Sue Style – Zester Daily http://zesterdaily.com Zester Daily Fri, 05 Jan 2018 10:00:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.12 Toad In The Hole Is Uniquely British Comfort Food /world/toad-hole-uniquely-british-comfort-food/ /world/toad-hole-uniquely-british-comfort-food/#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 10:00:10 +0000 /?p=60395 Toad in the hole. Credit: Sue Style

The British like to mock what they love best. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the irreverent names they give to favorite foods — think bubble and squeak (fried cabbage and potatoes), stargazy pie (a pie with sardines poking their heads out through the pastry), bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes) or even (dare we mention) spotted dick (a steamed pudding made with dried fruit).

My personal favorite is toad in the hole. This epic dish of sausages baked in batter — the same as used for Yorkshire puddings — is a kind of distant cousin of pigs in a blanket. The crucial difference is that the sausages, instead of being tightly swathed in a blanket of pastry, are reclining in a delicious duvet of batter, which billows up agreeably around them. A good toad (as it’s familiarly known) is perfect comfort food for the depths of winter.

The original from my childhood had only sausages, which from memory were a sickly pallid pink, suspiciously straight, very smoothly textured and terminally bland. For a properly tasty toad, I prefer a seriously meaty pork sausage, quite coarsely ground. I like to add bacon chunks too. You could think of it as a way to get the full English breakfast, but for brunch or supper and served with chutney and salad.

Here are a couple of hints to help you arrive at the perfect toad in the hole. First off, make the batter a little ahead — an hour is enough to allow the starch molecules in the flour to relax and absorb the milk and water, which gives a lighter result. Secondly, give the bacon and sausages a bit of a fry-up first so they take on a little color. You can do this in a skillet or in a roasting pan in the oven — the same one in which you will bake the dish. Thirdly, use a metal roasting pan, never a ceramic or glass dish, which is the surest way to a soggy toad. Finally, heat is of the essence. The oven and the roasting pan should be preheated, so that when you pour in the batter it makes a satisfying sizzle and starts to set lightly in the bottom, providing a base for the sausages and bacon to be embraced by the billowing batter.

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Sausage slices before being fried for toad in the hole. Credit: Sue Style

Toad in the Hole

Round out toad in the hole with salad and chutney for a complete brunch or supper meal. Credit: Sue Style

Round out toad in the hole with salad and chutney for a complete brunch or supper meal. Credit: Copyright 2018 Sue Style

Prep time: 15 minutes, plus 1 hour to rest the batter

Cook time: 45 minutes

Total time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Yield: Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

For the batter:

1/2 cup (125 milliliters) water

1/2 cup (125 milliliters) milk

4 ounces all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons melted butter or vegetable oil

4 eggs

A pinch of salt

For the sausages and bacon:

10 ounces (300 grams) cured or smoked slab bacon

4 coarse-cut pork sausages, about 12 ounces (350 grams)

Directions

1. Place all the batter ingredients in a blender and blend till smooth. Scrape down the sides and blend again. Refrigerate the batter for about one hour.

2. Cut rind off the slab bacon and excise any gristly bits. Slice the bacon thickly and cut each slice in squares.

3. Cut the sausages in 1-inch (2.5-centimeter) thick slices.

4. Put the bacon in a frying pan and fry gently till the fat runs and the bacon begins to take a little color, turning the slices once. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and tip excess fat into a side dish.

5. Add the sausage slices to the pan and fry till lightly colored, turning them until evenly browned.

6. Pour about 1 tablespoon of reserved bacon fat into a roasting pan about 10 inches by 12 inches (25 centimeters by 30 centimeters).

7. Heat the oven to 425 F (220 C).

8. When the oven is good and hot, put the roasting pan inside to heat the bacon fat. Remove pan from the oven and roll the fat around to coat the bottom of the pan — adding a little more fat if necessary.

9. Pour in the batter, then add the fried bacon and sausages, distributing them evenly around the pan.

10. Return the pan to the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until the batter is a beautifully burnished brown and nicely risen. Serve with chutney and salad.

Main image: Toad in the hole. Credit: Copyright 2018 Sue Style

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Save Pan Bagnat! Lovers Of Nice’s Street Food Sandwich Unite /world-wrecipe/save-nices-pan-bagnat-lovers-of-famed-street-food-sandwich-unite/ /world-wrecipe/save-nices-pan-bagnat-lovers-of-famed-street-food-sandwich-unite/#respond Thu, 28 Sep 2017 09:00:07 +0000 /?p=75438 Pan bagnat is a tuna sandwich often found as street food in Nice, France. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Pan bagnat, a sandwich bursting with all manner of delicious Mediterranean goodies, is the quintessential street food of the city of Nice, France.

As with most foods that have acquired legendary status, pan bagnat has suffered greatly in interpretation over the years. So much so that in 1991 an association, La Commune Libre du Pan Bagnat, was formed to protect, promote and celebrate the real thing.

The ingredients make the sandwich

Traditional ban pagnat ingredients include tuna, anchovy fillets, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and sweet red peppers. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Traditional ban pagnat ingredients include tuna, anchovy fillets, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and sweet red peppers. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

From some of the recipes you can find in books and online, you might imagine this to be little more than a tuna sandwich with a French accent and a college education. Nothing, claims the Commune Libre, could be further from the truth. For them, the real thing should contain only bread rubbed with garlic, tomatoes, radishes (or scallions), sweet red peppers, baby fava beans or artichoke hearts, tuna and/or anchovy fillets, hard-boiled eggs, basil, black olives, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Some of these ingredients could, in a pinch, be omitted; nothing should be added to the list. Cucumber would be an abomination, lettuce anathema (particularly if iceberg). And the mere suggestion of mayonnaise would send members of the Commune Libre ballistic.

When making your own, keep in mind that the name pan bagnat means “bathed bread” — seemingly, the original (pre-Commune) version was moistened with water, not olive oil. As with much provençal cuisine, it was uncomplicated and cheap to assemble, drawing on ingredients that were locally and readily available: stale bread, eggs from the hen coop, tomatoes, peppers and basil from the back garden or balcony, olive oil from the local mill, and tuna and anchovies from the canning factory.

Here’s my interpretation of pan bagnat, which follows tradition closely with one exception: I’m rather liberal with the olive oil, preferring this over water to bagnar my pan. I also skip the radishes, fava beans and artichoke hearts, which seem to me to complicate the picture.

Allow yourself a little time, as the pan bagnat needs to sit in the fridge for a few hours with a weight on top, so that all the ingredients can learn from and lean into one another. This also makes the sandwich easier to cut and eat. Final thought: You can make individual sandwiches with flat bread rolls, or use a flatbread and make it for several people. It’s wonderful picnic fare.

Pan Bagnat

Ban Pagnat. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Ban Pagnat. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: none

Total time: 15 minutes, plus 6 hours rest

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

4 flat bread rolls or a flatbread approximately 8 inches by 8 inches (20 centimeters by 20 centimeters) in diameter

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

3 medium tomatoes, sliced

A pinch of salt

10 leaves of basil

2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

5-ounce (150 grams) can tuna, in oil or brine as preferred, flaked with a fork

1/2 small red sweet pepper, cut in thin strips

6 to 8 anchovy fillets (optional)

Instructions

Cut the bread rolls or flatbread in half horizontally and lay the bottom halves on a board. Reserve the tops.

