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From his first newsletter, issued in 1986, through today’s beautiful full-color magazine, Edward Behr has offered companionship and creativity to avid culinary enthusiasts, including some of America’s most famous chefs. This book collects the best recipes of the magazine’s past twenty-five years—from classic appetizer and vegetable side dishes to meat entrees and desserts. Each section or recipe is introduced with a note on its relevant cultural history or the particular technique it uses, revealing how competing...
From his first newsletter, issued in 1986, through today’s beautiful full-color magazine, Edward Behr has offered companionship and creativity to avid culinary enthusiasts, including some of America’s most famous chefs. This book collects the best recipes of the magazine’s past twenty-five years—from classic appetizer and vegetable side dishes to meat entrees and desserts. Each section or recipe is introduced with a note on its relevant cultural history or the particular technique it uses, revealing how competing French and Italian cultural influences have shaped contemporary American cuisine.
THREE BREADS AND FOUR THINGS THAT REQUIRE BREAD
Flat Hearth Bread
BREAD MAKES OTHER FOOD TASTE BETTER. Potatoes, rice, and other starches do the same, but not with the same flavors of fermentation or textural contrasts as bread. It enhances a salad, fresh cheese, or grilled meat as much as it does sauces, strong cheeses, or cured meats. You can eat a lot of very fresh bread, but older bread is good, too, as in the age-old use of a slice in a bowl of soup. A baguette, a grainy "country" loaf, sour rye—all have their place, according to what else is on the table. A meal can be anything you want; it can start and end where you like. It can be a single item, such as a big bowl of soup—a beginning and an ending in one—or it can run on in multiple courses. But, at least in the context of Western cooking, nothing is more important than bread. That so many restaurants in English-speaking countries treat bread as an appetizer is an utter misunderstanding or maybe a giving up in the face of customers who don't "get" bread. This and the two recipes that follow are for unfermented or mildly fermented breads—more ambitious bread baking, with all its complications of flour, leavenings, and ovens, fits better in its own book. But each of the breads here has its attractions of texture and flavor. The four other recipes are for items that especially require bread.
Schiacciata, which literally means "flattened" or "squashed," is a kind of focaccia. Even in places where the dominant bread was big and round, flatbreads were once almost universal too. Forming some of the bread dough into flat rounds was a way to test the oven's heat—in the oldest type of wood-fired oven, schiacciate go in first, when the temperature is highest. The interior of this Tuscan-style schiacciata makes a sweet contrast with the salty crust, because the dough itself contains no salt. But dough without salt ferments more quickly—often too quickly to gain real flavor. The best solution is probably a sourdough leavening, traditional for Tuscan bread (though rare today), but that requires special knowledge, not to say practice and devotion. And the simple commercial-yeast sponge below provides good flavor.
For easier stretching, water in a proportion of 75 percent of the flour by weight (the baker's way of measuring), as below, works well with American unbleached all-purpose white flour at about 11½ percent protein; softer flour, like that used in Italy, requires less water. The salt sprinkled on top should be fine, not coarse. You need at least a couple of schiacciate to feed six or eight hungry people, but a home oven will bake just one at a time, so inevitably the second ferments more than the first. Fortunately, the fast cooking in a hot oven overrides much of the difference, and in this bread a lot of flavor comes from the broad expanse of brown crust.
½ teaspoon (2 gr) instant yeast
3 ¾ cups (500 gr) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 5/8 cups (375 ml) water at about 80° F (27° C)
excellent, fresh-tasting olive oil or melted lard
Mix the yeast with 1 cup (130 gr) of the flour and 1 cup (240 ml) of the water. Cover and leave overnight in a cool spot, cooler than 70° F (21° C). Then combine this sponge with the rest of the flour and water to make a soft dough, mixing it only enough to incorporate the flour fully. Put the dough in a bowl, cover it, and place it in a warm spot, 75° to 80° F (24° to 27° C), to rise for 2 hours. Then lift up one side of the dough and fold it onto the other, pressing lightly so the two adhere, cover again, and leave to rise for another hour.
