Fleisher’s Brooklyn Outpost Is Open!

  • October 9, 2011 11:20 am

Another weekend post from Glenny:

This past week Fleisher’s, of Hudson Valley butcher fame, opened their Park Slope outpost!  Bravo Jessica and Josh!  The neighborhood was hungry for well-raised high-quality meat, and I for one will be frequenting the shop.  The space is polished and inviting, bustling with Brooklynites excited about what’s for dinner.  The cases are bright and filled with various cuts of chicken, pork, lamb, and beef.  The smiling employees will be happy to instruct you on any chop, loin, rack or shoulder that is new to you.  And don’t forget to pick up some local cheeses, crackers, and jams to round out your meal.

When I stopped by the shop, I was heading to my family home in the Catskills, so I was interested in buying some lamb for the grill.  I figured it would pair nicely with the eggplant and sunchokes I found at my Greenmarket the morning before.  Besides, it might be getting colder, but I’m reluctant to ditch the grill yet.  Josh suggested the loin and rib chops.  Experiment with seasonings: parsley, garlic, cumin, lemon zest, rosemary, mint, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  On a hot grill, they only need to cook 5 to 6 minutes per side.  They were beautifully pinkish on the inside, full of deep lamb flavor.  I preferred the loin chops, which were a bit meatier and had a stronger, more serious gamy and grassy taste.

Lamb from Fleisher's. Gorgeous, no?

Not much is better than being able to escape the city for a few days, and I must admit, the highlights of the excursion were definitely the meal times.  Even if you don’t have access to a grill, I highly recommend paying Josh, Jess, and their fabulous crew a visit – you’ll leave with a bag full of something delicious (and sustainable) and will definitely learn a thing or two in the meantime.

What You Don’t Know: Fat

  • September 7, 2011 10:32 am

When you’re cooking with meat, do you try to use every last morsel?  If the answer is no, you’ll be surprised by the rewards.  I try to waste nothing, whether I’m cooking with vegetables, fruits, grains, or meat.  I should say especially meat. I never forget that something has died for my dinner. Every last bit of that needs to be used. When I discovered, while reporting The Butcher’s Guide To Well Raised-Meat, how many ways fat could be used, I was delighted to also discover how easy it is to render, store, and eat.  Basically I’m talking about potatoes roasted in bacon fat. If you haven’t tried it, do.

Here’s an excerpt from The Butcher’s Guide to Well-Raised Meat on many other kinds of fats and how to best use them. Do you use any of these? How? Let me know in comments.

Part of the nose-to-tail butchering is coming up with uses for fat, which makes us roughly 15 percent of an animal’s body weight.  Over the years we have gotten pretty creative – we have made beef tallow citronella candles (short-lived – they smelled like a barbecue gone horribly wrong) as well as lovely smelling tallow-based soaps.  But mostly we just make our fat into chunks of tallow, blocks of lard, and tubs of duck fat for our customers to (hopefully) cook with.  Here’s the skinny on what’s what in the world of fats:

Caul Fat is the fatty lining of a pig’s stomach, which looks like a sheet of diaphanous webbing.  It is used to wrap lean meats while roasting; this technique is called barding, and it imparts moisture into the meat as the fat melts.

Duck Fat Is there anything better than duck fat?  Use it to panfry potatoes, like they do in French bistros, or confit a couple of duck legs.  Duck (and goose, too) fat is great, but often hard to come by.

Lard, or rendered pork fat, is nearly 100 percent fat, as opposed to butter, which is about 80 percent fat and 20 percent water.  Though animal fats have gotten a bad reputation as heart-stoppers and artery-cloggers, lard is still well loved among bakers and intrepid cooks who prize its ability to produce flaky crusts and silky sauces.  Lard has a high smoke point, making it exceptional for frying things like chicken.  It’s also healthier than manufactured hydrogenated  fats like most vegetable shortenings.

Leaf Lard is the dry, hard, crumbly fat cap that surrounds the kidney of the pig.  This fat contains the fewest impurities, making it the gold standard for baking.  Mix this with butter (a 1:1 butter-to-fat ratio is good) for the best pie crusts you have ever made.