Rub the bottom halves of the bread with crushed garlic and drizzle with some of the oil.

Lay the sliced tomatoes on top, season with salt and drizzle with a little more oil.

Follow with basil leaves, slices of hard-boiled egg, flaked tuna, strips of pepper and anchovy fillets. Sprinkle on any remaining oil.

Cover with the top halves of the bread and press down gently, gathering up any stray pieces of filling and posting them back inside.

Wrap the pan bagnat in foil, lay on a board or dish and place a flat weight on top (a 2-pound [1-kilogram] pack of beans or rice works well). Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Cut rolls in half or the flatbread in thick slices, and serve with a chilled provençal rosé.

Main photo: Pan bagnat is a tuna sandwich often found as street food in Nice, France. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

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Take Zucchini On A European Adventure With These 3 Recipes /vegetables-wrecipe/75324/ /vegetables-wrecipe/75324/#respond Sat, 09 Sep 2017 09:00:50 +0000 /?p=75324 Tatin of Summer Squash and/or Zucchini, Tomatoes and Anchovies. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Zucchini? Or courgettes? Same difference; it just depends where you live. For some unexplained reason, we Brits took the French name for this delicate and delicious vegetable, while Americans preferred the Italian name — which is also strange, because the whole, diverse cucurbit family to which these belong came originally from Mesoamerica. And as for summer squash, the name baffles British cooks, who know the delicacy as a yellow courgette.

Whatever you call them, they’re wonderfully versatile and lend themselves to all kinds of interpretations. Here are three recipes that draw their inspiration from Europe: The carpaccio speaks Italian, the tatin, or upside-down tart, has an unmistakably French accent, while the rösti has its roots in Switzerland. You can use zucchini (courgettes), summer squash (yellow courgettes) or a mixture.

As far as size is concerned, infant vegetables are best for the carpaccio, while medium-sized ones are good for the upside-down tart. If your zucchini have run away from you (or from the neighbor) and gotten too big for their boots, the solution is to make them into rösti — the mixture is the same as for fritters, but with far less hassle. Since all have a high water content even when still quite small, salting to draw out excess moisture is always a good plan.

Carpaccio of Zucchini and Summer Squash With Parmesan and Toasted Pine Nuts

Carpaccio of Zucchini and Summer Squash With Parmesan and Toasted Pine Nuts. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Carpaccio of Zucchini and Summer Squash With Parmesan and Toasted Pine Nuts. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style


Cool and fresh for a speedy summer appetizer, thinly sliced raw zucchini and summer squash are lightly salted to draw out the juice, patted dry and drizzled with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing. Top with shaved Parmesan and ring it with herbs — basil, parsley, mint, cilantro or chives each have their merits.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: None

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

2 slim zucchini

2 slim summer squash

Salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Freshly ground black pepper or Piment d’Espelette to taste

Handful of pine nuts

1 scallion, halved and very finely sliced

Fingernail-sized pieces of Parmesan, shaved from a chunk

Shredded basil, parsley, mint or cilantro leaves, or snipped chives to taste

Directions

1. Slice the zucchini and summer squash very thinly using a very sharp knife, a mandolin slicer or the slicing disk of a food processor.

2. Lay them on a serving dish or plates, alternating the colors if you like. Sprinkle with salt, lay paper towels on top and leave them for about 10 minutes to release some of their water.

3. Mix together in a small dish the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper or Piment d’Espelette for the vinaigrette.

4. Toast the pine nuts in a small pan until lightly golden — keep them on the move by shaking the pan so they don’t burn.

5. Remove paper towels from zucchini, sprinkle vinaigrette over the slices, scatter chopped pine nuts and scallions on top and finish with the shaved cheese and herbs.

Tatin (upside-down tart) of Summer Squash and/or Zucchini, Tomatoes and Anchovies

This is a taste of the Mediterranean on a plate. Baking summer squash or zucchini and tomatoes with the pastry on top (rather than underneath) gives a lovely result: When you invert the tart to serve, the vegetables will be sitting pretty on top of the freshly baked, sprightly pastry.

Prep time: 30 minutes for salting the zucchini plus 10 minutes to slice and assemble the tart

Cook time: 35 to 45 minutes

Total time: About 1 hour

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 pound (500 grams) summer squash or zucchini, or a mixture

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 to 4 medium tomatoes (about 10 ounces, 300 grams), sliced

Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

A pinch of sugar

6 anchovy fillets

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or 6 basil leaves, snipped with scissors

8-ounce (230 grams) disk of ready-rolled puff pastry or piecrust, or an 8-ounce (230 gram) piece of puff pastry or piecrust

Directions

1. Heat the oven to 400 F (200 C).

2. Slice the squash and/or zucchini fairly thinly, lay the slices out on a board and sprinkle with salt. Lay paper towels on top and leave for about 30 minutes to draw out the juice.

3. Pat the vegetables dry with more paper towels.

4. Brush a round baking dish or cake pan with a little of the olive oil and arrange a layer of vegetables in concentric circles in it, overlapping them and alternating the colors if you’ve used both summer squash and zucchini. Splash in a little olive oil and season with pepper.

5. Top with sliced tomatoes, add a pinch of sugar, more pepper, oregano or basil and a final layer of vegetables.

6. Drizzle the remaining olive oil on top.

7. Bake the vegetables uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes or until barely cooked and the juices are somewhat evaporated.

8. Remove dish from the oven and lay the anchovies on top of the vegetables.

9. Unroll the pastry disk and lay it on top, tucking in the edges to fit the dish. (Alternatively, if using a piece of pastry, roll it out on a floured board and cut it to a round the same size as your baking dish or cake pan. Lay it on top and tuck in the edges.)

10. Prick the pastry in two or three places with a fork.

11. Bake the tart for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is golden.

12. Remove from the oven, invert a plate over the tart and turn it out to serve.

Zucchini Rösti With Onion and Herbs

Zucchini Rösti With Onion and Herbs. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Zucchini Rösti With Onion and Herbs. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

This is especially good if your homegrown zucchini have got a bit above themselves and headed for marrow status. Vary the herbs, depending on what you have on hand — I love a mix of cilantro and parsley, but dill works its magic too. It’s great for supper topped with slices of soft, fresh goat’s cheese or smoked salmon and served with a green or tomato salad. It’s also good as a veggie accompaniment for a summer barbecue. You can serve it hot, at room temperature or cold.

Prep time:  Several hours (or overnight) for grating and salting the zucchini plus 5 minutes to mix

Cook time: 10 minutes

Total time:  About 15 minutes, plus time for zucchini to sit

Yield:  4 servings

Ingredients

3 zucchini (about 1 pound, 500 grams), topped and tailed

1 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

3 tablespoons flour

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 scallion or small red onion, finely chopped

2 handfuls of fresh herbs (about 1 ounce, 20 grams), such as cilantro and parsley or dill

2 tablespoons olive oil

A couple of sprigs of flat-leaf parsley to garnish

Directions

1. Grate the zucchini, using the grating blade of a food processor or a cheese grater. Place about one-third in a colander, sprinkle with some salt, add successive layers of zucchini and salt and leave in the sink for several hours or overnight to drain.

2. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the zucchini, handful by handful, and set aside.

3. Break the eggs into a mixing bowl, sprinkle on the flour and add pepper to taste. Beat with a wire whisk until the flour is smoothly incorporated.

4. Stir in the chopped scallion or onion and the herbs. Add the grated, squeezed zucchini and mix well.

5. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and tip in the mixture, flattening and smoothing the top with a spatula.

6. Cook over moderate heat for about 5 minutes or until you can see the edges going a little golden and crispy. Place a lid over the top of the rösti and turn it out onto the lid. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the pan and shunt the rösti back into the pan, cooked side upward. Cook for another 5 to 6 minutes or until the underside is done and the rösti is firm to the touch. Check the cooking by turning it out onto a plate. If necessary, return it to the pan for a little longer until cooked to your liking.

7. Turn the rösti out onto a plate and garnish with flat-leaf parsley.

Main photo: Tatin of Summer Squash and/or Zucchini, Tomatoes and Anchovies. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

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When It’s Too Hot To Cook, An Ice Bowl Saves The Day /fruit-2/hot-cook-ice-bowl-saves-day/ /fruit-2/hot-cook-ice-bowl-saves-day/#comments Fri, 18 Aug 2017 09:00:41 +0000 /?p=67561 A flower ice bowl filled with summer fruit and elderflower blossoms. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

 

With summer heat at its peak, the idea of hot food is a serious turnoff.  Cool is where it’s at. And you can’t get much cooler than the following flowery ice bowl. It takes a little time and attention to make, as it must be frozen in several stages. However, the result is startlingly gorgeous, especially when filled with fresh summer fruit or sundry scoops of ice cream or sorbet.

Selecting your bowls

To make an ice bowl, you will need two bowls, one slightly larger than the other. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

To make an ice bowl, you will need two bowls, one slightly larger than the other. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

First, select your bowls. You’ll need two: one bigger than the other, so the smaller one will sit inside the larger. The ones I’ve used here are about 8 inches and 10 inches in diameter (20 centimeters and 25 centimeters).

If you have two metal bowls, things will go even faster, but this combo of a ceramic mixing bowl with a smaller metal one works just fine. The point is their difference in size: You’ll be filling the space between the two with water and flowers, and the space must be sufficient to make thick ice walls for your ice bowl.

Also, make sure you have space in the freezer for your two bowls sitting one inside the other. (A cue to use up all that produce frozen last summer?)

Choosing your flowers

Good flower selections for an ice bowl include, clockwise from top left, St. John's wort, lavender, Alchemilla mollis, pelargoniums, perennial geraniums and rose petals. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

Good flower selections for an ice bowl include, clockwise from top left, St. John’s wort, lavender, Alchemilla mollis, pelargonium, perennial geraniums and rose petals. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Next go out and pick (or buy) some flowers — from your garden or terrace if you have one, or even wild ones, which give a graceful, homey touch.

The flowers should not be too big (a maximum of 1 inch across), and you’ll want to use a good mix of colors. Geraniums work beautifully, either the predominantly red and purple Pelargonium/window-box varieties or the blue or pink perennial ones. Lavender is great, as is the deep egg-yolk yellow St. John’s wort, aka Hypericum. A few rose petals won’t go amiss, and if you have some lacy, lime-green flowers of Alchemilla mollis, throw in a few of those too. Basically any small colorful flower or petal will do.

Starting your ice bowl

To start your ice bowl, place a few flowers in the bottom of the bowl, add a little water and freeze. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

To start your ice bowl, place a few flowers in the bottom of the bowl, add a little water and freeze. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Pour about 1 1/2 inches (3 centimeters to 4 centimeters) of water in the bottom of the larger bowl and place a few flowers in the water. They will float around a bit, so don’t fret too much about placing them neatly and symmetrically; they will sort themselves out. In any case, this layer will be the base, so the flowers will be barely visible once you’ve filled your ice bowl. Put the bowl into the freezer and leave until solidly frozen.

Creating the bowl shape

When the base is frozen, place the smaller bowl on top and place a weight inside it to keep it from floating. Then freeze again. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

When the base is frozen, place the smaller bowl on top and place a weight inside it to keep it from floating. Then freeze again. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Once the base is frozen, remove the bowl from the freezer and place the smaller bowl on top. It should sit with its rim slightly above the outer bowl, because it’s sitting on the frozen base. Make sure the smaller bowl is centered, and place a can of something heavy in it so it doesn’t float when you add more water.

Add about 1 1/2 inches of water and drop some flowers between the two bowls, poking them down a bit into the water. Freeze again. Repeat this procedure once or twice more until the water is up to the rim of the outer bowl.

The point of doing this bit by bit is to allow each layer of water and flowers to freeze firmly each time; if you poured it all in at once, all the flowers would bob up to the top, which would spoil the effect.

Once you’ve completed the process, keep the ice bowl in the freezer until needed.

Removing the ice bowl

When the space between the two bowls is filled, the flower ice bowl is ready. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

When the space between the two bowls is filled, the flower ice bowl is ready. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Finally comes the tricky part — you need to get your creation out from between the two bowls. The first step is to remove the small bowl (after you’ve removed that can of something heavy). Pour some hot water (tap-hot is enough) into the smaller bowl and leave for a few moments, just long enough so you can lift it out. Now fill a sink with hot water and lower the big bowl into it. Keep testing until the ice bowl has melted enough that it’s freed itself from the sides of the bowl.

Serving ideas

The finished flower ice bowl, ready to be filled with summer fruits or ice cream. Credit: Copyright 2015 Sue Style

The finished flower ice bowl, ready to be filled with summer fruits or ice cream. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Once the ice bowl has been freed, lift it out and place on a napkin-lined tray or plate (so it doesn’t slide and/or leak).

Now you can fill it with whatever suits your fancy: a mixture of soft summer fruits or a colorful selection of ice cream and/or sorbet, for example.

Main photo: A flower ice bowl filled with summer fruit and elderflower blossoms. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

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Fresh Apricots: In Tarts, Roasted, Or In Rich Jam /fruit-wrecipe/fresh-apricots-in-tarts-roasted-or-in-rich-jam/ /fruit-wrecipe/fresh-apricots-in-tarts-roasted-or-in-rich-jam/#respond Fri, 07 Jul 2017 09:00:53 +0000 /?p=74506 Apricot Tart with Redcurrants or Alpine Strawberries. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Apricots — the gorgeous, golden fruit that is blushed with pink by the early summer sun — arrived in Europe from the East, China, perhaps, or India. Later they made their way across the Atlantic to the New World in the pockets of 17th-century English settlers.

Apricots are now firmly established in continental climates on both sides of the pond — Mediterranean regions and California are noted producers — that offer the right combination of cold winters and intensely hot summers. Right now, in central Europe, my favorites are coming in from Switzerland’s Valais region, where they bask in the sunbaked foothills of the Alps on the southern side of the River Rhone.