Half an hour into the second rise, set an oven rack in the top half of the oven and line it with a baking stone or quarry tiles. Heat the oven to 500° F (260° C). When the rising time is up, turn the dough out of its bowl and cut it in half with a dull edge. Flatten each half with an open hand—rolling would press out too many bubbles—and then stretch each half to an even round about 12 inches (30 cm) wide. Onto each pour a spiraling thread of oil or melted lard or brush the top minimally with oil or lard. More generously, sprinkle each with salt. Let the rounds rise for 10 minutes. Sprinkle a peel or open-sided baking sheet lightly with semolina and place one round on it. With your fingers, press a dozen or more dimples into the top of the dough, and slip the loaf quickly and confidently off the peel onto the stone or tiles. Remove when well browned, after about 15 minutes, then promptly bake the other round. Serve warm. Makes 2 loaves.
MARY RANDOLPH PUBLISHED THIS RECIPE in her fine cookbook The Virginia Housewife, in 1824, before chemical baking powders transformed American baking. She counted on eggs for loft, or, as here, yeast. Industrial cornmeal has very little flavor, and most of the interest in corn bread comes from using the best cornmeal you can find. The more freshly ground, the better the flavor; the highest quality tends to come from old milling varieties of corn that are stone-ground. In the South, the color of cornmeal is usually white and, as a rule, white and yellow cornmeals have distinct flavors, the first often being earthier and the second richer. Finely ground meal rises higher. Mary Randolph made muffins with her batter; I bake it in a skillet.
2 cups (300 gr) cornmeal
¼ cup (50 gr) unsalted butter plus more for the pan
scant ¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon (2 gr) instant yeast
2 large eggs
1 cup (240 ml) warm milk
Place the cornmeal in a large bowl and rub the butter into it using your fingers, until the combination loses and then regains the consistency of meal. Add the salt, yeast, and eggs. Stir in enough of the warm milk to make a medium-thick batter (finer meal will absorb more liquid). Cover the bowl and set it in a warm spot, at least 80° (27° C), for about 2 hours, during which time, lacking the gluten of wheat, the batter will rise only slightly, increasing by perhaps one-eighth.
Heat the oven to 450° F (230° C). Butter a black cast-iron frying pan about 10 inches (25 cm) wide and set it, empty, in the oven to heat to almost smoking hot. Remove it, immediately fill it with the batter, and return it to the oven to bake until the corn bread is set, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve promptly. Serves 4.
ONCE A COMMON STREET FOOD, FARINATA IS A VAST chickpea pancake, soft and floppy, baked in special heavy copper pans about a yard wide; you eat pieces with your fingers. Farinata is mainly Ligurian, but it's made on a long stretch of the Mediterranean coast from Nice, where the name is socca, through Liguria, where in dialect it's called fainâ, into neighboring Tuscany, where it's cecina. You can bake a very good farinata in a home oven using a smaller pan, although the transformation of batter to bread is less remarkable than it is in the traditional wood-fired oven, whose physics produce powerful heat. It's important that the chickpea flour taste nutty, and strongly of chickpeas. At some natural food stores, it tastes like green peas; better-quality chickpea flour is sold at some Italian and Indian food shops. Different farinata recipes call for different proportions of chickpea flour to water—for different tastes, thicknesses, or ovens. A very hot masonry oven requires a thin batter; thicker batters are for home ovens. Before cooking, you can add some chopped fresh rosemary or thyme, or green onions chopped at the last minute (if they wait half an hour, you'll taste the difference).
2 cups (500 ml) cold water
2 ¾ cups (300 gr) chickpea flour
½ teaspoon salt
excellent, fresh-tasting olive oil
Whisk together the water, flour, and salt, and let the combination rest for several hours while the flour absorbs the water. Heat the oven to 500° F (260° C). Skim any froth from the batter, which will remain watery. Oil a 12-inch (30-cm) diameter pizza pan with a rim, one heavy enough that it won't easily warp. Pour in 2 tablespoons of oil and enough stirred-up batter to cover the surface less than ¼ inch (6 mm) deep. Stir to partially mix in the oil (if the batter waits before baking, stir again). Bake until golden and dark brown in spots, about 15 minutes. If necessary, finish under a broiler. Repeat with the remaining batter—oiling the pan, stirring the batter, and baking. Eat the farinata as soon as it is no longer burning hot. Makes 2.
