Monday, September 24, 2012

Dove Season and the "New" Cookbook

It's dove season here in South Texas and that means Ben is out every chance he gets-- on the hunt to "put food on the table" as he puts it.  He likes to pretend he doesn't know how food gets "on the table" when it isn't dove season, I guess.  Anyway, people have all sorts of ideas about hunting, but in Colorado (where we grew up) and in Texas (where we live now), it's a way of life, so I figure the best thing to do is to make good use of the "hunt" and put it on the table!  When Marie was a little girl, she was shocked that her father would hunt "the bird of God" as she called the doves, so Ben did operate under some controversy around here for awhile!  I think Marie's views have become less "radical" since she was 4 though :)
Anyway, so last weekend, Ben got quite a few really nice birds, and it happened that I had a very interesting recipe from an old cookbook I had found on our trip to Montana.  The cover, as you can see, was in rough shape, but the book itself is signed and is in good condition.  Published in 1970, the title is "Mangiamo (Let's Eat!)".  It was written by Sylvia Sebastiani, the wife of the California vinter, August Sebastiani.  Obviously, it showcases cooking with wine, but it is a collection of Mrs. Sebastiani's recipes, not just a wine advertisement.   So, I tried her recipe titled simply, "Doves", and it is fantastic!  If you've never tried doves, they are dark-meated and have a mild, non-gamey flavor.  Usually, only the breasts are used.  I like to soak them overnight in salty water because this makes them moist and more tender, but it's not necessary.  If you don't have access to doves, or you just don't want to "go there", this recipe would be just as yummy with chicken thighs or duck breasts.   Served with polenta with a crisp green salad, this was a perfect fall dinner!  "Food on the table" indeed!

Mrs. Sebastiani's "Doves"
8-10 dove breasts
2 Tbl. flour
4 Tbl. olive oil
2 Tbl. butter
2 cloves chopped garlic
1.5 cups white wine (Chardonnay is good)
1-2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves
2 tsp. fresh chopped parsley
salt and pepper

Sprinkle the dove breasts with salt and pepper liberally.  Dust with flour and brown in oil and butter.  Add the garlic and herbs and cook another minute or so, stirring to incorporate with the doves.  Add the wine, stir around, and simmer, covered until the doves are tender-- about 45 minutes to an hour.  Serve with polenta.
Note:  If the dove breasts are relatively large and you have time, it is nice to bone them out.  It makes them easier to brown and to eat.  However, they taste great either way!


Monday, September 17, 2012

Whole grain, Low fat, Quick, Easy, AND Delicious!

Hi!  I'm back!  Ben and I went on a trip to Montana, Wyoming and Colorado!  It was beautiful and fun!  Montana is Colorado "supersized"!  Growing up in Colorado, I thought I'd seen it all when it came to mountains, but the Montana mountains are huge and there are a lot of them!  Anyway, we had a great time and speaking of food, some wonderful mountain meals.  Everything tastes so good in the clear, fresh air, doesn't it?  We didn't have anything particularly fancy, but it seems the "go local" movement has taken hold there, and we enjoyed some delicious Montana local foods.  One thing they love is huckleberries!  They have a kind of blueberry taste, but a little more tart.  There is huckleberry everything:  jam, candy, ice cream, pancakes, even beer!  I tried a local microbrewery huckleberry wheat beer and it was terrific!  It wasn't much like beer to me-- more of a completely different, refreshing drink.
Anyway, the day after we returned home, I still was in vacation mode and didn't really feel like going to the grocery store, etc.  It was a rainy day in San Antonio, which is rather rare, so I was in the mood to cook simply and have time to read and enjoy one more day of rest!  The cool weather made me think of soup.  I had some chicken stock in the freezer and lots of leftover veggies, so chicken soup was in order!  The very best rustic, homemade bread to go with a hearty soup is Irish Soda Bread.  If you've never tasted it, it's delicious-- nutty tasting with a kind of rough but moist texture.  It's terrific and even better, it's extremely easy-- no rising, low fat-- use low fat buttermilk, and whole grain-- whole wheat flour!  It is the perfect complement to homemade soup!  I hope you'll try it and also, anything "huckleberry" if you get the chance!