Sometimes — though not reliably — apricots are fine to eat raw, with the advantage that the pit or stone comes away cleanly from the flesh. You don’t even need a knife: Just pull apart the two halves with a gentle tug, and the pit will come free.

All too often, though, they are either unripe or woolly. These are the ones to use in jam, or baked in a tart or baked in the oven with sugar and spice. You can compensate for their lack of ripeness by judicious sweetening, while woolliness works just fine in jam.

If your visit to the farmers market this week yielded an abundance of apricots, or you’ve been the lucky recipient of a tray of ripe fruit from a neighbor whose tree has fruited bountifully this month, turn them into jam, or bake them in a fragile pastry shell or poach them in juice with a scattering of fragrant cardamom seeds and serve them cold with ice cream.

Apricot Jam With Lavender

Apricot Jam with Lavender. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Apricot Jam With Lavender. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

This lightly set jam sings of summer. Apricots, especially if fully ripe, have little pectin of their own. For this reason, it’s best to use quick-setting jam sugar with added pectin, which ensures a good set in a shorter cooking time, thus preserving all the jam’s fresh fruitiness.  

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes to bring up to a boil plus 5 to 10 minutes fast boiling

Total time: 30 to 35 minutes

Yield: Makes eight 1-pound (450 gram) jars.

Ingredients

4 1/2 pounds (2 kilograms) apricots

3 pounds, 5 ounces (1.5 kilograms) quick-setting jam sugar with added pectin

Juice of 1 lemon

8 fresh lavender sprigs

Instructions

Put a saucer in the freezer for testing the jam later.

Cut apricots in half and remove the pits (stones). Cut in half again if very large.

Place apricots in a large preserving pan with the sugar, lemon juice and lavender sprigs. Stir to mix well and leave for a few hours or overnight until the juices run and the sugar is dissolved.

Bring the mixture up to a boil, stirring. From the moment it reaches a vigorous boil, count 5 minutes (be careful it doesn’t boil over — reduce the heat a little if necessary). Then start testing for a set: Remove the saucer from the freezer, pour a little into the saucer, let it cool slightly and then draw your finger through the jam: A distinct channel should form, and remain formed. If it does, setting point has been reached; if not, give the jam a little longer — up to 5 minutes more — and test again.

Once the jam has reached setting point, transfer it into warm jam jars, cover tightly and label.

Apricot Tart With Redcurrants or Alpine Strawberries

Fresh apricots are the perfect choice for a seasonal dessert. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Fresh apricots are the perfect choice for a seasonal dessert. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Apricots make plenty of juice when baked, so take a page out of the Swiss bakers’ books: Sprinkle a layer of ground nuts in the bottom of the pastry to give a waterproof layer, as well as great flavor and texture.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

Yield: Makes 6 servings.

Ingredients

2 pounds (1 kilogram) apricots

1 8-ounce (225 grams) ready-rolled round of puff pastry or pie crust, or 8 ounces (225 grams) puff pastry or pie crust

A little butter for the pan

3 tablespoons ground almonds or hazelnuts

3 tablespoons granulated or light brown sugar or to taste

5 to 6 spays of redcurrants or a handful alpine strawberries for garnish

Icing sugar to dust the tart

Instructions

Cut the apricots in half, remove the pits (stones), then cut in half again if very large.

Lightly butter a 12-inch (30-centimeter) quiche pan with removable base

Unwrap the round of puff or pie crust (or roll out the puff pastry or pie crust to a circle slightly larger than the quiche pan) and lay it in the buttered pan, pressing it gently into the corners with lightly floured knuckles.

Prick the pastry bottom with a fork and sprinkle with the ground nuts.

Arrange the apricots tightly in the pan in concentric circles, facing upwards, setting them up pertly like little cocked ears.

Sprinkle the fruit with sugar.

Heat the oven to 400 F (200 C) and bake the tart for 30 to 35 minutes or until the fruit is tinged with gold and the pastry golden-brown.

Remove tart from the oven and set it on a rack. Let it cool.

To serve, remove the outer ring from the pan, leaving the tart on its base, and place the tart on a serving plate. Garnish with redcurrant sprays or alpine strawberries and shake some icing sugar on top through a sieve or tea strainer.

Baked Apricots With Orange Juice and Cardamom Seeds

Baked Apricots with Orange Juice and Cardamom, Ice Cream and Chopped Pistachios, Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Baked Apricots with Orange Juice and Cardamom, Ice Cream and Chopped Pistachios, Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

If you find the apricots scored at the farmers market are a little tart or not especially well-flavored, here’s the way to go: Cut the fruit in half, bake them in orange juice with a sprinkling of sugar and some cardamom seeds, and serve well chilled with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios and lightly sweetened crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 to 20 minutes

Total time: 20 to 25 minutes

Yield: Makes 6 servings.

Ingredients

2 pounds (1 kilogram) apricots

1 cup (250 milliliters) orange, grapefruit or pink grapefruit juice

6 to 8 cardamom pods, split, seeds only

4 to 5 tablespoons brown sugar

Vanilla ice cream or crème fraiche for serving

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped green pistachios (optional, for garnish)

Instructions

Cut the apricots in half and discard the pits (stones).

Arrange them in one layer in a large ovenproof dish, cut sides down.

Pour on orange juice and sprinkle with cardamom seeds and sugar.

Heat oven to 425 F (220 C).

Bake the apricots until soft but not collapsed — 15 to 20 minutes depending on ripeness.

Remove from the oven.

Tip the juice into a shallow pan and boil down hard to reduce by half.

Pour reduced juice back over the apricots, let cool and then refrigerate.

To serve, arrange 3 to 5 apricot halves (depending on size) facedown in small bowls and spoon some juice over. Place a blob of crème fraiche or a scoop of ice cream in the middle and sprinkle with chopped pistachios if wished.

Main photo: Apricot Tart With Redcurrants or Alpine Strawberries. Credit: Copyright 2017

Sue Style

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Spring Garlic Jazzes Up Dips, Salsas, Sauces /cooking/spring-garlic-jazzes-up-dips-salsas-sauces/ /cooking/spring-garlic-jazzes-up-dips-salsas-sauces/#comments Thu, 22 Jun 2017 09:00:16 +0000 /?p=73973 New garlic. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

New garlic (not to be confused with green garlic, the kind that looks a bit like scallions or spring onions, with the greenery attached) has plump bulbs that are fully formed. The cloves are easy to peel and deliciously damp — in some parts it’s known as “wet garlic.”

Because this kind hasn’t been hung out to dry with a view to storage, it will not keep for long, so you need to use it up pronto. It works especially well in recipes that call for raw garlic cloves: New garlic is less pungent and peppery and more digestible than its aged cousin.

At the market in Saint Cézaire-sur-Siagne in Provence, France, in early May, the first of the season’s new garlic was on sale. I snapped up several heads and bore them home delightedly.

If you can get your hands on new garlic, here are three recipes to showcase its flavor.

