiful, delicate curds, you’ll have a mess and be stuck with buying packaged ricotta.
  10. Drain without pressing (which will essentially give you paneer, a soft cheese that can be sliced) or squeezing. Let drain overnight in the fridge over a bowl (do I really have to say that out loud? Since I’m the one not always good with The Obvious….at least for one)

    Ricotta draining baskets - you could invest or you could improvise....

    Ricotta draining baskets – you could invest or you could improvise….

  11.  Keep refrigerated and use within five days.
  12. Makes about 3 1/2 cups of ricotta.

 adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, September/October  2009, p. 31.

 

Go to University of Cincinnati Clermont College ricotta making site for Real Ricotta .

 

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Filed under Holiday, Influencers, Recipe