Irish Soda Bread
1 cup unsifted white flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
1.5 cups low fat buttermilk

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.   Preheat the oven to 375F.
Sift or whisk together the white flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large mixing bowl.  Add the whole wheat flour and stir with a whisk or fork to mix.  Add the buttermilk.  Stir with a fork to combine.
Turn out onto a floured, clean tea towel or pastry cloth.  Knead about 1 minute, just until the dough is smooth.  It will be soft.  Form it into a disk about 7 inches diameter and place it on the lined sheet pan.  Use a sharp knife to make two right angled cuts across the top of the dough-- but not all the way through to the bottom of the loaf.  The cuts should form a big cross.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until well browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
Remove and brush with melted butter if you want.  This makes the bread really shiny and beautiful-- also tasty! 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Last Day of Summer--???

We all know Labor Day signals the official end of summer, but in Texas, we also know that-- it's TEXAS-- we do our own thing!  School started weeks ago and the summer heat will last another month.  However, that doesn't dampen our spirits when it comes to the other Labor Day traditions:  BBQ and homemade ice cream!  Ben is a terrific BBQ-er and I'm hoping to persuade him to do a guest blog sometime.  He made the best smoked pork shoulder ever yesterday! He always does a chicken at the same time, which is another one of his specialities.  
You'll have to wait on the secrets of Texas BBQ (He's got another yard project going right now and wants to get it done in the "cool" hours of the day.), but that brings us to the other Labor Day subject:  homemade ice cream!
When Marie was little, we used to have all the neighbor kids over and make ice cream the old fashioned way.  It was fun to let / (force) them all to take turns cranking away.  Now, I have the most wonderful invention by Cuisinart!  If you have one of their counter-top ice cream makers, you know what a great machine it is.  It makes up to a quart of ice cream in no time!  I always thought I didn't need one, but they don't cost much, so I thought I'd give one a try.  Turns out it's so easy and fun to use, I've made all kinds of ice creams and sorbets that I wouldn't have even tried before, especially now that I don't have the "child labor" hanging around my neighborhood anymore!  They all grew up-- or got smarter-- or both!
Anyway, there were lovely figs at the Farmer's Market, and that got me thinking about the Orange-Fig gelato at our Austin Whole Foods Market.  Ben loves that stuff, and if we even pass through Austin,  he usually stops for an "Orange-Fig" break!  I decided to try making my own version and came up with this recipe, adapted from a fig ice cream recipe from the "Chez Panisse Desserts" cookbook.  It turned out really delicious!  Creamy, but refreshing, it was the perfect dessert for a 100 degree "end of summer" celebration :)

Orange-Fig Ice Cream
1 lb. very ripe figs
3 Tbl. fresh squeezed orange juice
grated rind of one small orange
1.5 cups light cream (like half and half)
1/2 cup sugar + 1 Tbl.
3 egg yolks (lightly beaten with a fork)
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Slice off the stems from the figs and cut them into quarters.  Place them in a small pot (not aluminum) with the orange juice and rind.  Cook over low heat until they are very soft, about 20 minutes, stirring often.  Mash the figs with a potato masher, put them through a food mill, or process into a puree in a food processor.  Set aside.
Warm 1 cup of the cream and the sugar in another (not aluminum) saucepan, whisking.  When the sugar has dissolved, take the pan off the heat and whisk in the egg yolk slowly.  Keep whisking briskly until the yolks are blended in completely.  Put the pan back on the heat and cook and stir until it is slightly thickened.  Use gentle heat. 
Add the remaining cream, the vanilla and the fig puree.  Stir well and pour into a non-metal container.  Chill in the fridge thoroughly, then process in the ice cream maker.  If you have time and will-power, pack the ice cream in a plastic container and put it in the freezer to harden and develop more flavor.

Aren't figs so beautiful?!