Fava Bean Dip With New Garlic and Cream Cheese

Fava Bean Dip with New Garlic and Cream Cheese. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Fava Bean Dip With New Garlic and Cream Cheese. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

This pale green hummus-inspired dip is great in early summer, when fresh fava or broad beans and new garlic are in season. The beans replace the chickpeas of regular hummus and there’s cream cheese instead of tahini, plus a topping of toasted seeds at the end for texture. You need to buy about 2 pounds (1 kilogram) of beans in the pod to arrive at about 8 ounces (250 grams) of shelled beans. Spread this dip on crusty bread or toasted pita or serve with chicken, veal, fish or crunchy-cooked spring vegetables (zucchini, radishes, baby carrots, sugar snaps and small turnips).

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 2 minutes

Total time: 12 minutes

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

8 ounces (250 grams) shelled fava beans (fresh or frozen)

A pinch of salt

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Juice of 1 lime or 1/2 a lemon

1 clove new garlic, crushed

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 ounces (50 grams) cream cheese

1 teaspoon za’atar spice mixture

A pinch of crushed chilies or piment d’Espelette

1 tablespoon mixed seeds (sesame, poppy, linseed, sunflower)

Directions

1. Bring a pan of lightly salted water to a boil, drop in the shelled beans and cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until just tender.

2. Drain the beans, then pop them out of their leathery skins.

3. Place prepared beans in a food processor or blender, add the salt, cilantro, lime or lemon juice and garlic and process till smooth.

4. With the motor still running, drizzle in the olive oil; scrape down the sides and reblend.

5. Add the cream cheese, za’atar spice mixture and crushed chilies or piment d’Espelette and blend again.

6. Tip the mixture into a small dish or bowl and refrigerate.

7. Put the seeds in a small frying pan without any extra oil (they have enough of their own) and heat steadily, shaking the pan from time to time, till the seeds are golden brown and fragrant.

8. Sprinkle the seeds over the dip just before serving.

Salsa of Roasted Tomatoes, New Garlic and Chilli

Salsa of Roasted Tomatoes, New Garlic and Chilli. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Salsa of Roasted Tomatoes, New Garlic and Chili. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

A Mexican-inspired spicy salsa — the tomatoes, garlic, onion and chilies get a toasting on a griddle or in a dry frying pan (no oil) before they go into the blender, which intensifies the flavor and gives them a smack of smoke. Don’t peel the tomatoes, but blend them with their toasty skins. Serve with barbecued meats, tacos or quesadillas.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 0 minutes

Total time: About 15 minutes

Yield: Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

4 ripe medium tomatoes

2 cloves new garlic, unpeeled

1 to 2 fresh chilies (serranos, jalapeños or bird’s eye)

2 scallions, halved lengthwise

1 teaspoon salt

Directions

1. Rinse the tomatoes and place them on a griddle or in a dry, ungreased frying pan with the unpeeled garlic, chillies and spring onions.

2. Heat until the chilies, tomatoes and onions are lightly toasted and the garlic soft. The chilies will be ready first — remove them so they don’t burn. Keep turning the tomatoes and prop them up against one another, so they toast evenly. They’re done when little brownish-black flecks appear all over the skin and they are a little softened.

3. Remove all ingredients from the griddle or pan. Remove stems from the chilies, split them open, scrape out the seeds and chop roughly (use rubber gloves if you are sensitive to chili heat.)

4. Slip the garlic out of its skins. Do not peel the tomatoes.

5. Place chillies, garlic, tomatoes and scallions in the blender with 1 teaspoon of salt and blend till smooth.

Refrigerate the sauce till needed.

Creamy Sauce of New Garlic, Chili and Cilantro

Creamy Sauce of New Garlic, Chilli and Cilantro. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

Creamy Sauce of New Garlic, Chili and Cilantro. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

A pale green sauce that’s done in a flash. For a quick supper, serve with linguine, adding a few lightly steamed vegetables. You can also pour it around chicken breasts or roasted quail or serve under white fish filets or salmon for a great color contrast.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

6 cloves new garlic

1 cup (250 milliliters) whipping cream

A pinch of salt

1 fresh chilli, red or green, seeds removed, finely chopped (optional)

A small bunch (about 1 ounce, 25 grams) cilantro, leaves and stalks

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 cup (125 milliliters) water

Directions

1. Slip the garlic cloves out of their jackets and place in a small saucepan.

2. Add the cream, salt and chili (if using) and bring to a gentle simmer.

3. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the garlic is quite soft.

4. Mix the cornstarch with the water.

5. Tip the sauce into a blender, add the cilantro leaves and stalks and cornstarch and blend till smooth.

6. Return sauce to the pan and bring to a boil again. Simmer for about 5 minutes, whisking with a small wire whisk, until thickened — no longer, or the sauce will lose its fresh green color. If too thick, add a little more water to give a lightly coating consistency.

Main image: New garlic. Credit: Copyright 2016 Sue Style

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Kohlrabi Kicks It In Salad, Quiche And Curry /cooking/kohlrabi-curry-quiche-salad/ /cooking/kohlrabi-curry-quiche-salad/#comments Tue, 21 Mar 2017 09:00:57 +0000 /?p=40781 Kohlrabi and other vegetables for a vegetable curry. Credit: Sue Style

“There are better vegetables than kohlrabi,” Jane Grigson wrote in her classic “Vegetable Book.” “And worse,” she added as an afterthought.

Faint praise can be so damning, and kohlrabi suffers more than most from this kind of lukewarm billing. This is a shame, and I’ve never fully understood the reasons. Raw, this curious bulbous vegetable makes a toothsome, crunchy salad that’s fairly bursting with goodness; cooked — stir-fried or gently steamed and lavishly buttered — its natural sweetness comes to the fore. And because it’s fairly neutral in flavor, it also lends itself to a bit of Indian or Mexican saucery.

The name, which elides Kohl (cabbage) with Rübe (turnip), gives a clue to what to expect. It belongs to the brassica family — think cabbage, sprouts, broccoli and today’s recently (re)discovered superfood, kale. As for the turnip part of the name, this refers to its size and shape rather than its flavor, which leans more toward the fresh sweetness of peeled broccoli stalks than the ripe barnyard aroma of turnips.

The fruiting body or edible part looks like a root but grows above rather than below ground. Slender stalks and leaves (also edible) sprout directly from its smooth outer skin, which can be either pale green or a rather fetching shade of purple.

According to the late Alan Davidson in his masterly “Oxford Companion to Food,” kohlrabi’s origins are shrouded in mystery, though the earliest records of its cultivation in Europe seem to place it in 14th-century France. It’s possible that medieval French cooks loved kohlrabi, but the love affair has long since faded: My (French) seed catalog describes it as an excellent vegetable that is “not yet well enough known or appreciated in France.” Jean Bardet, one of the first French chefs to take vegetable cookery seriously, observes wistfully in his book “A La Découverte des Saveurs du Potager that this great little bulb deserves to be far better known.

Kohlrabi’s true heartland is Germany and neighboring countries. Of late I’ve spotted it in all three countries here on my doorstep, whether in the superb farmers market in Freiburg, Germany, which gathers Saturday mornings around the city’s grand sandstone cathedral, or at my local farm shop in Switzerland, or in our friendly neighborhood supermarket here in Alsace, France. It’s less well-known in the United Kingdom and the United States, though it’s increasingly found in farmers markets, and it crops up regularly in community supported agriculture, or CSA, vegetable boxes.