Tallow is rendered beef, veal, or lamb fat.  It is used mainly commercially to make animal feed, soap, and cosmetics, or for cooking.  McDonald’s managed to piss off a lot of vegetarians a while back by cooking their fries in tallow without informing the public – no wonder they were so addictive after a long night of drinking.  We use lamb fat in our chicken sausages to get that rich, decadent taste that you just can’t get from plain old chicken.  And we also know hunters who add lamb fat to their venison burgers for a more fatty, luscious taste.

HOW TO RENDER FAT

It’s simple to make high-quality lard or tallow that can be used for baking, cooking, or soap making.  Fats should be stored in the refrigerator, where they will last for three months or can be frozen for a  year.  We like to cut our lard into manageable 1/2-pound chunks and freeze it – it defrosts quickly, and does not have to be defrosted in the refrigerator.

-Buy pork fat, beef suet, or lamb fat from your butcher shop or farmer.  Make sure the fat is fresh, clean smelling, and not slimy.  Whatever you render, count on getting a 75 percent return.

-Cut the fat into 1-inch squares and then finely dice it (we run ours through the meat grinder).

-Place the diced fat into a heavy-bottomed pan set over low heat.  Melt the fat, without stirring, until it is literally a pool of oil.  Alternatively, you can melt the fat in a Crock-Pot.

-Let the fat cool until it is still in liquid form but not hot.

-Strain the fat through a cheesecloth-lined mesh strainer.

Recipe: Blueberry Ice Cream!

  • August 20, 2011 10:42 am

Glenny here!  Alexandra has been on vacation all week (I’m VERY jealous), so this week’s Saturday post is directly from me.  I decided to post a recipe, so got to thinking about do-it-yourself projects.  And about the shorter days and how the cicadas’ chirping announces autumn.  Although summer is waning, we can’t fret yet: the temperatures still merit an icy treat for dessert.  I ADORE ice cream and frankly, I believe that it can be enjoyed all year long.  There are so many variations that you simply can never be bored.  I was delighted with my birthday present from my father last year (a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker), and have furiously been making concoctions ever since.  No more of that store-bought stuff for me, no siree.

Summer IS coming to an end, but its fruit is still going strong.  Here is a very easy and wonderful recipe for blueberry ice cream to celebrate the season.  (Many thanks to the NYTimes article last summer about egg-free ice creams.  It got me hooked on the lighter, more fruit-forward and refreshing version of a household favorite!).

Blueberries and Cream Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups blueberries

1/2 lemon

2 cups heavy cream

1/3 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, as needed

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons vodka

1. Mash the blueberries with a fork or a potato masher until slightly chunky.  Try not to leave too many berries whole, when frozen they can be a little difficult to eat.  Drizzle with the juice of 1/2 a lemon and mix thoroughly.  Set aside.

2. Bring cream and sugar to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  Taste berries and if too tart, add 2 extra tablespoons sugar to the cream.  Stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved.  Transfer to a bowl and add salt and vodka.  Place in the refrigerator or an ice bath to chill.

3. When cold, pour into your ice cream machine.  Add your mashed blueberries and churn for about 15 minutes, or until starting to thicken.  Make sure to read and follow the manufacturer’s directions for your specific machine. Transfer to a container and freeze until solid, about 2 hours.   Let your ice cream sit at room temperature for a few minutes before serving.

This is the most simple form of this recipe, but try adding your own spin.  Perhaps a dash of cinnamon or a few sprigs of mint?  The more the you play, the happier you’ll be!


Recipe: Chilled Summer Squash Soup

  • July 24, 2011 9:41 am

Earlier this week I said I had reached the point in the summer where I had had enough summer squash and asked readers how they were cooking theirs. I got great responses. Here’s what Glenny Cameron, my editorial assistant, is doing with her haul.

—-

Summer squash has been in abundance this season, and I honestly cannot complain.  I find this vegetable to be super versatile, and it keeps well in the refrigerator.  I’ve been eating it roasted, shaved raw into salads, and sliced atop a garden pizza (AKA put whatever I have in the fridge on some pizza dough and call it a night –wonderful and easy).  When the heat took a turn for the bold this week, I began thinking about chilled soups.  I’m not a huge fan of cold soup, but on sweaty days like these, they are a welcome relief and don’t require turning on the oven.  Totally satisfying.  Here is a simple recipe for my summer squash soup.  (Don’t forget that you can play with the seasonings!  Use your favorite spices and herbs and make it your own.)