CAPERS IN OLIVE OIL
CAPERS ARE FLOWER BUDS, and those preserved in dry salt have the strongest, clearest floral taste; they're far better than capers in vinegar, which taste mainly of vinegar. (For certain purposes, the vinegar's piquancy is essential and you can't substitute the ones in salt.) Some freshness is important, because capers in salt lose their floral flavor gradually during the year before the next harvest. If the salt surrounding them is yellowish, that's a sign of age. Capers grow wild all around the Mediterranean, but they're especially appreciated in Sicily, where they have countless uses. Most often, they're combined with garlic and cured anchovies. They go equally well with tomatoes, green olives, celery, and herbs, as in the sweet-and-sour eggplant dish Caponata (page 16). They go into pasta sauces and accompany all kinds of meat and fish (see Pesce Spada alla Stemperata, page 159). Some of the best capers come from the growers' co-operative on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria, between Sicily and Tunisia.
The floral taste of capers is underlined by the very best red-wine vinegar, such as you might make at home from the bottle ends of very good wine; that vinegar is also floral in its own way. And olive oil soothes the salt and acidity of both capers and vinegar. Modern oil, made from olives picked earlier and treated more carefully than in the past, stresses fresh-fruit flavor and can recall cherry or vanilla. It goes very well with the vinegar and capers in salt. This simple recipe was told to me by Ebe Veronesi of the Veronesi family oil mill in Lazise sul Garda in northern Italy. The oil from around Lake Garda, on the cool northern fringe of the olive's range, is unusually delicate in flavor and texture, but strong olive oil, such as Tuscan, is also good with capers.
capers in salt
excellent, fresh-tasting olive oil
Rinse the salt thoroughly from the capers and drain them well. Place them in a jar or small bowl, pour vinegar over them to cover, soak for 1 hour, and drain well. Pour olive oil over the capers to cover. To serve, spoon capers onto a piece or slice of bread and fold it around them so they won't roll off.
THIS VARIABLE PROVENÇAL MIXTURE for toasted or grilled slices of bread differs from the Piedmontese bagna cauda used for dipping raw vegetables—a sauce now common in Provence—mainly in being thicker and uncooked. Anchoyade can be made thicker still with many more anchovies, and sometimes it includes a little vinegar. I like parsley, which is often omitted, and I prefer the texture that comes from reducing the parsley in a mortar. If you don't have one, a rougher-textured paste can be made by mashing the garlic and anchovies with finely chopped parsley using just the back of a fork. There's no way to measure parsley accurately, and anyway flat-leaf varieties taste stronger—and even beyond that, intensity varies. Here, fortunately, with the other strong flavors, the exact amount of parsley doesn't matter.
4 cloves garlic
4 or more salted anchovies, the filets cleaned of salt, stripped from the bones, and rinsed
2 large handfuls chopped parsley
1 cup excellent, fresh-tasting olive oil black pepper
Mash the garlic to a paste in a mortar; add and mash the anchovy filets, then the parsley. Mix in the oil. Grind pepper from a mill. Spread the paste on toasted or grilled bread while it is still hot, and eat immediately. Makes about 1 cup.
THE WORLD HAS SEEN PLENTY OF TAPENADE, but maybe it hasn't been said often enough that tapeno in Provençal means "caper," and that the texture of tapenade should be smooth, whether from a mortar or food processor (the earliest recipe we have passes the paste through a sieve). I once thought tapenade—tapenado in Provençal—must be an ancient food, but J.-B. Reboul in La Cuisinière provençale, which was published in 1899 and is the source of the first recipe, says tapenade was created by the chef Meynier at the Maison Dorée in Marseille. Reboul calls for 200 grams of olive pulp, 100 grams of anchovy filets, 100 grams of tuna, a spoonful of English mustard, and 200 grams of capers, then 200 milliliters of olive oil, a pinch of spices, "not a little pepper," and "one or two little glasses of Cognac"! Richard Olney, in Lulu's Provençal Table, his wonderfully collaborative 1994 cookbook about Lulu Peyraud's cooking at home at Domaine Tempier in Bandol, wrote that her tapenade "is the simplest (no tuna, no lemon, no brandy, no mustard) I know—and the best." Which didn't prevent him from giving his own somewhat different recipe in another book. Recipes abound. Mine is influenced by one from the Provençal-speaking chef Guy Gedda. I've made the garlic optional, because it isn't automatic and because raw garlic may appear repetitively elsewhere in a meal. In Provence, capers have a slightly peppery taste and are pickled, but I prefer the ones in salt, even in tapenade, because of their floral taste. Tapenade goes well with many things, including roast lamb or pork and grilled fish (served hot or cold), but the prime use is to coat bread or toast.