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Kohlrabi. Credit: Sue Style

Elsewhere, kohlrabi is a familiar sight piled high in markets throughout the Middle East — Yotam Ottolenghi, the Israel-born chef and best-selling food writer, describes Jerusalemites’ love affair with this vegetable, which they particularly value in fresh, crunchy salads. It’s also popular in India, where its gentle flavor and firm texture make it a fine candidate for a mixed vegetable curry (see recipe).

If you’re lucky enough to be able to buy kohlrabi, make sure the bulbs look fresh and sprightly, not tired and wrinkled. Look for ones that have greenery still attached (also edible; chop and cook it briefly in butter) as that’s a clue to their freshness. Above all, think small: The best kohlrabi are barely as big as a tennis ball.

Kohlrabi and Apple Salad With Lime Dressing

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

For the dressing:

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Juice of 1 or 2 limes

1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard

A pinch of sugar

6 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

For the salad:

3 kohlrabi

2 well-flavored dessert apples

Plenty of cilantro to garnish

Directions

1. Start the dressing by mixing together salt, pepper, juice of 1 lime, mustard and sugar in a bowl or jam jar, stirring or shaking until the salt and sugar dissolve.

2. Add the oil and mayonnaise and whisk or shake well to emulsify. Taste to see if it needs more lime juice and add more if necessary.

3. Trim away the thick root ends from the kohlrabi, peel (as if for an apple) and cut in thin strips or grate coarsely. Place in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave for about 30 minutes — the salt will tenderize the kohlrabi and draw out any bitterness. Rinse under cold water, pat dry and put kohlrabi in a bowl.

4. Quarter and core the apples but do not peel, then cut in thin slices and add to the kohlrabi. Pour on the dressing.

5. Mix well and refrigerate till serving time.

6. Shower with chopped cilantro before serving.

Kohlrabi and Broccoli Quiche With Smoked Ham or Salami

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 kohlrabi

8 ounces (250 grams) broccoli

1 ounce (25 grams) butter

½ cup water

Salt and pepper

1 cup (250 milliliters) whipping cream

¾ cup (150 milliliters) milk

4 eggs

A ready-rolled round of puff pastry (8 ounces or 230 grams)

2 ounces (50 grams) smoked ham or salami, finely sliced

4 ounces (100 grams) semi-hard cheese, cut in cubes

Directions

1. Peel the kohlrabi, cut it in half, slice thickly and then cut the slices in half.

2. Peel the broccoli stems and cut in manageable pieces. Separate the florets.

3. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the trimmed kohlrabi, broccoli and water and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Cook over lively heat, shaking the pan from time to time until the water has evaporated and the vegetables are just tender and lightly browned — about 10 minutes.

5. Set them aside to cool.

6. Heat the oven to 400 F (200 C).

7. Unroll the pastry and settle it snugly into a lightly buttered 10-inch (26cm) quiche pan.

8. Scatter the kohlrabi and broccoli over the pastry with the ham or salami.

9. Combine the whipping cream, milk and eggs and whisk until blended.

10. Pour on the eggy mixture and tuck the cheese cubes into the custard.

11. Bake in the lower part of the preheated oven for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the pastry cooked through.

Kohlrabi, Carrot, Zucchini and Broccoli Curry With Coconut Milk

Serves 2

Ingredients

For the vegetables:

3 kohlrabi

2 carrots

2 zucchini

About 8 ounces (225 grams) of broccoli romanesco

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

For the curry:

2 onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, mashed

A walnut-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 10-ounce (400 grams) can chopped tomatoes

½ to 1 teaspoon crushed dried chilies

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (sunflower or peanut)

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, smashed in a mortar or roughly chopped

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 cups (500 milliliters) coconut milk

1 cup (250 milliliters) water or stock

Chopped cilantro or rucola to garnish

Directions

1. Peel the kohlrabi, cut in quarters and cut each quarter in half crosswise to give wedge-shaped pieces. Peel the carrots and cut in thick, slanting slices. Cut the (unpeeled) zucchini in similar-sized pieces. Separate the broccoli into small florets.

2. Put all vegetables in a shallow dish, sprinkle with salt and turmeric and mix the salt and spices in well. Cover with cling film and set aside.

3. For the curry, put the chopped onions, mashed garlic, grated ginger, chopped tomatoes and crushed chilies in a blender or food processor with 1 teaspoon salt and blend/process till smooth.

4. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the crushed coriander and cumin seeds briefly until fragrant — be careful they don’t burn.

5. Tip in the blended onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and chilies and fry, stirring, until it creates a thick paste – about 10 minutes

6. Stir in the coconut milk and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until reduced and well-flavored.

7. Tip in all the vegetables, adding a little stock or water if necessary to give the consistency of pouring cream, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 25 minutes. Taste the carrots (which take the longest to cook) to see if they are tender. Give the curry a few minutes more to cook if necessary.

8. Sprinkle with cilantro or rucola and serve over Basmati rice.

Top photo: Kohlrabi and other vegetables for a vegetable curry. Credit: Sue Style

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Spain’s Wine Future Is Rooted In Once Forgotten Grapes /drinking/76983/ /drinking/76983/#respond Tue, 21 Feb 2017 10:00:04 +0000 /?p=76983 Torres vineyard at Grans Muralles. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Most people have heard about the myriad apple varieties that have fallen from favor over the past couple of hundred years, leaving us with — at most — five or six sorts to choose from. It’s the same story with Vitis vinifera, the family of grapes used for making wine. Countless varieties have ceased to be cultivated, sometimes for perfectly good and understandable reasons: They didn’t produce enough grapes, perhaps, or the resulting wine simply didn’t taste good.

Spain has an extraordinary treasure chest of such varieties, many of which have fallen by the wayside over the years. Mireia Torres, chief wine-making consultant for the Torres group, commented to me on a recent visit: “We have at least as many grape varieties as Italy — we’re just less good at making a noise about them!”

The better the planet, the better the wine

Moneu, one of the varieties rescued by Torres. Credit: Copyright 2017 courtesy of Bodegas Torres

Moneu, one of the varieties rescued by Torres. Credit: Copyright 2017 courtesy of Bodegas Torres

The Torres family is well known on both sides of the Atlantic, not only for its astonishing range of wines but also for its pronounced sense of responsibility for the natural environment at every stage of the wine-making process. “The more we care for the earth, the better our wine” is the house motto.

As early as 1983, Miguel A. Torres, father of Mireia, began to sketch out a project to recover the wine-growing heritage of Catalonia. The project gained new momentum in the early 2000s under Mireia’s leadership, in collaboration with INRA, France’s National Agricultural Research Institute. The objective, now clearly established, is to identify and catalog these ancestral vines to evaluate their wine-making potential and their resistance to disease and drought — the latter an increasing threat to Torres vineyards throughout Spain, California and Chile.

The first step in the process was to place ads in the local press across the region of Catalonia, asking people to contact them about any unidentified vine varieties. The response was astonishing: People popped up in the hundreds with news of some little old vine that had reverted to the wild in a corner of their vineyard. Once informed about a potentially interesting specimen, a team from Torres visits and inspects. Any vine that looks promising is taken back to the research station and work starts on identification and classification.