CUMIN SPIKED SUMMER SQUASH SOUP

3-4 medium assorted summer squash, diced

1 medium onion, chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 1/2 tsp cumin

salt and pepper

4 cups vegetable broth (or water)

1 generous cup chopped cilantro (plus more for yogurt)

greek yogurt

1 lemon

Sautee garlic and onions in a large pot over medium heat.  Add salt, pepper and cumin and continue to cook until onions have softened and garlic is slightly brown.

Add diced squash and vegetable broth.  Make sure to add enough liquid to cover the squash.  Bring to boil.  Cook until squash is very tender (about 20 minutes).

Remove from heat and add cilantro.  Using a blender or an immersion blender, puree (carefully!) the soup until very smooth.  I added a little more water at this stage to reach my desired consistency – thick, but not dense.  Put in the fridge to chill.  (This will take a few hours, so plan ahead.  If you don’t have enough time, you can always put it in the freezer or in an ice bath.)

Meanwhile, mix greek yogurt with a few tablespoons of chopped cilantro and salt.

Squeeze a few tablespoons of fresh lemon juice into your cold soup.  Taste and adjust the seasoning – chilled soups tend to need more salt and spice than hot ones, so keep that in mind when flavoring.  Serve with a dollop of the yogurt and more cilantro for garnish.

To make it a more substantial meal, I served mine with spicy shrimp and roasted tomatoes on skewers, but you could add anything.  Croutons?  Feta?  Corn salsa?  Keep experimenting and you’ll be surprised by how exciting summer squash can be!

–Glenny Cameron

Glenny's full spread, a simple summer meal.

What You Don’t Know: The Nitty Gritty On Sugar

  • July 19, 2011 8:41 am

Most of us use sugar every single day without hesitation.  Whether just for our breakfast coffee or our after dinner treat, it is a pantry staple.  It lines grocery aisles and is every baker’s friend.  Unfortunately, not all sugars are equal. This might make you think of high fructose corn syrup, but I’m not even touching that here. I’m talking about regular old sugar–choosing the most sustainable is an act of environmental and social justice.  Check out this excerpt from The Conscious Kitchen on the ins and outs of the sugar world:

Sugar should be natural.  Artificial sweeteners don’t belong in a conscious kitchen, which means we can happily avoid any discussions of safety and USDA approval here.  When it comes to sugar, fair-trade and organic is a must.  “Sugar has to be good, clean, and fair,” says Alice Waters.  She urges people to watch the documentary The Price of Sugar for an in-depth look at why (ThePriceOfSugar.com – the trailer is on YouTube).  “It just took my breath away,” Waters explains.  “I guess I imagined herbicides and pesticides and all of that and unfortunate farming conditions, but I never imagined slavery.” Adding a teaspoon to your morning coffee is a political act.

At home, I use a variety of organic brown-colored sugars from our health food market, knowing full well that brown sugar sold in the United States is refined to white and has molasses added back in to turn it varying shades of brown.  It’s a farce.  Truly raw or unrefined sugar is illegal here, just as raw milk is in some states, to protect citizens from impurities and bacteria.  The process of refining is done in various ways, and is mainly mechanical, not chemical, though some sugars are filtered through animal by-products (usually bones) and so aren’t vegetarian-friendly or friendly for people trying to avoid conventionally raised animals.  Refining strips sugar of any useful nutrients it originally had.  Brown carries a healthy halo on it, but let’s not delude ourselves: Any sugar sold in the United States, even if it is called, “raw,” has been heated and is at least somewhat refined. I don’t turn to sugar for nutrients in the first place, so I’m okay with that, but I don’t like the misleading labeling.

So, what should you buy?

Definitely seek out fair-trade, organic, and/or sustainably grown and as unprocessed as possible.  Sucanat and brown less-refined sugars (like demerara, turbinado, and muscavado) are more real (for lack of a better word) than the soft sugar called “brown.” To avoid sugar that was filtered through bones, look for labels stating the product is suitable for vegetarians.  Always avoid conventional table sugar–white or brown.

Of course, there are other natural options like honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, and molasses that are much more environmentally friendly.  Try to buy honey and maple syrup at your farmers’ market, where it will be local and unprocessed. I use a fair amount of both and I’d be lying if I said otherwise!