2 cloves garlic, optional
1½ cups (200 gr) black olives, not
wrinkled and intense, and preferably
from Provence, pitted
2/3 cup (100 gr) pickled capers or ¾
cup (75 gr) capers in salt, drained if
pickled or rinsed if in salt
a dozen salted anchovies, the filets
cleaned of salt, stripped from the
bones, and rinsed
about ½ cup (125 ml) excellent,
fresh-tasting olive oil
In a mortar, add the salt and, if you use it, the garlic, and pound it smooth. Add the olives, capers, and anchovies, and reduce them to a soft paste. Last, grind in some pepper and incorporate the olive oil a spoonful at a time. Or in a food processor, combine everything but the oil, and reduce it to a paste, pausing several times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Pour the oil in slowly, pulsing and scraping down as needed to ensure the paste is smooth. Tapenade keeps well in a glass jar in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or more. Makes about 1 ½ cups (400 ml).
THIS SICILIAN ACCOMPANIMENT TO BREAD is a way to preserve eggplants. Its elaborate taste recalls the Arab influence on the island's cooking, although there's no clear evidence of where the word or the dish came from. Caponata exists in diverse forms; the kind below sometimes contains unsweetened cocoa powder.
2 to 3 pounds (1 to 1.25 kg) eggplant
2 tablespoons salt
2 celery heads
excellent, fresh-tasting olive oil
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 ripe red tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons capers preserved in salt, rinsed
1 cup (125 gr) pitted green olives
½ cup (125 ml) good wine vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
leaves from a branch of fresh basil, torn or chopped
blanched, slivered, freshly toasted
almonds for serving
Slice the unpeeled eggplant into 1-inch cubes, mix with the salt, and leave to drain for about 1 hour in a colander. Meanwhile, remove the outer stalks from the celery heads and trim the hearts to about 5 inches, or 12 cm, then slice them into 1-inch, or 2- to 3-cm, pieces. (Reserve the outer stalks for another use.) Rinse and dry the eggplant and fry it in olive oil, stirring and turning until it is cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Fry the onions in the same pan until they begin to color. Add the tomatoes and sliced celery hearts, and cook together for 10 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the capers, olives, vinegar, sugar, and basil, and simmer gently for another 10 minutes. Taste for salt. Refrigerate overnight, before serving cool or tepid and sprinkled with almonds. Sealed in a jar, this caponata keeps well for a week or more in the refrigerator. Makes about 5 cups (a little more than 1 liter) enough for 6 to 8 people.CHAPTER 2
RILLETTES DE TOURS
Salted and Stirred Pork
THIS CHAPTER COVERS MOST OF THE BASIC KINDS OF COOKED CHARCUTERIE, omitting boudins blancs and noirs but extending even to a traditional use of saltpeter in cervelas lyonnais and in a brine for the components of headcheese. Although the charcuterie recipes call for a few rare ingredients and were written partly with a professional in mind, they are fully doable at home. The rillettes are simple (the rillons even simpler).
Like most of the preparations in this chapter, this recipe for rillettes de Tours comes from my friend James MacGuire, a highly accomplished chef, who says, "The notion that charcutiers use rillettes to rescue the bits of meat that stubbornly cling to pork bones was dispelled for me years ago when I saw the chef Charles Barrier, at his restaurant in Tours, put half a pig into an enormous pot and set it on the stove to simmer." Barrier had learned the process at age thirteen from a charcutier whose nickname for rillettes was confiture de cochon—"pig jam"—and not just because rillettes are spread on bread but also because, in the old days, after the long cooking in fat they were put up for later use, like the confits of southwest France.
Excerpted from The Art of Eating Cookbook by Edward Behr, James MacGuire, George Bates. Copyright © 2011 Edward Behr. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
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