The next step is to ascertain the health of the plant to eliminate potential risk of disease. Cuttings are first grown in vitro until the research team can be sure they are healthy; later they are grown hydroponically (without soil) in greenhouses. Once vines have passed the health test, they are tested for their wine-making potential. Tiny amounts of wine are made from the grapes, the quantities varying between 5 liters and 50 liters (1.3 gallons to 13 gallons).

From research to production

Grafted Moneu vines planted in Torres Castell Bleda vineyards. Credit: Copyright 2017 courtesy of Bodegas Torres

Grafted Moneu vines planted in Torres Castell Bleda vineyards. Credit: Copyright 2017 courtesy of Bodegas Torres

At the conclusion of this time-consuming and costly process, selected healthy vines are grafted onto rootstocks and planted in Torres vineyards in different parts of Catalonia, in different soils, climates and altitudes. That way it is possible to ascertain where they are likely to perform best.

From the 50 or so varieties gathered and identified, seven have shown potential and already play their part in some of the top Torres blends (notably the medal-winning Grans Muralles). A handful more are showing promise as single varietals, and Torres sees a bright future for them as high-end varietal bottlings.

“Reviving ancestral varieties is a long, slow process that demands great patience, hours of experimentation and a skilled team of incredible professionals,” said Miguel Torres Maczassek, brother of Mireia and general manager of Bodegas Torres, explaining that “the work lies somewhere between viticulture and archaeology. It gives us a better understanding of the wealth of grape varieties that existed prior to the outbreak of phylloxera at the end of the 19th century, as well as helping us to tackle the effects of climate change.”

Thanks to the work undertaken by Bodegas Torres, the Spanish branch of the great Vitis vinifera family no longer looks quite so challenged.

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Bring Sicily Home With 3 Blood Orange Recipes /fruit-wrecipe/bring-sicily-home-with-3-blood-orange-recipes/ /fruit-wrecipe/bring-sicily-home-with-3-blood-orange-recipes/#comments Mon, 13 Feb 2017 10:00:30 +0000 /?p=76953 Blood oranges. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

If you’re looking for a good excuse to visit the island of Sicily during the winter months, here’s one: blood oranges.

You’ll find these glorious, gory-juiced fruits piled high in pyramids in the market at Siracusa, where every trader is busy competing for the best display. In the side streets around the market, bars are offering tall glasses of the freshly squeezed, sunset-colored juice. Restaurant menus feature such delights as salads combining blood oranges and thinly sliced fennel, or pan-seared swordfish garnished with fruit slices, or light ice creams infused with both zest and juice. One of my favorite dishes on a recent visit was a fabulous risotto flavored with blood orange juice and tinged a delicate shade of pink, which I’ve reconstructed below (see recipes).

Sicily excels at blood oranges. Helena Attlee, in her evocative book “The Land Where Lemons Grow,” recounts that they were thought to arrive on the island in 1646, brought by a Genoese missionary from China. People then — as now — remarked on their extraordinary crimson flesh.

This distinctive coloring is due to anthocyanins, blood-red pigments that occur also in foods such as blueberries, eggplants, red onions and purple corn. In order for anthocyanins to develop, you need a combination of warm midday temperatures and chilly nights, such that Sicily offers during fall and winter. And because the deep red pigment in anthocyanins is an antioxidant, blood oranges are not just good, they’re also good for us.

If a winter trip to Sicily is not in the cards, don’t despair. Check out your local market, grocery store or supermarket for blood oranges. These beauties are in season now. Pounce on them and use them in the following recipes.

Warm Salad with Scallops, Toasted Pistachios and Blood Orange Dressing

Warm Salad with Scallops, Toasted Pistachios and Blood Orange Dressing. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Warm Salad with Scallops, Toasted Pistachios and Blood Orange Dressing. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

This salad features mixed green leaves topped with scallops, with a dusting of crunchy green pistachios and a blood-red, sweet-sour dressing.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsalted green pistachios

1 head white chicory

2 good handfuls (about 4 ounces, or 100 grams) mixed salad leaves

2 tablespoons vinaigrette

8 ounces (250 grams) scallops

1 tablespoon flour

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Juice of 2 blood oranges

Sprigs of fresh herbs (chervil or chives, for example)

Directions

1. Heat the oven to 400 F (200 C).

2. Place the pistachios in a small baking pan and toast them for 5 to 10 minutes or until they take a little color and smell nice and toasty. Remove from the oven and let cool a little. Chop them roughly and set aside.

3. Cut off the root end of the chicory and lift away the leaves. Trim them to all the same length (add any trimmings to the salad leaves) and arrange them in a star shape in soup bowls.

4. Toss the salad leaves with the vinaigrette in a large bowl and arrange them in the center of the star shape

5. If the scallops have corals (which is always the case in Europe), separate the corals from the scallops and prick them with a pin to prevent them from bursting. Trim any muscle or membrane from the scallops and cut in half horizontally if very large.

6. Just before serving, put the flour in a plastic bag, add a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper, put in the scallops and shake to dust lightly in flour. Shake off any excess in a colander and continue with the rest until all are lightly floured. Don’t do this too far ahead of time, or you’ll end up with a gluey mess.

7. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy pan and fry the scallops very briefly until lightly golden and just cooked, turning once.

8. Arrange the scallops decoratively over the salad.

9. Tip the blood orange juice and 1 tablespoon of oil into the pan, swirl it around, boil hard and let it reduce to about 3 tablespoons.

10. Splash the reduced juice over the fish.

11. Sprinkle with chopped nuts, scatter the herbs over and serve at once with crusty bread.

Risotto with Prawns and Blood Oranges

Risotto with Prawns and Blood Oranges. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Risotto with Prawns and Blood Oranges. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

This is a succulent risotto, pink and prawn-laden, with a nice piquant touch from the blood orange juice.  

Prep time: 30 minutes (for the prawn broth)

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 55 minutes

Yield: 2 generous servings

Ingredients

2 blood oranges (zest of 1 and juice of 2)

8 ounces (250 grams) cooked, unpeeled prawns

5 cherry tomatoes

1 carrot

1 stick celery

2 cloves garlic, 1 whole and 1 crushed

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small red onion

8 ounces (250 grams) Arborio or Carnaroli rice

1/2 cup (125 milliliters) dry white wine

Salt and white pepper to taste

1 ounce (25 grams) butter

1 tablespoon chopped parsley or chervil, for garnish

Directions

1. Remove zest from 1 of the oranges with a zester or potato peeler (don’t include any of the white pith, which is bitter) and set aside. Squeeze the juice from both oranges and reserve.

2. For the prawn broth, peel the prawns and place the shells and heads in a saucepan with the cherry tomatoes, carrot, celery stick, 1 unpeeled clove of garlic, the bay leaf and orange zest. Cover with 4 cups of water, bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes or until well flavored. Strain the broth through a colander into a bowl, pressing down on the debris to extract flavor.

3. In a large, deep pan, heat the olive oil and fry the red onion and the crushed clove of garlic for a few minutes till just soft but not colored. Add the rice and fry, stirring, for 5 to 10 minutes until the rice is glistening.

4. Add the white wine and cook hard, stirring, till completely evaporated.

5. Add the orange juice and cook, stirring, till evaporated.

6. Bit by bit, add 2 cups of the prawn broth, stirring all the time. Allow it to evaporate each time before adding more. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Taste the rice and if still too hard for your liking, add a little more prawn broth.

7. Pull the pan off the heat, stir in the reserved prawns and butter, cover the pan and leave for about 5 minutes to allow the butter to subside gently into the rice and the prawns to heat through.

8. Serve in bowls with a little chopped parsley or chervil sprinkled on top.

Honey Parfaits with Blood Oranges and Pomegranate Seeds

Honey Parfaits with Blood Oranges and Pomegranate Seeds. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Honey Parfaits with Blood Oranges and Pomegranate Seeds. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

A parfait is a soft, feather-light ice cream that doesn’t need stirring during freezing. Turn out the parfaits to serve, surrounded by blood orange slices, with a scattering of pomegranate seeds to give a nice bit of crunch.

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 5 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes, plus several hours to freeze the parfaits

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

3 blood oranges

2 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk

5 ounces (150 grams) honey

1 1/4 cups (300 milliliters) whipping cream

Seeds from 1 pomegranate

Directions

1. Grate the zest from one of the oranges and reserve — be careful to take only the outside, colored zest, none of the white pith, which is bitter. Using a very sharp knife, peel all 3 oranges right down to the flesh, leaving no white pith. Slice down between the membranes to remove the segments and set them aside.

2. Beat the eggs and yolk in a bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy.

3. Heat the honey gently to just below boiling point.

4. Pour the hot honey into the eggs and continue beating at high speed until thick, pale and doubled in bulk — at least 10 minutes.

5. In a separate bowl, whip the cream till it forms soft peaks.

6. Fold the two preparations together, along with the finely grated zest.

7. Freeze in plastic or metal coupes or containers.

8. Just before serving, run a knife round the parfaits, turn them out and arrange orange segments around them.

9. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve.

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Swiss Syrah: Brilliant Wines Showcase An Alpine Secret /drinking/76875/ /drinking/76875/#respond Mon, 30 Jan 2017 10:00:27 +0000 /?p=76875 Bottles of Jean-René Germanier Cayas Syrah. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sedrik Nemeth

Swiss Syrah? Who would have thought it? When 15 wine professionals gathered recently for a vertical tasting of the top Syrah cuvée from the cellars of Domaine Jean-René Germanier in the Valais, Switzerland, few of us knew what a treat was in store.

Swiss wine is produced in tiny quantities, and only about 1.5 percent ever reaches the export market. The chance to taste our way through 20 vintages of one of the country’s finest was a rare one indeed.

Syrah’s Swiss story

A lineup of the bottles of Cayas Syrah for the wine tasting. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

A lineup of the bottles of Cayas Syrah for the wine tasting. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Syrah, also known as Shiraz, is no newcomer to the region. José Vouillamoz, who authored, with Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding, the magisterial “Wine Grapes,” reminded us that this particular vine variety made its way upstream from France’s Rhone Valley to Switzerland in 1921. The Valais’ famously hot, dry climate suited Syrah just fine. It soon got its feet down and started producing sizable quantities of decent, drinkable wine, designed for prompt consumption rather than long aging.

Then in the early 1990s, Switzerland saw huge changes in the wine-making picture and a significant push for quality over quantity. Key producers such as Germanier were well aware of what Syrah could produce lower down the Rhone in France, the grape’s homeland (think Hermitage or Côte Rôtie), and in other fine wine regions of the world. Realizing there was untapped potential to produce spicy, concentrated wines of great distinction, they set their sights on making a top-class wine that would catch the attention of those who were familiar with Syrah, but almost certainly not with ones sourced in Switzerland. Its name would be Cayas, a reference to the loose stones (caillasse in French) of the vineyards.

In 1991 the estate planted 4 hectares (10 acres) of Syrah. “La vie du vigneron est un peu courte (the winemaker’s life is a bit short),” remarked Gilles Besse, oenologist at Jean-René Germanier. In other words, it’s the next generation who will reap the benefits of what their forebears plant. Twenty-five years on, this is now coming to pass.

A newly planted vine takes at least three years to produce a worthwhile quantity of grapes, and 1994 was duly earmarked for the first Cayas cuvée. The only problem was that weather conditions in 1994 were so disastrous (“One of our worst years ever,” Besse recalled) that it was clearly not the moment to launch what was to be Germanier’s flagship wine. The 1995 harvest told quite another story, and the first Cayas was subsequently released at the then gasp-inducing price of CHF28 (about $28 U.S.).

There was much sucking of teeth and shaking of heads by the skeptics. “Too expensive,” they said. “It’ll never sell!” The wine now retails at CHF42 (about $42 U.S.), sells like the proverbial hot cakes and is considered among Switzerland’s finest Syrahs. Wine Critic Stephan Reinhardt, who covers Switzerland for The Wine Advocate, has just announced 94-point scores for the 2013, 2005 and 1999 vintages of Cayas.

Few Swiss estates continue to hold old vintages of their wines — most estates sell out at year’s end — but by dint of some canny detective work, Germanier managed to track down and assemble wines from each of the 20 successive vintages for us to taste, even buying back a case of one vintage from a neighbor and wine collector to plug a gap. Samples were taken from all bottles in advance using the Coravin system and tasted to make sure they were still in good condition.

Tasting hits high notes

Glasses of Cayas Syrah ready for the tasting. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

Glasses of Cayas Syrah ready for the tasting. Credit: Copyright 2017 Sue Style

The chief objective of the tasting was to see how well such a Syrah — grown in the best vineyards, picked selectively, made with skill and carefully aged in oak — could stand the test of time. We started with 2014 (not yet in bottle, due to be released in December) and worked our way steadily and with mounting respect up to 1995. There were many standouts and few duds. My favorites included 2010 (spicy, dense, intense), 2007 (a huge mouthful, lots of life still in it) and 2002 (spice again, and fresh and elegant). The most impressive — and the all-round favorite with tasters — was 1999, which combined that leathery spiciness with elegance and freshness. It also vindicated Domaine Jean-René Germanier in its belief that its top Syrahs can age with grace.

My tasting note on Cayas 2013 from a recent article on Swiss wines reads: “Thoroughbred Syrah grown on schist on the right (south-facing) bank of the Rhone, showing clear signs of plenty of alpine sun, yet impressively fresh — and only 13.5 percent alcohol by volume. The oak-aging (two years, 50 percent new) is beautifully disciplined, giving a spicy, leathery, complex wine. Would be gorgeous now with barbecued beef rib, but patient cellaring will certainly be rewarded.”

The 2013 has already fulfilled its promise with a piece of beef. My magnum of Cayas 2009, on the other hand, is slumbering patiently in the cellar, awaiting its moment of grace.

Cayas Syrah from Jean-René Germanier is available from the winemaker and from Alpine Wines in the UK. Check Wine-Searcher for other sources.

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